From her days as a shortstop for two national champion UCLA teams through her years as head coach of UCSB’s softball team, winning has always been in Kristy Schroeder’s blood.
Recently deciding to step down after seven six successful seasons, Schroeder will complete her career at UCSB with an overall record of 173-156 (.528) and a school-record six consecutive winning seasons. In addition to the wins, Schroeder has permanently altered the landscape of the Gaucho program.
“When I first came here, I just wanted the kids to have a good experience, but most of the time you have to win a little bit to have a good experience,” Schroeder said. “It was a great opportunity for me to change the culture of the program and get it going in the right direction.”
Upon accepting the title as head softball coach at UCSB, Schroeder transformed a struggling team into a contender. Santa Barbara had posted a dismal 4-17 conference record prior to her arrival, but the team went 12-12 in the Big West in Schroeder’s first year as coach. After her successful debut, Schroeder became the first coach in program’s history to win Big West Coach of the Year honors.
“I was coming in to turn around the program, and I think I taught that team what we can achieve,” Schroeder said. “The previous team had come in last place and then we became fourth. Those kids thought that they were pretty good, they just needed some leadership and that was something I was able to give.”
In her second season on campus, Schroeder’s Gauchos posted the best record in program history and surfaced on the national radar by receiving top-25 votes for the first time. The following season proved to be even more successful, as Santa Barbara made its inaugural appearance at NCAA regionals. Flash forward to this season, when UCSB made the NCAAs for the third time in four years.
This season also featured several impressive milestones including Schroeder’s 300th career win and her first victory against alma mater UCLA – the first Gaucho victory over the Bruins in 16 years.
“The biggest thing I’ve been trying to tell them is it’s how you walk on the field,” Schroeder said. “It’s how you carry yourself when something does go wrong. Against the best teams, walking out there is half the battle. That’s why I was so proud when our team beat UCLA this year, because we finally believed we should be able to beat them.”
After retiring from coaching, Schroeder will return to familiar territory in Stockton, California. As an assistant coach for Pacific in the mid-nineties, she brought the team into the national spotlight, but the circumstances will now be much different. This time, her focus will be on four-year old daughter Johnna and nine-month old son Asher, rather than the “kids” on her team.
“I’ll be excited to spend more time with [them],” Schroeder said. “Once I started college, I had never been out of softball, so it will be interesting to not be in it, and I think I will enjoy the down time. I won’t miss the recruiting, but I’ll miss the games. The games are my favorite part, and the practices and the players. The hard thing is that I feel like we’ve done so much with this program here that we’re just the tip of the iceberg.”
Although Schroeder will be leaving the program, fans can still have hope that one day Johnna may don a Gaucho uniform and step up to the plate.
“I laugh because she can pick up a bat and swing, and we’ve never really given her any lessons. She has a nice cut and swings hard,” Schroeder said.
While the stress of collegiate coaching will be behind her, Schroeder faces a future full of new challenges as she embraces her role as mom.