When first-year head softball coach Eileen Schmidt was looking for a pitching coach, her best move turned out to be going out for dinner in Washington, D.C.
That’s when Schmidt coincidentally ran into Amanda Freed, whom she’d been trying to reach about a vacant assistant coaching spot. Soon afterward, UVA added an Olympian to an already strong coaching staff.
Freed, a three-time All-American at UCLA, was a member of the 2004 U.S. softball team that won the Olympic gold medal in Athens, Greece. She also plays professional softball for the Rockford Thunder in the National Professional Fastpitch League. Last year for the Thunder, Freed went 3-1 and posted a 3.12 earned-run average while recording 26 strikeouts.
Freed’s experience and guidance have had a major impact on Cavalier pitchers. While the group’s ERA remained much the same as last season, the pitchers’ adjustments yielded two ACC series wins by April, up from a 1-20 campaign in the conference all of last season.
“From the first weekend to now, it’s night and day,” Schmidt says of the pitching staff’s improvement. “They’re still learning and they’re still working, but the whole team is.”
Freed is also still learning and adapting to calling the shots instead of making the pitches.
“Now I’m the one who has to try to get everything done in practice,” Freed says. “I’m used to being the one who’s able to do it on the field, so there are some things that are difficult for me because I’m still playing.”
Freed has to play the role of mentor and psychologist, and on occasion she has to trot out to the circle and talk to a Cavalier pitcher, even though she hated when coaches did that to her as a player.
“As a coach, I know that it’s important to go out there sometimes—it’s just about finding the right time,” Freed says. “I know that 18 girls have 18 different personalities, so you just have to learn about each one of them.”
Freed is making the most of “a great opportunity” to help the Cavaliers rebuild.
“They have so much potential,” she says, “and it’s really fun to be a part of it.”