ACS: Justin Lewis, Texas A&M Kingsville Softball

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Justin Lewis
Assistant Softball Coach
Texas A&M Kingsville
Kingsville, Texas
Twitter: @TamukJlew

 

The moment you first realized that you might like to make coaching part of your career?

My coaching career has been a bit of a winding road. I started coaching right out of college. I went back to my JUCO Central Arizona College and coached baseball with legendary head coach Clint Myers, whom I also played for. After three years, I decided to get out of coaching. I did numerous things for a living. Lots of sales jobs, started a few business’s, some good, some not so good. In a effort to get my family some stability, I joined the fire department. I served my community for over nine years. During this time I also started a nonprofit in the autism community and wrote a leadership book for firefighters.

I always missed coaching so I would go out to the local high schools that my friends were coaching at and I’d help them out whenever I could. For twelve years I had this saying “Life is pretty good for us right now, but If I could do it over again, I would never have gotten out of coaching”. Well my wife got tired of hearing me say this and about three years ago she asked “Can you get back in to coaching?”. At this point I hadn’t been associated with a university in over twelve years! I took some time to think about what I would want in a career in coaching. During my time away from coaching, I played men’s fastpitch softball and I really enjoyed the game and my main contact had become an elite head coach in the game. I reached out to him and told him what I was thinking about and he gave me his full support. I was also living in Tucson, AZ and University of Arizona softball is kind of a big deal. I emailed Mike Candrea and asked if there was any way I could get involved. To my surprise, he returned my email and invited me to meet with him in his office. We meet for over an hour and he invited me to start working his annual softball camps. I jumped at the opportunity. For the next three years, I applied for job after job and I received rejection after rejection.

I then reached out to another long lost contact named Craig Nicholson. He was the head softball coach at Central Arizona when I played and coached there. He had recently taken some time off and was looking to get back in the game himself. I took him out to lunch and told him what I wanted to do. One year later he called me and told me he was taking the Head Job at Texas A&M-Kingsville and asked me if I was interested in being his assistant. It’s a long way around the questions, but I felt I needed to provide some context to my answer. I was fortunate/unfortunate to land the job of my dreams right out of college, I just needed to spend over a decade doing other things to have the full appreciation for it.

Outside of mentors, talk about one way you’ve learned some aspect of coaching.

Mentors are obviously a huge “hack” into anything that I’ve been successful at however; there are many other things that I do to learn. One thing is not limiting myself to learning from the coaching world. There are many other leaders in the world that you can learn from. I love reading business books and listening to podcasts and hearing ways that the worlds thought leaders handle their business. It translates to how we are developing the future leaders at our university.

If you could go back to your rookie coach self and give one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself a couple of things. First, try to learn and gain all the life experience you got when you left coaching…without leaving coaching! Secondly, I would tell him not to change a single thing…Life took me where I needed to go and I was fortunate to do some of the things and meet some amazing people. We are all a compilation of our experiences. I believe I am in a unique situation to be an enormous asset to our future leaders.

What is your favorite memory from a coaching conference or clinic?

I went to a coaching clinic when I was first coaching baseball and I really wanted to hear the presentation on hitting that Tony Gwynn was giving. He finally got on stage and said “All I know about hitting is your front foot has to be down and your top hand has to be palm up at contact…any questions?” Hahaha…it was great. I thought about that a lot during my time off from coaching. While I loved Tony Gwynn, I don’t believe he was able to replicate his success as a player as a coach because he never learned how to coach something that came very natural to him. There’s a valuable lesson in there.

Your dream lunch date. One coach. Any sport. Any level. Who is it?

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors.

 

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