The Gophers' softball team has rounded out its coaching staff with the addition of program alum Katie Richardson, who will join as an assistant coach.
In her career for the Gophers, Richardson started all 224 games, earned a career batting average of .388, secured 179 RBIs, hit 40 home runs and was a two-time All-American before graduating in 2015. Her 179 RBIs, .388 batting average and 40 home runs rank second, third and fourth respectively in program history.
Returning to Minnesota is a full-circle moment for Richardson, who first realized her interest in pursuing a coaching career while a member of the program. Richardson stayed on as an undergraduate assistant with the team for the 2016 season.
"I totally saw myself one day coming back — that was the dream — to come back to the Gophers. But you never really know in this industry if that's viable or not, and thankfully for coach Ritter, it's kind of been a dream come true," Richardson said.
Fellow alum Sara Groenewegen said the news of Richardson's hire excited her and other former Gophers because of Richardson's passion for the program. It was special for them to see Richardson achieve her dream of coaching at Minnesota. Even when they were teammates, Groenewegen said Richardson led by example and helped guide younger players on and off the field.
"Katie was a junior when I was a freshman, and she kind of took me under her wing, and she taught me what hard work was. She taught me how to manage my time. And I think just for the girls in the program to have someone like that, who cares about the program too and has been in their shoes literally, it's very special," she said.
On the field, Richardson was known for being gritty and was the one to step up and be a leader, always finding a way to get it done on the field. While her swing or fielding wasn't perfect, she always played with the same grit and came through during key moments. She battled adversity as well: Groenewegen said that Richardson broke her nose not once but "a couple times" in her career.
While having the opportunity to bring Richardson back to the program as an alum was a special opportunity, head coach Piper Ritter said the hiring was less about her past history with the program but was rather based on the skillset she is able to bring to the table. In addition to her knowledge as a hitting coach, Richardson's work ethic is something that she can model for the players, both on the athletic and academic side of being a student-athlete, Ritter said.
In her previous role as an assistant coach, Ritter had been through multiple staff changes as new head coaches came and went. Richardson was someone she'd always had her eye on.
"I've tried to hire her a couple times, to be honest," Ritter said.
With Ritter at the helm of the program and her staff now fully assembled at Minnesota, the team is poised for an exciting future.
"I can't even put it into words because I think there is just such amazing things coming — we're here for the long haul, and we're here to create a dynamic staff for a very long time. I'm really optimistic about the future of the Gophers," Richardson said.