By Jesse Durkin, Daily Cal Contributing Writer
Reprinted by permission.
Reaching 900 wins put the career of Diane Ninemire into perspective, but the 21-year head coach of the Cal softball team isn't one to focus on the numbers.
"I hope that the girls respect me more for the person that I am than the coach that I am," says Ninemire. "That they know that there's someone there that wants it as bad for them as they want it for themselves."
It's her love of coaching that keeps her coming back ever year despite her vast record of accomplishments. In her tenure with the Bears, Ninemire has made nine trips to the Women's College World Series and 20 straight NCAA regional appearances, coached 34 All-Americans and, in 2002, won the WCWS championship as well as a coach of the year honor.
But her accolades haven't dulled her love of coaching in the slightest as she continues to search for new heights.
"I wouldn't say I've done it all," says Ninemire. "I want to see some more national championships and really see this sport grow and prosper. My enthusiasm and love for the game has never changed, in fact it's probably grown each and every year that I do coach."
Ninemire played softball and basketball in her youth, but knew early on that coaching was her true calling.
"I knew since I was in fourth grade that I wanted to coach," says Ninemire. "When I got my bachelors degree I decided I wanted to coach elite athletes. I wanted to coach players that were as serious about the sport and loved the sport as much as I did."
Ninemire began her coaching career at Texas Women's University as an assistant under Donna Terry. When Terry took over the head position at Cal, Ninemire followed.
Together, the two began molding the Bears into an elite program, reaching the WCWS three times, including a third-place finish in 1986. After Terry passed away in 1987, it was Ninemire's turn to carry on the legacy.
"I know where she wanted this program to go and I was very fortunate to be able to follow her footsteps," says Ninemire. "It's been a great opportunity to push this program in the direction that I know she wanted it to be pushed."
Now 21 years later, Ninemire has more wins than any other active coach and because of her, Cal has become one of the most respected programs in collegiate softball. Yet Ninemire believes that respect has come because of what her team has done on the field.
"I don't know if people look at the coaching records, but I hope people remember the achievements that Cal has had while I've been a coach here," says Ninemire.
Ninemire's experience alone gives her a greater perspective on the growth of softball over time. From her inaugural season in 1988, much has changed about the sport and what it means to be a collegiate coach.
"The game is faster, the girls are so much stronger and more athletic," says Ninemire. "They have their own private hitting coaches and pitching coaches and they start those at the ages of eight, nine and 10. The technology and the equipment have improved."
But while the game has changed, the way that Ninemire relates to her players has not. The personal relationships that she forms with athletes has always extended beyond the field.
"I want to work with them not only to make them the best player they can be, but the best person they can be," says Ninemire. "Once they leave Cal, they're not going to make a million dollars playing softball, but I want them to go out and contribute to society and make a difference in the world."