TAMPA- University of South Florida head softball coach Ken Eriksen has been named the head coach of the United States National Team, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced Friday.
Eriksen will serve as the head coach for the Women’s National team in 2011 and 2012, which will include the 2011 Pan American Games and the 2012 International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championships. Eriksen will become the first male in USA Softball history to represent the organization as both a player and a head coach.
“This is an incredible opportunity for me as a coach and for USA Softball to bring new faces into the USA Softball National team family,” Eriksen said. “Our goal is to prepare and shape this unit into a championship caliber team that will compete in the next two ISF medal events as well as the World Cup of Softball here in the United States in front of our fans.”
In 2001, Eriksen joined the National Team staff, and remained with the team through 2004, where he helped lead the program to the 2004 Olympic Gold Medal, becoming the only USF coach in school history to accomplish such a feat.
“First, I want to thank the members of the National Team Selection Committee for having the faith in me to represent the most successful softball team in the history of women’s international softball,” Eriksen said. “I also would be remiss not to thank two mentors. I want to thank Mike Candrea for believing in me and getting me involved as part of the National Team program from 2001-2005. His guidance and mentoring have been invaluable to me. I also want to thank Jay Miller for his confidence and trust in bringing me back to work with the program the last two years. I hope to make these two great American coaches proud.”
Eriksen, who rejoined the National Team in 2009, had the primary responsibilities of pitching, catching and scouting for Team USA. He recently helped Team USA to the 2009 Canada Cup title.
“I look forward to working with the USA National Team’s Director, Ron Isham, in his quest to continue USA Softball excellence and helping facilitate ASA Executive Director Ron Radigonda’s campaign in helping softball gain re-entry into the Olympic Games in 2020,” Eriksen said.
Eriksen, a USF graduate and former baseball player with the Bulls, took the reign as head coach of the USF softball team in 1997, and has spent the past 14 years as skipper.
“USF Athletics and the entire University would like to congratulate Coach Eriksen on what may be the highest honor that you can have in college coaching by being named as the head coach of the United States National Softball Team,” USF Director of Athletics Doug Woolard said. “It is certainly well deserved. We are fortunate to have him in the leadership role that we have him here at USF.”
Since Eriksen became head coach in 1997, he has ended the season with a winning record on 12 occasions. While at the helm of one of the most successful programs on campus, Eriksen has led eight teams to the NCAA Regional, won a Regional Championship in 2006, made a Super Regional appearance that same year and has won three conference titles, the latest being the BIG EAST Regular-Season Championship in 2008.
“I think it goes without saying that if you don’t get approval from your Athletic Director Doug Woolard and your Executive Associate Athletic Director Bill McGillis, then you don’t have the time to spend in those programs,” Eriksen said. “Those guys get it. They understand what it means, not only personally, but they understand what it means for this University to have the opportunity to represent USF not only nationwide, but internationally. It is a great opportunity for all of us.”
After earning his bachelor's degree in political science at USF, Eriksen decided to turn his attentions from the baseball diamond to the softball arena. He competed at the elite fastpitch level with the Clearwater Bombers from 1986-93, and with Miller-Toyota of Salt Lake City, Utah, from 1993-95. In 1997, he retired after winning an ASA Men's National Championship with the Tampa Smokers.
During his playing career, Eriksen amassed a wealth of international experience, participating in eight ISC World Championships and eight ASA National Major Championships. In 1988, he was a member of a select team that represented the United States against the Cuban National Team. In 1991, Eriksen was the catcher on the United States National Fastpitch Team that won a silver medal at the Pan American Games in Cuba, and in 1992, he was named First-Team All-World as a catcher and to the All-North American Team.
“I think that any time you can add legitimacy to what you are doing by having been in the fire, not just near the fire, it lends itself to the players that you have that type of professional experience,” Eriksen said. “I think that helps with communication to those kids about what it is.”
Eriksen played in three Olympic Sports Festivals winning a silver medal in 1993. In 1997 after retiring from playing, he was named the head coach for the Men's 19U World Team that represented the United States in St. John's, Newfoundland, before becoming the skipper of the Bulls.
“We are thrilled to have a great cross section of coaches for the Women’s National team program for the next two years,” said ASA and USA Softball Executive Director Ron Radigonda. “With the ISF change of World Championships every two years, we are excited to assist coaches in gaining international experience and opportunities.”
Eriksen has amassed a record of 611-333-1 at USF and is the winningest coach in the history of the program.
The Amateur Softball Association, founded in 1933, is the national governing body of softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. The ASA has become one of the nation’s largest sports organizations and now sanctions competition in every state through a network of 76 local associations. The ASA has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to more than 210,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than three million. For more information on the ASA, visit http://www.asasoftball.com/.
About USA Softball
USA Softball is the brand created, operated and owned by the ASA that links the USA Men’s, Women’s, Junior Boys’ and Junior Girls’ National Team programs together. USA Softball is responsible for training, equipping and promoting these four National Teams to compete in international and domestic competitions. The USA Softball Women’s National Team is one of the only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games since 1996. The U.S. women have also won nine World Championship titles including the last seven consecutive as well as claimed four World Cup of Softball titles. For more information about USA Softball, please visit http://www.usasoftball.com/.