Women’s softball coach Kathy Riley was the featured speaker at this year’s Convocation in September.
In her 22 years as head coach of Longwood’s softball program, Kathy Riley has inspired hundreds of student-athletes. On Sept. 12, the Longwood community had the opportunity to experience the wisdom and motivational prowess of the legendary coach.
Decked out in traditional academic regalia and on stage with President W. Taylor Reveley IV and members of the Board of Visitors, the three-time Big South Coach of the Year stood before the largest audience of her career as the keynote speaker at Convocation.
Her message to the more than 1,000 in attendance was one of self-actualization and self-confidence as well as a stark reminder of the responsibility every member of the Longwood community has to better the world around them.
Riley described her position as softball coach as a facilitator of her players’ dreams. She pushed students in the audience to pursue social justice and equality. She shared personal details about her life, including why she gravitated toward sports as a child and the lessons she has learned from her lifelong pursuit of athletic excellence.
Bluntly, she posed this question to the crowd: “Do you believe in you? If so, then you have to fight. Fight for your self-worth and everything that is important. Society will chip away at what you are and what you can become, but remember that you can always repair the damage.”
Her 10-minute address was peppered with one-liners fit for a locker room whiteboard or a motivational book about her life:
“I’m a person who believes that, if you can dream it, then you should give it a shot.” “Your ability to affect others is your most important currency.”
“Lay it all on the line. If it doesn’t work out, get up and do it all again the next day.”
“In 22 years, I’ve learned our greatest strengths are love and service.”
'Lay it all on the line. If it doesn’t work out, get up and do it all again the next day.’KATHY RILEY, HEAD SOFTBALL COACH
Saving perhaps her most inspiring words for last, she summarized her entire speech and her core coaching philosophy with seven words.
“Class of 2020,” she said, “we believe in you.” The charge was appropriate not only for the seniors in attendance embarking on their final year as Lancers, but for Longwood as a whole. As the institution enters its 180th year, it, like its soon-to-be graduating class, is on the cusp of a new phase of growth and discovery. For nearly the past decade, or a phase Riley termed a “miraculous seven years of growth,” Longwood has erected state-of-the-art buildings, taken the national stage as the host of the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate, adopted its groundbreaking Civitae core curriculum and, through numerous programs such as the immersive Brock Experiences, expanded its ability to mold students into citizen leaders poised to impact their communities.
Riley has done her share to put Longwood on the map. Through more than two decades of excellence as the leader of the school’s dynasty of a softball program, she has won more than 800 games and five Big South championships. Under Riley, Longwood is nothing short of the premier team in Big South softball— and, arguably, the entire conference—with five NCAA Regional berths in seven years.
“Kathy stands among the greatest figures in Longwood athletics history,” Reveley said. “More importantly, she is a person of extraordinary character and a devoted mentor to countless students and colleagues. She is a shining example of the hard work of nurturing young people to which we all aspire.”