Interview # 17
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 2, Softball Coach, of West Texas A & M, Kevin Blaskowski.
Over the last nine years, Coach Blaskowski has taken West Texas A&M Softball from a first year program to the 2014 National Championship. Recruiting quality players and great coaching are key to this incredible rise from nothing. At the bottom of the post, you will see Coach Blaskowski’s full bio covering 23 years and a 717-507 record. Even his bio is inspiring.
In the middle of the interview you will see a link to two 5 minute videos Coach Blaskowski has shared. They are both about his Softball “family” at West Texas A&M. They are inspirational and moving. Whether you are a player, parent, coach or even another college coach reading this, take the time to watch them. They define what college athletics are about in a very up close and personal way.
Read on. This interview is full of priceless information!
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen?
I think it is key for any athlete who is interested in our program to contact us early and on a regular basis. They need to send a profile and video to my associate head coach or myself and make sure we know when and where they will be playing. It is difficult for us to watch high school softball because we are in season, so we need their travel team information.
They also need to request camp information and attend our camps. We are at a point where we use our institutional camps as much or possibly more than going out to tournaments every weekend.
You have a lot of very talented athletes who come to your program. What is the difference between the players who have a successful college career and those who don’t?
There are a number of factors that will determine an athlete’s success in our program, but those that have excelled at the highest level have committed themselves to being the best player and person they can be daily. They have the passion to be the best and they come to practice every day and work hard to be better. They also have a great understanding of the game and what they need to do to be successful. They are students of the game. I also think a real key is their ability to succeed after failure. They know that they are expected to excel and they accept that role. They also know there will be times they will fail, but that does not make them shy away from that expectation.
They do not have an attitude of entitlement. They are committed to the program. They do not ask what the program will do for them, but what do they need to do to make the program successful. That is critical to their success.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
In D2 we are allowed 7.2 scholarships and fortunately my university funds us to that level. Our goal is to have 18-20 athletes on scholarship each year. Our largest awards are usually tuition and fees with a percentage of living expenses, but we only have a couple of those. We have a number of athletes on tuition and fees, while others may receive monetary amounts like $1500 or $1000 per semester.
Starting next year, we are planning to go to a straight percentage. It will be easier for me to keep track of each semester.
What else is important to affording college besides the “athletic scholarship”?
In D2 we can stack academic money with athletic aid, therefore, it is critical for our athletes to achieve academically at a level where they may qualify for academic money. Along with providing more assistance for the athlete, it also allows us to extend our athletic aid.
Athletes also need to do their research to see if there are grants they may qualify for also. The college admissions and financial aid process requires extensive research for anyone who wants to attend college and athletes must do their work also.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
I believe parents play an important role in the recruiting process. As parents, it is our responsibility to provide guidance and direction to our children. Choosing a college is an important decision and it concerns me when a parent tells me it is the athlete’s decision and they are not going to be involved.
I do not think parents should control the process, but they need to be involved. Cost, distance from home, etc. are decisions they need to have input in.
What effect does social media have on your recruiting? Can you talk about players who you have either stopped recruiting or become more interested in based on their social media use?
We monitor our current and prospective athlete’s social media on a regular basis. A person’s social media says a lot about them. We feel we can tell a lot about a person’s character based on what they post or store on social media. It is definitely a resource we use in the recruiting process. Fortunately, we have not eliminated anyone from our recruiting lists because of it, but we have brought things up in the process and asked for explanations. With our current athletes, we have had to ask for comments and pictures to be removed. We have a thorough policy in our conference and athletic department that provides guidelines for social media usage.
What is the role of the athletic training staff with your team and athletes? How do trainers interact and benefit your program?
We are very fortunate to have outstanding support staff for our program. We do not engage in any physical activity without having an athletic trainer. We also have a very good team of physicians that are available to provide care to our athletes. Our athletic trainers provide pre and post-practice or competition treatment along with evaluation of conditions. They determine when an athlete needs to be seen by a physician. We have an athletic trainer with us on all road trips and they coordinate treatment schedules while we travel. They provide excellent care for our athletes.
You have coached a lot of college athletes over 20+ years. Can you share a story or two about how playing on a college team has affected former players in their lives after graduation.
We have had a number of our athletes go on and be very successful in their careers. A recent graduate just won a high school state championship as an assistant coach. We have a number who have gone into coaching and many who have chosen other professions. I have attached a link to a video that one produced for a celebration we had this spring. The athletes in the video can share their own stories –
We have a very special program with many great stories of current players and our alumni!
What advice do you have for recruits on how to prepare for their freshmen year in a college softball program? What are typical things you wish incoming freshmen realized or knew before they arrived on campus?
Our incoming freshmen need to be prepared to compete. They will be expected to get better daily and to prepare mentally and physically to be the best they can be every day. They have to know that everyone in our program was recruited to be here and the competition they will face daily in their workouts and practice will make them better. Practice is the most important component of our program. It is there that they prepare for competition.
They have to be better when they arrive on campus than the day they committed to our program. They will have good days and they will have bad days. They will fail, the key to their success will be how they respond to their failures. Some will not be able to handle it and those are the players that will not be successful in our program.
They have to know that the coaching staff will challenge them and push them to meet their expectations. We are not here to be their friends, but we will work hard to be the best coaches and mentors we can be for them.
They have to be prepared to be responsible for their education and their softball experience. No one will give them what they are expecting without them doing the work it takes to achieve it.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or softball players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
Over the years, I have seen a lot of emphasis put on the showcase component of recruiting and everyone seems to think they know what college coaches want. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would like to see players get back to playing the game the right way and not worrying about showcasing their individual talents.
I know that I look for players that know how to win and have the abilities to make those around them better. I do not recruit with a stop watch and I am not really concerned about how many revolutions a curve ball has.
I look for players who play with passion. Those who hustle on and off the field and love playing the game. They have to play to win, but when they lose, they have to know how to rebound from failure. I want to see a player be a student of the game. There are so many ways to be successful as a player without being measured statistically. Velocity is not the only measuring stick for pitchers. I want pitchers who know how to get outs and can pitch in pressure situations. They are going to get hit and give up runs. I look for how they make adjustments and minimize their opponents scoring opportunities.
Players who help their teammates and teams succeed will always be recognized in the recruiting process. Be that player!!!
Having been hired to re-start West Texas A&M softball following a 24-year absence, Kevin Blaskowski has wasted little time in building the Lady Buffs into a perennial national title contender. In nine years at the helm, he has registered a 365-230 mark, recorded five NCAA tournament berths and an overall record of 717-507 over 23 seasons. While at WT, Blaskowski has claimed three Lone Star Conference titles, a LSC Tournament Title, two South Central Regional Championships, a South Central Super Regional title and the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championship.
2014 saw the Lady Buffs capture the program’s first ever NCAA Division II National Championship as WT topped perennial power Valdosta State in a Memorial Day thriller at the Moyers Sports Complex in Salem, Virginia. The Lady Buffs finished their dream season with an overall record of 60-7, becoming just the fourth team in NCAA history to win a title while also reaching the 60-win mark (Cal State Northridge-1985; Augustana-1991; North Dakota State-2000). Blaskowski and his staff were rewarded for their efforts on the diamond, being named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II National Coaching Staff of the Year while Coach B also picked up Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year accolades.
In 2015, Blaskowski guided the Lady Buffs to a new NFCA record as they were ranked #1 in the country for 56 consecutive weeks. They finished the regular season ranked in the top five in the nation for the second year in a row and finished the year at #13 in the post-season poll. Personally, Blaskowski reached another career milestone as he claimed his 700th career victory against Lubbock Christian at Schaeffer Park on March 31st.
Blaskowski was hired in December of 2004 to bring back the softball program to WTAMU’s campus after a 24 year absence. Blaskowski came to WT from Lone Star Conference rival Eastern New Mexico University where he served as the head coach for one year. Prior to ENMU, Blaskowski coached at Southern Arkansas University for five years, where he started the SAU softball program and led them to the postseason in each of his five years. In 2003, SAU was the Co-Champion of the West Division in the Gulf South Conference with a 31-19 overall record and a 19-4 conference mark.
Blaskowski also has served as the head coach at Phillips University from 1996-1998. He started the program at Phillips which qualified for postseason play in each of its two seasons before the school closed in 1998. He was also the head coach at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., and Kansas Wesleyan University, in Salina, Kan. He was chosen at the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) Coach of the Year at Kansas Wesleyan in 1993 and was selected as the NAIA District 10 Coach of the Year at Kansas Wesleyan University in 1994.
Blaskowski received a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Physical Education from Valley City State University in North Dakota in 1986. He completed a Master of Science in Education with an emphasis in Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Emporia State University in Kansas in 1989.
Blaskowski and his beautiful wife, April, are the parents of two daughters, Kaelyn Rose and Kelsey Rhea.
Next, take a look at The Value of Researching Current College Rosters.
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