Kissimmee, FL- April 12, 2016-Megan Willis will make her National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) coaching debut this summer as an assistant for the USSSA Pride.This off-season the six year Pride catcher decided it was time to step away from the game as a player and continue her professional legacy as a coach.
“After this past season with the Pride I knew wholeheartedly I was finished playing for good. It’s weird, I have been asked a few times if I will miss not playing and the answer is simple, no. I suppose that’s how you know you are ready to move on. That and I don’t want to have collisions at the plate anymore, and that used to be my favorite part!” said Willis on her decision to retire.
Though NPF fans will miss that mentality Megan brought on the field, her influence on the game will remain strong. Her goal has always been to remain in the game and in the USSSA organization where she could use her leadership and experience she gained as a player to continue to grow.
“I have mentioned to Don [DeDonatis] in the past that I have always wanted to be on the managerial side of things with the Pride and we both thought this would be a great first step. Not to mention, the relationship I have with our pitching staff and the 8 years of experience in the league makes becoming an assistant the perfect next step.”
Willis began her NPF career in 2007 with the Chicago Bandits. After sitting out the 2008 season, Willis joined her University of Texas battery mate Cat Osterman on the Rockford Thunder and won the 2009 NPF Championship. Then, in 2010, Willis and Osterman were traded to the USSSA Pride where they continued their NPF dominance. In her eight professional seasons, Willis won four NPF Championship series, three NPF Regular Season Championships, called numerous no-hitters, and helped her pitching staff win Pitcher of the Year three times. This past season both Osterman and Jordan Taylor made the All NPF Team with the help of Willis.
For the first time, the Pride will feature an assistant coach who not only knows the NPF but also the USSSA culture that has been cultivated since the Pride’s inaugural season in 2009. Willis joins the 2016 coaching staff under the leadership of Florida State coach Lonni Alameda and becomes the first former Pride player to be named a Pride coach.
“I just see this as a new role our team has never really had. We haven’t ever had anyone on staff that has been through the NPF for as many seasons and with the Pride for so long. I was on the Pride for six seasons. I can be a great liaison between players and coaches as well as players and our front office. I know how things are run around here and can hopefully pass that on to the players, especially the rookies and new players,” said Willis. “I understand the culture Don has been trying to build and I plan on helping the 2016 team reach that goal.”
Based on her experience as a player Willis knows how to handle the Pride pitching staff who will be without veteran ace Cat Osterman. “I know how all of our pitchers pitch and how their spin should look. I know what is expected out of them and can hold them accountable to that. The great part is not only can I watch in the pen, but I can get down there and catch spins and really work one on one with them if need be.”
Willis will have the opportunity to mentor and develop a young USSSA Pride catching staff. Chelsea Goodacre returns for her second NPF season and the Pride acquired fourth year veteran Jessica Garcia from the Akron Racers. Having been in the league eight seasons, Willis knows the tendancies of NPF hitters and will work directly with the catchers’ pitching calling and game management. Beyond her work with the pitchers and catchers, Willis is excited to contribute to the Pride’s pre-season which includes a trip to Italy in early May and pre-season spring training before their June 10th opener. “Most of our other coaches will still be coaching or playing, so it will be up to me to make sure I get the team ready for game one.” Willis will help lead the team through the pre-season until Coach Alameda’s college season is completed.
Though her every day role will change from player to coach, Megan Willis still aspires to achieve the same goal of brining home the Pride’s fourth Cowles Cup. We will all miss the defensive presence Megan Willis brought behind the plate–her pitch calling, her ability to communicate with her pitching staff, the confidence which she gave her pitchers–she provided the professional example for the catching position the past eight seasons. However, we look forward to her new role where she will have the ability to develop the next generation of professionals while still giving back to the game and helping the NPF continue its upward growth.
You can catch Megan Willis in her assistant coach debut this summer when the Pride open the season against the Scrap Yard Dawgs June 10th in Conroe, TX. Go to USSSAPride.com for ticket information and the entire 2016 schedule.
About USSSA Florida Pride: The USSSA Florida Pride is a professional franchise in the National Pro Fastpitch League that is owned and operated by USSSA. The amateur organization of USSSA has multi-sport coverage and encompasses teams and players from the United States and abroad.
About USSSA: USSSA is headquartered in Osceola County, Florida. USSSA is the World’s Largest Multi-sport Athletic Organization. Founded in 1968, USSSA has grown to over 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports including Baseball, Fastpitch, Slow Pitch, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and more! For more information on USSSA and to register your team visit USSSA.com. Also be sure to visit USSSAToday.com for the latest USSSA.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF): National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fastpitch softball and has been since 2002. – See more at: http://www.usssa.com/fastpitch/newsRead/?ID=8969#sthash.yTg8K8GO.dpuf