When the Maryland softball team was in Riverside, California, for the Highlander Classic last weekend, coach Julie Wright called former UCLA coach Sue Enquist. Enquist had talked to the Terps before, during their Spring Training trip to Florida, when the Terps became the first collegiate team to use Enquist's character development program. At Riverside on Saturday, she talked to the Terps for 90 minutes before they defeated UC Riverside, 6-3.
During the training in January, the team filled out worksheets about players' individual strengths and weaknesses before practicing those skills.
Last weekend, Enquist gave advice on "how to look at the game in a different way than we're looking at it right now," pitcher Madison Martin said. "It's really great to hear what our coach has been saying, but in a different way."
Enquist said the Terps have the talent, experience and determination to become a national title contender. So, as the Terps (4-18-1) enter the Maryland Invitational this weekend, their first home series in about a month, Martin feels confident.
"Despite our record," Martin said, "we're actually in a pretty good place. We just kind of need to keep pushing and pushing until we finally get it to the top, but we're on a pretty good path."
Wright said her team feels "rested" after five-straight weekends of tournaments across the country.
"That Thursday is a nice extra night in your own bed and an extra practice day. It's nice to be home, even if it's a little chilly."
Friday's game against Buffalo was canceled due to Monday and Tuesday's snow. Maryland's other contests against Binghamton, Buffalo and James Madison are still on.
Enquist was impressed when meeting Maryland in California last weekend. Wright approaches the Terps with a balance of intensity and fun, Enquist said.
"I can sense when people care and when people want to get better," Enquist said. "And it was just really fun spending 90 minutes with them, hearing their answers when I put them on the hot seat … I just tried to remind them that it doesn't happen overnight, that the game can kick you in the stomach."
Enquist, who was the first player at UCLA to receive a softball scholarship, said the Bruins were "the doormat" for opponents when the program started in 1975. At that time, Enquist said the Bruins were more focused on improving than winning. Now, the program has 12 national championships.
"We were a team that would have one or two bad innings," Enquist said, "just as Maryland sometimes has just one or two bad innings. I say to them, 'Do you realize if you eliminate one bad inning, you're going to win probably 40 percent more of your games?'"
Enquist advises players to reminisce about how they fell in love with softball by playing whiffle ball. So, the Terps played a game of whiffle ball Thursday.
"I was just really impressed with [Maryland]," Enquist said. "I speak to lots of teams and I was really impressed with the sense that they want to get this right, that they want to stick together. They know it's not perfect, [but] they're in the fight."