Friday, February 15, 2013
Most athletes have to pick out one sport and work with all of their hearts to excel. A few are so good at multiple sports that they have a difficult time deciding what to play.
When Kristin Ryman came to Lipscomb she had scholarships to play both volleyball and softball. She hated she had to choose two because she missed being on the basketball court.
No matter what the sport, Ryman was known for having the ability to think like a coach. She would spend a great deal of time talking with coaches after practice and after games about strategies and philosophies.
“I know softball,” Ryman said. “But I remember when I jumped into this job I was thinking I wasn’t sure what I was doing. When I played I loved picking the brains of coaches. I wanted to learn. I wanted to know why we did what we did or what would be a good drill to work on to improve in this or that situation.
“I have always been that way. I am very much a thinker when it comes to the game of softball. I was like that with volleyball and basketball when I played them.”
So it was no surprise that she became a coach, though for her it was not as she had originally planned. She not only excelled on the court. Her grades were also outstanding. A major in Biology, and possibly the pursuit of a medical degree, were on her agenda when she first arrived at Lipscomb.
“I always had the mentality that as a player I could help the girls around me who didn’t understand the game as well. I felt that I could be that coach on the floor.
“But my first couple of years in college I wanted to be a doctor. Science was my thing.”
All of that slowly changed. She eventually switched her major to Health and Physical Education.
“I decided I wanted to continue doing something in the sports world,” Ryman said. “Once I started getting into some of my education classes I realized some of them were really geared towards coaching.
“Some of my coaches started talking to me about staying on here and being a graduate assistant when I was finished. When I got that opportunity it was a no brainer because I wanted to get my Master’s. And I also knew it could open up some doors from a coaching standpoint as well.”
She soon discovered that coaching came as naturally to her as catching a ball, shooting a field goal or serving a volleyball.
“I got a lot of help from a lot of people early on,” Ryman said. “I was really young at the time. There were players on the team that were only a couple of years younger than me.
“I was fortunate that I had the respect of those girls right away. If you don’t get that respect early on it can go bad in a hurry.”
In her eighth season as the head coach of the Lady Bisons she has already set a new school record for career wins in softball with 223. She surpassed the 222 won by Andy Lane in two stints at the helm of the program from 1996-99 and 2002-2004.
"When we started softball here at Lipscomb in 1996 our dream was to have a program like the one that Kristin has built,” said Lane who started the softball program and was Ryman’s coach. “She has built it with outstanding student-athletes that are some of the most talented players in all of collegiate softball.
“I am not surprised by her success because of the type of player she was during her time here as an outstanding two-sport athlete excelling in both volleyball and softball. She was a straight A student that also was a fierce competitor and to this day she displays those same characteristics as a coach. I think it is already a fact that Kristin will go down in the history of Lipscomb Athletics as one of our greatest student-athletes and now as one of our greatest coaches ever.”
Ryman is the coach but she is also a team player. She easily deflects the credit for her success.
“I think it is an honor, and it is a big deal,” Ryman said about the victories record. “It does feel rewarding. But I didn’t realize how close I was to breaking the record.
“I think that wins are the by-product of having good players, having a game plan and executing it, having a good staff and recruiting well. I have been really fortunate to be surrounded by good assistant coaches. I’ve been very fortunate to have good players. We have built a culture and wins are a by-product of that.”
Coaches who can succeed on a consistent basis are a hot commodity. Lipscomb athletic director Philip Hutcheson knows that Ryman is pure gold in the way she handles her coaching duties.
“If there was a `blueprint’ for how to grow a Lipscomb program, Kristin would be one of the coaches I would look to for the plan,” Hutcheson said. “She has excelled in all of the areas that a Division I coach needs to in order to succeed.
“She has recruited young ladies who perform well in the classroom and on the field and those that play for her continue to improve while they are here. She has done a good job of surrounding herself with knowledgeable assistants, and she strikes a great balance of letting them do their job while still providing leadership all the while.”
Ryman demanded a great deal from herself during her playing days and she expects the same from her players.
“She demands that the players get better and she is as competitive as they come,” Hutcheson said. “However, even with that makeup, she manages to field teams that seem to genuinely enjoy playing for her and with each other.”
Just as Ryman was a multi-talented athlete, she is also versatile in her approach to her coaching duties.
“Many don't realize all of the "off-the-field" demands of coaches these days - compliance, budgeting, academic progress, media relations and community involvement just to name a few,” Hutcheson said. “Yet in each of these areas, Kristin has done a great job of building and promoting the team while serving as a great ambassador for the University as well.
“Given all of her talent and ability as a coach, it is not surprising that she would be breaking records. And knowing her, I am confident the best is yet to come for Lipscomb University softball.”
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