One of the greatest things about baseball and softball is the Firsts. There’s the first trip to a ballpark, and the first time running out of the dugout and onto the field. The first hit, making that first catch, experiencing the first win (that first loss, too). And yes, without question, there is always that first headfirst slide.
These experiences don’t only hold true for the athletes on the field, either. Just like the players putting in the hard work, the coaches—who are doing their best to guide, teach and inspire—have dreams, progressions and journeys…their Firsts.
For YSPN360 coach Tripp MacKay, who has achieved so much as an assistant at top programs such as The University of Oklahoma and The University of Texas—including a WCWS title and NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year honors with the Sooners in 2013—his most recent first was worthy of recognition. And YSPN360 was lucky enough to catch up with him to talk about the new achievement—being named head coach at Kennesaw St. University—plus the journey that got him to where he is today, and his unique message to the YSPN360 community members.
Here’s what he had to say.
YSPN360: When we say, “Tripp MacKay: Head Coach of the Kennesaw St. Owls’ softball team,” what does that mean to you?
Tripp MacKay: It’s a special feeling to have your own program. As an assistant, you go through mixed emotions of wanting to be a head coach. Sometimes it felt like, ‘There’s no way I would ever want to be in charge of everything.’ As you evolve as a coach and learn how a program runs, you are always making mental notes. I was an assistant at two top programs, and I learned a lot from both. I feel I have a good sense of how championship programs run. I am ready for the next step in my career and all the new challenges that go along with it.”
YSPN360: What’s the biggest challenge, leadership-wise, as you take over a Kennesaw St. program from a successful coach like Pete D’Amour?
Tripp MacKay: I think it would be more of a challenge if the program were not in good standing. Pete did an amazing job in the two seasons he was at the helm. If there is a challenge for this program, it will be to maintain the expectations of getting to the postseason every year. KSU now has raised the bar. The program is now moving in the right direction, so my job will be to continue to progress.
YSPN360: If you had to give a speech recapping your time with Connie Clark (then-University of Texas head coach), what would be the opening statement?
Tripp MacKay: Connie Clark—what a great person. She is a great leader on and off the field. Coach Clark promoted the atmosphere of balance. There is more to life than just softball, but when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. I had a great time at Texas and really appreciated Coach Clark for making it a great experience.
YSPN360: What can you take from your time with a successful program like OU (University of Oklahoma) that will immediately impact the Owls roster?
Tripp MacKay: The Grind. OU is all about The Grind. Coach Gasso knows how to get her athletes to go the extra mile. It was a hard-working, blue-collar atmosphere. Every day we were working toward a championship. A lot of coaches and athletes don’t understand how much you have to work at this sport just to be a little above average. I think Coach Gasso understands that very well.
YSPN360: When you look at your journey—from the Texas Rangers’ interest back in ’92 to the Expos in ’96, Cape Fear, Sioux City, to OU to Texas to your first head coaching job in 2018—what is the message that you can relay from your experiences to the coaches, parents and athletes at YSPN360.com?
Tripp MacKay: Enjoy the moments that you are in. Going through this journey to be a head coach has been an interesting one. I think one thing that I’ve always done pretty well is to try and learn as much as possible at each stop. What is going to make me a better person, player or coach today? There is a lot of information out there on our sport so you can be well versed in whatever topic you want. You have to stick to it. That may be the most difficult part. The world we live in today has a lot of distractions, and to be good in our sport, you have to put in your time. The problem is that it does take a lot of time to be good, and even more time to be above average. So you really have to invest in your craft—if you have a passion for the sport, though, that investment should be an easy one. Play Hard! Have Fun!
That wraps up our time with Tripp MacKay, head coach of the Kennesaw St. University Owls. From all of us at YSPN360, we wish him the absolute best of luck. And congratulations!