Black softball coaches at Illinois, Michigan St make history

Illinois’ Tyra Perry and Michigan State’s Sharonda McDonald Kelly will face off this weekend in the first three-game series in which two black female coaches face off in Power Five softball.

The Spartans were scheduled to play three games in Illinois starting Friday’s season opener.

“I think it’s great that we’re evolving and becoming more diverse in the sport,” Perry said.

Perry said she sees the moment as a sign of progress, but is disappointed that it has taken so long to materialize. I mentioned that there are many female head coaches and assistant coaches.

“Whenever there’s the first of something like this, it’s kind of a shock that we’ve come this far and this is the first time something like this has happened,” she said. “It took too long.”

This milestone comes as the sport grows in popularity.

On-site attendance at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City last spring set a number of records, including an average attendance of 12,250 spectators per session. The championship series averaged 1.6 million viewers on ESPN. At the Pro level, Athletes Unlimited is entering its fourth season and Women’s Professional Fastpitch is entering its second season with his two new teams.

Perry and McDonald Kelly are good friends and know each other’s families.

Perry was hired in 2015, while McDonald Kelly was hired before this season. Perry said he will join McDonald Kelly and Duke’s Marissa Young as sole coaches of the Black Power Five McDonald-Kelley’s sister, Brittney Williams, is in her second year as head coach at Southern University, a non-Power Five Division I program.

Perry is in his 22nd season as a Division I coach. She has over 600 wins as a head coach at her Southern Colleges in Illinois, Ball State, Western Kentucky and Birmingham. Her Illinois team has at least her 36 wins in the last three years. Fighting Her Illini enters the weekend with her 24-21 record.

Michigan State is 12-25 heading into the weekend, but McDonald Kelly has enjoyed success throughout his career. She led Campbell to her 101-81 record in the past four seasons, and she will coach at Michigan State after winning her tournament title at Big Her South in 2021 and the Camels in 2022. served. Her team has gone 50-19 in Big South play and has advanced to the NCAA Regionals in each of the past two seasons. For 2021, she was named Big South Coach of the Year.

Perry knew MacDonald Kelly was ready to jump into the Power Five.

“I know she is a really hard worker and has been in many successful programs, so I was very happy to know she got the opportunity.

Perry hopes other black women will get a chance in the future, such as Duke’s assistant Olivia Watkins.

Perry said she also sees athletes of color grow on the field.

“You know, it’s growing exponentially,” she said. “There’s great growth and expansion and it’s fun to see more people out there. It’s not just young black players. I see more of all ethnicities out there. It’s fun, the sport grows like that.”

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