LAFAYETTE – The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) has selected Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball head coach Michael Lotief as the recipient of the 2016 Donna Newberry “Perseverance” Award.
He will be formally presented with the award at the 2016 NFCA Convention in New Orleans on Friday, Dec. 9 during the Softball Summit.
The award recognizes an NFCA member coach who has demonstrated extraordinary strength of will and character in the fight to overcome a physical, mental or social adversity that presented an additional challenge to the already demanding job of a coach. The award was created in honor of longtime Muskingum College coach and 2008 NFCA Hall of Fame inductee Donna Newberry, who died in November 2010 following a battle with breast cancer.
Lotief joins Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf (2014) and the late John Keyes (2015), head coach at North Fort Myers (Fla.) High School as recipients of this prestigious award.
Over the past two seasons, Lotief has battled back from severe throat infections which arose in the first half of the 2015 season. After initially being hospitalized, and missing a series at Texas State late-March 2015, he was back at practice and in the dugout for home games a mere two weeks later.
Perhaps the most visible sign of his fight to overcome and persevere came in the 2015 NCAA postseason. At this point in his recovery, wearing a backpack with an instrument which provided his nutrition, he proudly fought with this team and traveled to Auburn for the Super Regional matchup.
“Coaching is my passion,” Lotief said. “It’s what I do, it’s who I am. It’s not as much as me watching an individual swing the bat as much as it is my connection to them, to make a difference in their life as a person, and growing and learning and fighting.”
Lotief’s recovery continued over the summer months of 2015, with several hospital visits and medical procedures. In the months leading up to the start of the 2016 season, morning therapy sessions, followed by office hours and afternoon instruction with his team, were part of the daily routine.
He returned to the coach’s box full-time for the 2016 season, traveled on all road trips (a fair share 10-plus hour bus rides) and fulfilled numerous speaking engagements despite having a trachea.
In addition to the normal coaching duties of lineup cards, pre-game warmups, in-game decisions and many more details, Lotief had to assure his own physical needs, such as nutrition and hydration, were tended to especially when the Ragin’ Cajuns played doubleheaders.
None of the extracurricular tasks took his mind off of his chief task of battling for his players and encouraging them pitch-by-pitch during every at bat. In Lotief, the players saw the courage to fight. Through them, Lotief was made stronger.
“We’re living life together,” Lotief said. “Don’t think it’s just softball, we’re living life. Softball is just what brings us together.”
In his 14 seasons as either head coach or co-head coach, and 16 seasons overall, the Ragin’ Cajuns have advanced to the NCAA tournament in every single one. Lotief has led his teams to over 40 wins in every season, eight seasons with 50-or-more victories, and a school-record 60 wins in 2004.
Under his guidance, the Ragin’ Cajuns have advanced to three Women’s College World Series (2003, 2008 & 2014), seven NCAA Super Regionals and 14 NCAA regionals. Louisiana heads toward the 2017 season with an active streak of five consecutive Super Regional appearances.
His teams, known for their hitting prowess, led Division I softball – and all levels of collegiate softball – with an average of 1.96 home runs per game in 2016. The Ragin’ Cajuns topped the charts, and eclipsed the century mark in total home runs, for the second straight season.
Source- Ragin Cajun Softball Twitter