The head coach of the APU softball team shares why she loves the sport and how her team is getting ready for spring season
Carrie Webber has been the head coach of the Azusa Pacific softball program for 14 years. Yet, in all the time that she has coached at the university, she has never had to face the same obstacles as she has this fall season.
Webber has not been with her team as a whole unit since March, when the university shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and collegiate sports were suspended for the fall.
Since the athletics department has given coaches the green light to conduct voluntary in-person practices in late September, not all of Webber’s players have been able to return to campus. The few players that have returned to participate in the voluntary practices are required to follow social distancing protocols that have affected the team dynamic and chemistry.
During times like these, Webber feels a sense of longing and deep appreciation for the sport as she thinks about how unusual this season has become. She recalls where her passion and drive for softball first started and how she fell in love with the game.
Where it all started
Webber was seven when her father brought home a glove, a ball, a tee and a volunteer signup sheet for tee-ball. Because there weren’t many sports to choose from in her small hometown of Sonora, Calif., she was excited for the opportunity to learn the game of softball.
“From the moment I got that tee, glove and ball I was hooked. I thought it was the coolest sport ever,” said Webber.
After high school, Webber continued her softball career as a shortstop at Chico State University in 1995. She majored in kinesiology, and graduated in four years. However, her passion for softball didn’t stop there.
Shortly after graduating, she accepted a head coaching position at Santa Rosa Junior College. In 2006, the current director of APU athletics Gary Pine personally reached out to her and asked if she was interested in a coaching position at the university. After much prayer and deliberation, Webber decided to accept the job offer.
“God was calling me here and I knew that it was a place where I could take my faith and integrate it into my coaching habits at a level that I always desired to be at,” Webber said.
Role as a Coach
Both on and off the field, Webber strives to impact those around her through her faith. She devotes time to serving others, and acts as a mentor to her players.
She values APU’s identity as a Christian university, as it has given her the chance to be open about her faith and what it means to be a Christian to her players. Her passion for softball resonates with Christ and she hopes that her team can feel the same way.
“Coach Webber is compassionate and a role model,” said Amanda Woods, a senior business/marketing major on the team. “Not only is she there for us on the softball field but also in our everyday lives. She cares about us as people and leads and walks with us in our faith.”
While there are challenging responsibilities that come with being a coach, Webber fails to stay unmotivated about her job. Whether it’s an early morning practice, a competitive opponent or even field maintenance, she maintains a positive attitude.
Webber said she enjoys watching the growth of her athletes both on and off the field. With new incoming recruits on the team each season, she takes pride in getting the opportunity to become a part of their journey in graduating college. It is a way for her to bring them closer to God in the hopes that they will continue to serve him for the rest of their lives.
“I love college. It’s such a transformative time and to be able to add a Christlike transformation in people’s lives is totally worth it,” Webber said.
What is the team doing now?
Much has changed at APU’s athletic department since the pandemic put all of the university’s sports on hold. However, the department announced a modification in October that allowed athletes to start participating in voluntary practices and workouts until Nov. 13.
Webber said that although a majority of the team lives far away from campus, many girls have traveled back to Azusa to take part in the voluntary workouts. The workout regimen consists of two-hour practices and weight lifting four days a week.
To Webber, the transition into following new guidelines has been strange. With the requirement of face masks, frequent temperature checks, online symptom forms and social distancing, it is far from the normal atmosphere that she is familiar with.
“It has been disappointing to not be able to see the smiles behind my player’s masks as well as having to practice in a socially distanced manner,” Webber said.
Additionally,Webber misses the community that interacting with her team as an entire unit gives her. As an extrovert, she gravitates towards the relationships she is able to form with her players. She said that not having that component this semester has been challenging.
“The mundane everyday things that you absentmindedly take advantage of is what I miss the most,” said Webber.
Despite having taken part in only some of the voluntary practices, Brielle Fraijo, a fifth year criminal justice major, said it feels good to experience a sense of normalcy with her team again.
“With all of the circumstances we are living in right now and the fact that our season was canceled last spring, I am definitely going to keep a mindset of appreciation for softball,” Fraijo said. “None of us know what to expect in the future so we have to make everything count right now.”
Prior to the start of each week, Webber requires her players to sign a voluntary workout form to see how girls plan on attending the practices. Keeping social distancing protocols in mind, Webber said she plans each practice regimen according to how many players she expects to be present on any given day.
Due to the pandemic, Webber has had to adjust her coaching mentality this semester. There has been no new information from Los Angeles County as to whether universities will be able to reopen next semester. Because of this, Webber strives to always be prepared for whatever circumstances might arise.
Despite these circumstances, Webber is extremely grateful for the time she is allowed to spend with her team this semester. She said that this transitional period has inspired her to look at coaching in a new light moving forward.
By constantly checking in with God and asking him where she needs to be in her life, Webber is confident that she will remain a coach for many more years to come. This inspires her to continue to appreciate softball and give it her all despite the uncertainty that looms over the spring season.
Regardless, Webber continues to hope for a positive spring season in which the APU community is able to return to campus and student-athletes will be able to participate in sports.
“I hope that everyone can experience what APU has to offer and I really hope that sports are back,” Webber said. “I hope that people can enjoy the passions that they have and students can enjoy watching the sports that we passionately play.”