Marissa Young: Duke Softball, From Scratch

  • Name: Marissa Young
  • Age: 34
  • Organization: Duke University

(Photo: Marissa Young & family. Courtesy: Duke Softball.)

Author: Patrick Kinas, creator.

“I was stunned.”

“I couldn’t believe it.”

“The walk from that office to my car seemed 2 miles long.”

“My husband and kids were actually waiting in the parking lot, so they were the first to hear the news.”

Marissa Young thought she’d be a lawyer. Growing up in Santa Ana, CA, starring at Mater Dei High School, and after an All-American softball career at Michigan, Young envisioned her future taking depositions, filing motions and winning cases.

Instead, Young had just been named the first-ever softball coach at Duke University.

No longer was law in her future. She is now in construction.

“This is more than a job, it’s changed my life, and the lives of my entire family,” Young said. “But most importantly, my hire is a sign of hope for so many young female minorities and for women that want both an amazing family and successful career.”

The interview? She killed it.

“I was offered the job, on the spot, at the conclusion of my interview,” Young said.

Years of preparation led Young to this moment.

“I honestly fell into coaching,” Young said. “After I graduated, the former University of Michigan baseball coach opened an indoor academy. He said he had softball players coming wanting lessons and asked if I would be interested. I was in process of passing my LSAT to begin applying for law school, and thought it would be a good opportunity to give back to the game and make some money. Two months into it, I found coaching was my passion and decided to forego law school."

“The rest is history.”

“Part of the reason I didn’t think I had a chance at this job is because you don’t see many people like yourself in the position you’re going for.”

I want to inspire others to go for your dreams even if it seems out of reach or not the norm.

In those moments where the to-do list is too vast, and the job gets overwhelming, she can jokingly thank her husband for her plight.

“To be honest, if it wasn’t for my husband urging me to apply, I probably wouldn’t have. I thought there were too many other coaches with more experience, that I didn’t stand a chance. He reminds me every day, if it wasn’t for him… I still can’t believe I’m here at Duke.”

“My husband and I custom built a house years ago in Michigan but that doesn’t hold a candle what I’m going thru now.”

Duke’s Board approved stadium plans and the project is on track to break ground late May or early June, 2016 and be completed June, 2017. The $8.8m stadium will include indoor batting cages, conference room, team room, players and coaches’ locker rooms, with a unique setting that will allow fans and families to enjoy viewing the game in right field and along first base side, sitting out in the grass with their blankets and picnic baskets overlooking the field.

Young’s Love Of The Game, Pain Of Adversities

Baseball and softball were always intrinsically connected to her childhood, and now her adulthood. Young’s uncle - Gerald Young - was a centerfielder in the major leagues with the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals for eight years, once finishing second in the N.L. in stolen bases.

“Going to watch him play in those big stadiums captured me. I loved getting to the ball park early to watch BP, my dad analyzed guys swings for me and I was captivated by balls leaving the ballpark. Needless to say, I was eager to play the game.”

She was a slugger at the plate and a star in the circle at Michigan, tying the Wolverines single-season home run record while becoming the school’s all-time strikeout leader. The three-time All-American was the Big Ten’s Player of the Year in 2002, then Pitcher of the Year in 2003.

However, things didn’t come easy for Young as a child.

“Both my dad and mom worked two jobs for as long as I can remember, in order to send my sister and I to private school and pay the costs of our softball,” Young said. “My parents had a janitorial service, and throughout elementary school, I would go with them in the evenings to help them clean. I started with minor tasks like dumping the trash, and as I got older, vacuuming, cleaning kitchens and bathrooms.

“We encountered a lot of executives and employees that treated us less than, just because our job was to clean the building.”

“It humbled me, it taught me to appreciate what you have and the value of a dollar. Most importantly, it taught me how to treat people. I’ll never forget that feeling, and no matter where I go or what my role is, I will always treat others will respect.”

This laid the foundation for Young’s tireless work ethic and criterion.

“My parents definitely molded me and set the standard of hard work, the meaning of commitment and sacrifice.”

Along with the socio-economic and status hurdles that Young faced, she encountered a major on-field obstacle that could have derailed her life’s trajectory.

“I tore my ACL at the age of 12. I was too young to have it repaired, so I had to wear one of those massive braces and bear the pain. I finally had the surgery after my freshman year of college, battled hard thru rehab to get back in time for my sophomore season.”

But enduring all that she has is what has prepared her for the challenge she faces in Durham, NC.

The inaugural Blue Devils softball team will play its first game in February, 2018.

Before Game 1

There is a tad of work to be done.

“Most coaches take a job and within the first week decide there are a lot of things they want to change or update, but it’s completely different having to create from scratch every detail big and small from office documents, to ordering all the field and office equipment, stadium construction design, coaching staff, recruiting, designing uniforms, and the list goes on.”

“Are there challenges? Of course. Am I working harder than I ever have before? Without a doubt. But there is no greater feeling than to know you are creating it all for the very first time, and leaving your mark.”

Right from the outset, the Blue Devils softball program will be fully funded, with the NCAA maximum 12 scholarships available for Young and her staff to utilize.

“We’ll have to be strategic as we phase them in because we’ll need to spread them out over a four-year period so that we can continue to bring in recruits each year.”

Since no NLIs (National Letter of Intent) have been officially received, Young can’t comment on any of the members of Duke’s first recruiting class quiet yet.

“We have four great student-athletes coming to Duke in August to start their careers and help us launch our program. They will begin training with our coaching staff but red-shirt their first year and have 4 years left to compete once we begin competition in 2018.”

While the job is certainly daunting and the tasks to complete are immense in the next 22 months, Duke is the right fit for Young, and Young is the right fit for Duke.

“There is no other place I would start a softball program from scratch except Duke! I don’t have to sell people on a start-up program, because they know what it means to get a degree from Duke and have the opportunity to play softball in the ACC, it doesn’t get much better than this! The strong tradition of Duke athletics and academics, is huge in helping us attract great players as we build the softball program.”

“My recruiting process definitely wasn’t what it is today, with 8th & 9th graders committing,” Young said. “I was heavily recruited my junior year and knew I wanted two things: a great law school with great softball. So I narrowed my choices to UCLA, Stanford, Cal Berkley and Michigan. Most of the top players in So Cal stayed in the PAC 10 but after my trip to Michigan, I knew that I wasn’t going to follow the norm. Michigan was where I wanted to be with an unmatched school tradition academically and athletically, the chance to get away from home, play for an amazing coach I knew would get the best out of me. Hutch (Carol Hutchins) didn’t disappoint, now the being the winningest coach in college softball and our two trips to the Women’s College World Series were unforgettable.”

A softball coaching yearling, Young is not. She spent time as the head coach at Concordia College, an NAIA school in Michigan, two seasons as assistant coach at Eastern Michigan and as assistant coach with Donna Papa at UNC.

“While at UNC, Donna mentioned a year ago that Duke would likely be starting a softball program sometime in the future. We had no idea it would be so soon. She actually told me about a colleague of hers that was going to apply. After a lot of prayer and thought, I decided that the opportunity to not only be a head coach but to start a program from the ground up, at one of the best academic schools in the country, in addition to not displacing my kids cross country to do it, was the job of a lifetime and I had to go for it.”

“I knew the conference inside and out, I’ve been blessed with other coaching positions that prepared me well as a head coach at a Division II school where I had to do it all from fundraising to dragging the field and then working my way up the ranks at the D1 level as recruiting coordinators, managing operating budgets, and coordinating team travel. Once I began to mentally prepare for pursing the job, I was blown away to see how well God used my seemingly unintended journey to prepare me for this opportunity!”

On Young’s first day, she immediately hit the ground running. Or flying.

“One day after the press conference (announcing the hire), I flew to California to recruit at PGF Nationals. It was surreal to be the first softball coach to every walk out to a field wearing Duke. It’s was the talk of the softball community and it’s something special.

While her hiring at Duke represents one of the greatest moments of her life, it doesn’t supplant three others that will never be usurped.

“Becoming a mom has been the best moment off the field for me. I have two great girls ages 8 & 10, and an amazing five-year-old son. Seeing them born and now watching them grow into distinctively unique people just lights me up. Being a parent has made me and even better coach. As much as I have tried to raise my kids the same, they are SO different and they need different things from me in different ways. The same goes for coaching!”

For Young, the birth of the Duke program awaits.


Bubba 04/27/2016 @ 09:56PM
Great is He that is in me, than He that is in the world !
Tony 05/03/2016 @ 07:28PM
Great article. Duke made the right choice again. I'm excited to be able to follow your new career and success at Duke. Go Blue Devils!

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