Catching up with Taylor Hoagland
Taylor Hoagland had quite the year in 2013: she graduated from the University of Texas where she was a 1st Team All-American, played for the USA Softball National Team that took the silver medal at the World Cup and got a coaching job as an assistant at Amherst College, a Div. III school in Amherst, Mass.
At Texas, Taylor was a four-time 1st Team all-Big 12 selection (2010-13) and also finished first in school history with most career home runs (58) and walks (178), which is also a Big 12 record. She also helped the Longhorns make it to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in seven years.
A native of Texas, Taylor had a standout high school career at Flower Mound High were she was a two-time All-State pick (2008, ’09) and was on ESPN’s list of the top 25 prep players in 2009.
She played club ball for the Schutt Avengers for several years until the team disbanded and then joined the Texas Glory where she played for Head Coach Kevin Shelton.
“Taylor was one of the hardest workers I’ve been around,” Shelton remembers. “She is a student of the game and coaches herself very well; I’ve seen her in the cage working on the most minute parts of her game. Taylor strives for perfection and has a ferocious will to win. She’s a tremendous competitor who is easily gifted athletically and has always had the tools and drive to play at the highest level.”
We spoke to Taylor recently to find out what where she’s at today and to get her viewpoints on all things softball related…
StudentSportsSoftball.com: Tell us about your early softball experiences—were you dominant as a youth player or were you a late bloomer?
Taylor Hoagland: I was born in Lewisville, Texas and played at Flower Mound High School. We were pretty good, we went to the post-season all four years and also went to the Regionals. I was on JV my freshman year and was a late bloomer. I played third base my sophomore and junior years and moved to shortstop as a senior. I really didn’t come into my own until my junior year.
SSS.com: Was there a moment when you realized you had a serious future in softball?
TH: When I committed to Texas I realized there was something I could do with this and that I would have to work 10 times harder to get to where I wanted to be. I never, ever want to be the player people looked at and said, “Why is she going to Texas? She’s not that good.”
SSS.com: How did the recruiting process go for you?
TH: To be honest, I really didn’t think about it (recruiting) much, I just played and was in the newspaper, but I never thought much about it. I went about my business on the field and that was all I did. It wasn’t until the fall of my sophomore year that I was offered by Texas. My only other offer was from Baylor.
SSS.com: Talk about your club ball experience… what do you remember of
TH: It was one of those things where a bunch of my friends played on this one team, the Avengers, for several years but they disbanded so I joined the Texas Glory. Playing on Kevin’s team my last year was great as I was surrounded by girls who were going down the same path—everyone was committed to D1 and D2 schools and many were going to major conferences like the SEC, Pac 10, Big 12—it was a lot of fun. We worked hard and had pretty good success as we finished 13th as the 2009 ASA Gold Nationals.
SSS.com: Can you tell us what you’re doing at Amherst, what your roles are and what it’s like to be on the other of the player/coach relationship?
TH: There’s only two of us coaches here, the head coach (Shannon Doepking) and myself, so we split responsibilities and collaborate on others. I help with recruiting, scheduling, budgets, community service, recruiting e-mails and I do infield and we split hitting. A lot of the stuff I’m familiar with and there are some new things, like the office side, budgets and scheduling, but I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m at and what I’m doing.
SSS.com: Could you see coaching become a life-long career for you?
TH: It’s hard to say, I’m only in my first year, but I’m very happy—it’s a great place and I have a great boss and job. I’m blessed in that there are a lot of good things going on for me right now and I can’t see myself doing anything else.
SSS.com: What do you think about the recruiting process now as a coach?
TH: It’s a lot different and has evolved to way beyond what I thought it would. It’s difficult for a Div. III school like Amherst—which is an academically oriented school—to recruit. Our process doesn’t begin until a player’s sophomore and junior years when we need their SAT scores to measure how they will qualify. It’s a challenge with any academic school, like an Ivy League school, which has the same thing going for them.
Players now have a D1 perception that everyone that’s good will go there and if you don’t go there you’re a failure and it’s not like that. You hear Division III and you think, “It must not be very good softball,” but being on this side I see that it’s not like that at all. Division III athletes understand the academics importance and the focus on life after school. Division I players have to have a strong balance between school and athletics—I know, I was there! It’s just a whole other world at this level and I wish people would see that.
SSS.com: Speaking of a “whole other world,” was it a shock going from Texas weather to the Northeast and experiencing real snow and cold for the first time?
TH: Oh yes! Amherst reminds me of Austin; it’s a lot smaller and a lot more rural. There’s a quaint feeling and it’s very outdoorsy, but definitely a lot colder here. People said this year was one of coldest winters in the last 20 years—of course when I’m here!
SSS.com: What does it feel like to put on the National team jersey, wearing the red, white and blue and represent your country?
TH: It’s so awesome, it’s something a lot of girls aspire to do—it’s every little girl’s dream—but to have it actually happen is something I can’t put into words. I’m in my third year and it’s still awesome. There are only 17 girls on the team, these are the only ones chosen to represent the USA, and it’s so incredible to be included.
SSS.com: Describe what this year’s team is like in terms of personality, culture and attitude.
TH: Every team is different, even if it’s the same people. I love all the girls— it’s like a family. Even though we come from all over the country, we’re all here for the same reason and have the same goals. There are girls from universities like Oklahoma, Cal, ASU, Florida and Washington and we all come together to win.
SSS.com: What, in your opinion, is the biggest issue facing the ongoing development and growth of softball?
TH: I think that the biggest issue is there are too many people trying to break off and do their own thing. We don’t have the support from everyone in the community to go in the same direction. I feel there are people getting into the sport to make money and it’s watering it down and not building softball up. I’d like to see more people come together and build it up in the same direction and not break apart. It’s at all levels— travel ball, college, even the professional level. It’s a common factor that I’ve seen. I wish they’d do it more like baseball where they’re doing something right in how the corporate structure is working for them.
SSS.com: Looking back on your storied career, what are you most proud of?
TH: There’s two experiences that I’ll never forget: the first was getting back to the World Series when Texas was long overdue and the second was making the U.S. National team. That solidified my career and, besides the Olympics, there’s nothing else I’d want to accomplish. Everything else is just a cherry on top!
SSS.com: When talking to younger players, what are some ideals you try to teach them?
TH: I always put the emphasis on school, especially now that I’m at an academically strong program, and on understanding how important it is to do well. I’ve been fortunate to have a career in softball but for 90 percent of those who come out it’s not an option and they need something to fall back on. Also, I emphasize having a strong work ethic and that you get out of it what you put in it. The thing about softball is, you can fail seven times out of 10 tries, but you have to get up and do it again and if you succeed—one of those three times out of 10—you’ll be a success.
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