Spring Hill College's softball team is undergoing off-season training under the guidance of a new coach. SHC named Joe Guthrie to the role over the summer.
The Badgers acquired an Alabama native who has veteran experience within the softball and baseball world. SHC Director of Athletics Jim Hall said, “His recruiting and coaching experience are exceptional and will pay immediate dividends for our softball program.”
Guthrie came to SHC from NCAA Division I Bucknell University as a volunteer assistant coach in 2017. Prior to Bucknell, Guthrie served three seasons as an assistant coach for Division I (DI) Penn State University (PSU) in the Big Ten Conference from 2014 to 2016.
With coaching experience in a “Power Five” conference, Guthrie said that the differences between the Big Ten Conference and Division II (DII) SHC are mostly positive. “Head and assistant coaches in the Power Five conferences tend to have a very specified role. As a former professional baseball scout, I’m drawn to the recruiting aspect along with teaching and development aspects,” Guthrie said. “SHC being a smaller school allows me to be heavily involved in all three of those coaching aspects.”
There has been a trend within Power Five Conferences where recruiting begins at a very young age, which Guthrie views as unappealing. “Personally, I find it uninteresting recruiting as young as 7th graders, whereas at SHC we’re dealing with juniors and seniors in high school who have a good idea what they want to do and have mature conversations,” Guthrie said.
As a player, Guthrie played collegiate baseball at DI University of Kentucky, University of Alabama and National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Bevill State Community College. In addition, serving as a scout in the Miami Marlins organization, Guthrie implements his baseball knowledge into softball.
“This is my 11th year in college softball and baseball definitely bleeds over. More mistakes have been made and learned from in baseball just because it’s been around longer. Softball has come leaps and bounds in the 11 years I’ve been in it, but it’s nice to have an older ‘manual’ [in baseball] to draw from,” Guthrie said. However, there are significant differences from softball and baseball, such as “the pitching techniques in softball.” Overall, baseball has been beneficial in aiding softball as a sport along with Guthrie’s coaching. “There’s a lot of correlation between both sports. Whether it’s hitting, defense, recruiting or culture, many aspects derive from baseball,” Guthrie said.
The addition of Guthrie’s wife, Courtnay Foster, as SHC’s assistant coach is a “huge benefit” for Badgers softball. Foster comes to SHC from Bucknell University as the Bisons’ softball head coach. “Having two former DI coaches on a DII staff just doesn’t happen,” Guthrie said. “With her successful coaching experience, there are a lot of things she does much better ranging form pitching to computer skills and communication with higher-ups.”
Foster pitched at DI Northwestern University in the Big Ten Conference. With an 80-37 record accompanied by a career 1.49 ERA and 1,014 strikeouts, as well as an All-America selection in 2005, Foster’s softball knowledge is not limited to pitching. “In the last two years she has really progressed in the infield by being able to teach it and manage it in a game. Our fielding numbers from Bucknell last year prove that compared to previous years,” Guthrie said. “She has an incredible softball IQ because she is just as passionate about the sport in her spare time, so having her as an addition to the SHC staff helps tremendously.”
Apart from the success Guthrie and Foster have both experienced as coaches, the duo is less concerned about the numbers more concerned about core values as their first goal. “We want to identify a culture that is reflective of our program having integrity, discipline and gratitude,” Guthrie said. “If players exercise this daily and everything resonates, we believe that will lead to a championship culture.”
The Badgers softball team will continue to practice in the fall with individual workouts led by Coach Guthrie and Coach Foster. There will be scrimmages and games throughout the fall season. Coach Guthrie will debut as SHC’s softball head coach in the season opener on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, when the Badgers travel to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to play at Gulf Shores Sportsplex.