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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Record-Breaker to Coach

"Softball is a part of who I am," said newest assistant coach Emily Benson

Emily Benson hits a line drive in a game during her senior season on March 3, 2019. // Photo courtesy of Western Athletics

By Izzy Shelton-Smith

Benson broke almost every offensive record in Western’s books, ending her softball career in 2019 as a Second Team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American, according to a recent press release from WWU Athletics. By the end of Benson’s time at Western, she was one of the most decorated players in program history.

During Benson’s softball career, she became Western’s all-time leader in batting average (.377) and home runs (45), placing her in the top 10 in the history of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

Benson said she is looking forward to coaching the team she dedicated so much of her life to. With a degree in psychology, she feels that she is able to combine her love for working with people and her love for softball.

Record-breaking former Western student-athlete Emily Benson will join the softball coaching staff for the 2020 season as an assistant coach. // Photo courtesy of Western Athletics.

“I get to continue to be around a game that I love, that kind of shaped me into the person I am,” Benson said. “At the same time, I get to work with so many different people who share that same passion, and then I just get to, like, be there for them in a way.”

Since she was eight years old, Benson has played softball. Her mom signed her up for other sports as well, but nothing came close to matching her love for softball.

Benson said she’s had amazing coaches growing up, adding that they have been some of the most important people in her life. So when Western head coach Sheryl Gilmore asked Benson if she wanted to be the assistant coach, Benson said yes without hesitation.

“As soon as [Gilmore] asked me I was like, ‘Uh, yeah.’ It came up pretty suddenly but as soon as the opportunity presented itself I was like, yeah, that’s something I have to do,” Benson said.

Benson’s former teammates are excited to have her as their assistant coach as well, some of whom feel like she has been coaching them since they began their softball careers.

“Emily Benson is for sure one of a kind,” Jacklin Lucido, one of Benson’s former teammates, said. “You don’t really get a teammate like that, a person that’s just so caring and so positive about everything.”

Lucido said Benson’s encouragement feels like a train: once you’re on it, Benson will take you as far as she can and push you to be as successful as possible and keep pushing after that.

“She’s the type of coach to be like, ‘OK, if you want to work, if you want to put your time in, I’ll put my time in and we both can become better,’” Lucido said. “She’s super encouraging, and I think that’s what makes it easier to kind of grow as a team with her.”

Mackenzie Palmer, a junior outfielder and another former teammate, said Benson has always felt like a coach to her, both in softball and in life.

“[Benson’s] naturally kind of the person that you go to for advice,” Palmer said. “I think the big thing where Emily’s gonna excel as a coach is, she’s not going to just coach people on the softball field. I think she’s such a great life coach; she gives such great advice about life.”

Benson is Western softball’s all-time leader in career batting average (.377) and career home runs (45). // Photo courtesy of Western Athletics.

Benson said that since she was so recently in the shoes of her players, it gives her a unique perspective to, “understand the grind,” of going to early morning workouts, school and the stress of student-athlete life.

Another of Benson’s former teammates, Kira Doan, appreciated a player coming back to coach the team.

“[Benson and I] still talk like friends, but I definitely respect her as a coach,” Doan said. “I think it helped me not be afraid to go to her for help on, like, working on my swing or stuff like that.”

According to some former teammates, helping with details such as swinging is where Benson excels. Benson has already been taking videos during batting practice, analyzing swings and giving feedback, Palmer said.

“I feel like she is really diving into people’s swings more than we ever have in the past. So I feel like that’s a very positive thing for her to be helping with already,” Palmer said.

In a recent press release announcing Benson’s new role on the softball team, Gilmore expressed enthusiasm for the new hire.

“I couldn’t be more excited about Emily joining the coaching staff,” Gilmore said. “She left her legacy here forever as an unbelievable student athlete and an even better teammate, and I can’t wait to watch her continue to build this program as a coach.”

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