Ahead of her first season at the helm, Penn State coach Clarisa Crowell is focused on the short term.
In her opening statement, Crowell took the time to thank her support staff, administration and the Big Ten Conference for their work in making this season possible. She also spoke of her excitement for the start of this season as the Nittany Lions travel to Florida this weekend.
Crowell spoke about the team’s culture and said that while she “feels good” about where the team is currently, culture is something that takes time to build.
“Even in 10 years, we’re going to work to build [culture],” Crowell said. “But I feel that we’ve laid a really good foundation.”
Crowell said she believes the offseason has gone as well as it could have. She noted that there have been few bumps in the road, and the team’s resiliency has proven to be very strong.
As far as the new coach connecting with her players in the midst of a pandemic, Crowell said she made it a point to know what is going on in the lives of her student-athletes.
“We’ve done things here or there as far as team meals,” Crowell said. “Last weekend, we gave them Saturday off and decided just to spend some time together.”
She mentioned the difficulty of the fall semester with the coronavirus restrictions and limitations on players’ access to the team facility.
With the team having not played a real game in almost a year and having limited practice time, Crowell and her team have been combatting rust by scrimmaging and putting the players in game situations. For instance, the team would start a scrimmage in the fifth inning to mirror crunch-time scenarios.
Coming to the program after being hired in August 2020, Crowell would like to make upgrades to the team facilities and introduce a new style of play during her tenure
Still, she isn’t setting any long-term goals this season.
“This is an unprecedented season,” Crowell said. “We’ve had this conversation with our student-athletes when it comes to what’s going on across the country. It’s really hard in a year like this to set any long-term goals.”
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Crowell wants her team to look at the season as “one pitch, one inning, one opponent and one game at a time.”
This is a mindset that Crowell has worked to instill in senior outfielder Dani Fey and junior catcher Ally Kurland.
Fey said she and her teammates have started to appreciate the “little things” more after last season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. She said they look at softball more as something they get to do rather than something they have to do.
Fey also mentioned that the team has “embraced” the challenges they have faced throughout the offseason as far as coronavirus restrictions.
Speaking on Crowell’s contribution to the team, Fey said she appreciates the structure that has been brought to the program and the “blue-collar” attitude and professionalism that has been introduced.
“Blue-collar is one of our main pillars in Penn State softball,” Fey said.
Kurland is looking to have another strong season as the team’s backstop and remarked that she is grateful to have the opportunity to play these games amid the global pandemic.
The junior also said the transition to a new coaching staff hasn’t been a huge adjustment and said the players and coaches have been learning together.
Speaking specifically of her role as the blue and white’s catcher, Kurland said she is “super excited” to serve as the battery mate to this year’s pitching staff.
“They’re unbelievably talented, which makes my job super easy behind the plate,” Kurland said. “They’re all very different in a very good way, so I think it’s going to give us a chance to win a lot of games this year.”