Jessica Johnson | Head Coach | Softball | Brandeis University

Describe the qualities that your program is looking for in a potential student-athlete?

We are looking for hardworking, responsible young women that can “do it all” at the highest level in terms of academics and athletics (softball in particular, obviously). We first look for the academic piece as we’re a highly competitive school and then we look for the potential of physical talent and start weeding student-athletes out from there based on how hard they work in practice and games, how they are as a team player, how they treat their parents, and how they present themselves throughout the recruiting process. My most successful kids and the ones that come the closest to reaching their athletic potential by the time their four years are up are the ones that will give me everything they have left in the tank on a daily basis…and that’s both physical and mental. The other big thing that I don’t think high school student-athletes hear enough about is the time commitment that any decent college program is going to demand so we’re looking for student-athletes that can make that commitment and really put the team first 12 months out of the year and buy in to that philosophy as a model of success.

Could you give an example of a current or former player who exceeded your expectations, highlighting the reasons that player excelled?

Kate Streilein. When I took over at Brandeis five years ago, the program wasn’t particularly strong. They were on a several year trend of being sub .500 and didn’t have much structure or pride. My first year, Kate was a junior and I was able to ascertain almost within a week that she not only had a lot of potential as both a pitcher and a hitter but also as a captain. So I named Kate Captain. That first year was a relatively short one as I didn’t get into the office until October but we started lifting almost immediately and managed to eek out a winning record with a first-ever postseason appearance. Kate really hit the ground running after that season as she really bit on the idea of lifting and training year round to be as successful as possible for just that month and half that is our collegiate softball season. As a result, Kate went on to finish 22-3 as our #1 pitcher and hit .489 as our best hitter that led the our team in nearly every offensive category. She also led us to the program’s first-ever postseason champsonship. For her efforts, she was named what I believe to be the programs first All-American and my first as a coach. I encouraged Kate to share with her teammates just what the different was between her junior year (and really her first two years as well) and that senior year and she would tell them that it was the year-round commitment and trusting that I really wanted what was best for her and probably knew what I was talking about.