Don’t start sizing up Lori Meyer for that set of crutches or wheelchair just yet.
The longtime Minnesota State softball coach earned the 900th victory of her career this week and a milestone like that usually means at least two things: No. 1, the coach has been around for awhile and, No. 2, he or she is pretty good at what she does.
Meyer qualifies on both counts.
“My goal ever since I was in college was to have a career in coaching,” Meyer said. “But you never sit back at the start and think I’d like to have 900 wins or 1,000 wins or whatever some day. Those are usually things that, if you’re fortunate, just happen along the way.”
Meyer took over the program in 1985 when Rosie Stallman left and has been in charge for the last 26 years. During that time she has compiled a 901-573-3 record. Under her guidance the Mavericks have won three conference titles, made nine trips to the national tournament and reached the NCAA Division II Championships twice.
“Any coach will tell you it’s about the athletes,” Meyer said. “I’ve been blessed to have some quality players come through the program.
“As a coach you try to get the best out of them as you can but you’re always mindful that you’re teaching life lessons, as well. The softball field is an extension of the classroom and you’re always trying to prepare your student athletes for what they may encounter in their professional lives.”
When Meyer looks back on that first year of coaching in 1985, she remembers being nervous, but also remembers being in a good situation.
“I was hired by (then athletic director) Georgene Brock and it just so happened she was on sabbatical the first spring I was coaching. She wasn’t there to see all my mistakes and screw-ups that first season.
“I was also fortunate to have Mary Beth Bertram (now Wiig) as my assistant. She was a very organized and knowledgeable coach and we made a good team. She went on to coach at Minnetonka High School where she has won a couple of state championships.”
Meyer said working with Brock in those early years proved to be very helpful. Brock made her account for every penny in her budget and showed her the right way to do paperwork.
“I look back on that and realize how lucky I was to have her,” Meyer said. “The quickest way for a coach to lose their job is to mismanage funds so I’m glad I had a good teacher.”
Meyer, a youthful 52-years-old, said her main goal when she started was to simply grow the program. Back then they were playing only 30 games a season and now they’re up to around 56 regular-season games. Last year, with all the postseason play, the Mavericks played 70 games total.
The skipper said she has no intention of retiring anytime soon. She’s having way too much fun.
“I’m a competitive person and I still enjoy the whole experience. You have the highs with the wins and the lows with the losses but you try to stay on an even keel as much as you can.
“The other thing is you have to stay in tune with your athletes. They don’t want to be coached by an old fuddy-duddy.
“They keep me young. They let me know if my hairstyle is out of date or my clothes aren’t working. You have to stay open to new ideas.”
That’s a philosophy she has found especially true with her coaching staff. She always wants to be challenged by her assistants as to how to go about things.
“Just because I’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean they’re still relevant. I want the coaches to bring new ideas and new concepts to the table. It’s my belief that if you don’t do that you’re going to get left behind.”
Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.