Former Tampa Bay Smoker to Head Women’s Team
By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA — Turns out, USF softball coach Ken Eriksen will have a lot more to celebrate this weekend than his 50th birthday.
Eriksen has been named coach of the U.S. women’s national team. The longtime Bulls coach, who turns 50 Monday, will lead the national team in 2011 and 2012, including the 2011 Pan American Games and the 2012 World Championships.
Eriksen was an assistant on the U.S. women’s team that won gold at the 2004 Olympics, but he won’t have the chance to repeat the feat since softball was dropped from the 2012 London Games. But he will become the first man to represent USA Softball as both a player and a head coach.
Editor’s note: An alert reader notes that Ken is actually not the first. Pete Turner, head coach for the USA Men’s team also played for Team USA (see comment below)
“As an athlete, it’s a huge, huge honor,” said Eriksen, who played at the elite fastpitch level after graduating from USF, retiring in 1997 after winning an ASA men’s national title with the Tampa Smokers. “As a coach, it’s a huge responsibility, to make sure the athletes have a great opportunity to win championships.”
Eriksen was touched Friday when a meeting called by athletic director Doug Woolard turned into a surprise celebration (complete with cake), with coaches and school president Judy Genshaft congratulating him.
But Eriksen, an assistant on the U.S. team from 2001-04 who rejoined in 2009, faces a tough time. The U.S. women won three gold medals and a silver from 1996-2008, but eight players have left the program to participate in the new, four-team National Pro Fastpitch league.
“It’s a task I have ahead of me right now,” said Eriksen, a former USF baseball player who became its softball coach in 1997. “It’s not like you’ve been handed the keys to the New York Yankees that just came off two, three world championships. You came with a whole brand new team that has the reputation of the New York Yankees, so it’s a challenge.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today the selection of Ken Eriksen (Tampa, Fla.) and Karen Johns (Whippany, N.J.) as the Head Coaches of the Women’s National Team and Junior Women’s National Team, respectively. Eriksen has served as an assistant coach for many women’s teams including the 2004 Olympic Gold medal winning team in Athens while Johns was an assistant for the 2008 Olympic Silver medal winning team in Beijing.
Eriksen will serve as the head coach for the Women’s National team in 2011 and 2012 which will include the 2011 Pan American Games and the 2012 ISF World Championships. Eriksen will become the first male in the history of the program to represent USA Softball as both a player and coach. He was a catcher on the 1991 USA Men’s National team that captured a silver medal in the Pan American Games. He also served as the assistant coach for the Women’s National Team from 2001-2004 and also in 2009 and 2010. He is currently the head coach at the University of South Florida, a position he has held since 1997.
“This is an incredible opportunity for me as a coach and for USA Softball to bring new faces into the USA Softball National team family. Our goal is to prepare and shape this unit into a championship caliber team that will compete in the next two ISF medal events as well as the World Cup of Softball here in the United States in front of our fans,” said Eriksen. “The Pan American Games in 2011 and the World Championships in 2012 will be our main focus.”
Johns led the 2010 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team to the Pan American Championship and will lead the same team in 2011 to the ISF Junior Women’s World Championships in Cape Town, South Africa in December. Johns has served as an assistant coach for the Women’s National Team program from 2005-2008 where she helped the team win a World Championship and a Silver Medal at the Olympic Games.
“We are really excited to build on the success of the 2010 season. We had a great showing at the Pan American Championship and would like to continue our reign as Junior World Champions this December in South Africa,” said Johns. “This junior team is truly the future of the Women’s National program and the future looks exciting.”
ASA and USA Softball is also announcing the 2011-2012 Women’s National Team Coaching pool of 24 coaches. The assistant coaches for the Women’s and Junior Women’s National team events this summer will be selected from this pool at a later date. The Women’s National Team Selection Committee will continue to open the coaches’ pool every two years due to the ISF World Championship biennial cycle.
“We are thrilled to have a great cross section of coaches for the Women’s National team program for the next two years,” said ASA and USA Softball Executive Director Ron Radigonda. “With the ISF change of World Championships every two years, we are excited to assist coaches in gaining international experience and opportunities.”
2011-2012 USA Softball Women’s National Coaching Pool
Vaughan Alvey – BYU
Suzy Brazney – Golden West College
Chuck D’Arcy – Arizona State
Howard Dobson – Southern Miss
Kate Drohan – Northwestern
Gordon Eakin- BYU
Tairia Flowers – Cal State Northridge
Michelle Gromacki – Cal State Fullerton
Stacey Iveson – Yavapai College
Mike Larabee – Arkansas
Kyle Magnusson – Southern Utah
Jay Miller – Mississippi State
Pat Murphy – Alabama
Stacey Nuveman – San Diego State
Jamie Pinkerton – Iowa State
Tony Rico – Worth Firecrackers
Eileen Schmidt – Virginia
Mike White – University of Oregon
Karen Weekly – Tennessee