Q & A with softball head coach Melissa Gentile

Jan. 22, 2006

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With a few practices under their belt, the Jacksonville University softball team are rapidly approaching their first game of the season against Texas Tech at the JU Softball complex on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 1 p.m. The staff at had a chance to sit down with first-year head coach Melissa Gentile to get her thoughts on Jacksonville University, her coaching philosophy and the upcoming season.

Q: After being an assistant the last five seasons, how does it feel to be running your own program?

Melissa Gentile: I don't know many assistant coaches that don't aspire to be a head coach at some point in their careers and I feel very fortunate to have reached this goal here at JU.

Q: What was the one thing that made you want to take the job?

MG: The excitement that surrounded the athletic department under the leadership of Alan Verlander was a huge plus, along with the immense potential I saw in such a young program.

Q: When you first took over the program and began to assess it, what state was the program in?

MG: I was very fortunate to walk into a situation where the players were not only talented and driven, but also great people off the field. In three years the program has accomplished a lot but there are even greater things in store.

Q: Now that you been at the helm for a couple months and been through the fall season, where do you see the program now?

MG: I see the program in the same light as I did when I started which is a lot of potential, players that love to work hard and a program with a bright future. No one can say for sure just how good the team is or can be until we get into the season.

Q: What are your initial goals for the program?

MG: Every team's goal is to win a conference championship and mine is no different. I think we can accomplish that goal, but right now I expect us to finish in the top three of the Atlantic Sun. Only time well tell how we develop as a team and as individuals to accomplish these goals.

Q: What is your assessment of the Atlantic Sun Conference?

MG: Coming into this job I knew that Florida Atlantic, Stetson, Kennesaw State and North Florida would be the teams to beat. Each season brings new outcomes so it is too early to tell how the conference will shape up this year.

Q: How has the transition been from recruiting at Eastern Michigan to recruiting at Jacksonville?

MG: Recruiting at JU offers opportunities at the junior college level that I didn't have at Eastern Michigan. The level of play at the JUCO level is much higher than I had seen in other parts of the nation and that in itself has been the biggest change.

Q: What do you think Jacksonville University has to offer the student-athlete?

MG: JU offers a unique opportunity to combine small class size for better interaction with professors and a large-school feel with the attraction of downtown Jacksonville and the beaches knocking at the door.

Q: If you were to describe to me a Melissa Gentile team on offense and defense, what would you say?

MG: I would like them to be aggressive in every aspect of the game.

Q: Do you believe that players can adjust to your system or do you feel you need to adjust to your players?

MG: Coaching 15 to 18 different players does not allow for you to change the way you coach to meet each players needs. Our team has done a great job thus far adjusting to my coaching style and philosophies and that is imperative to our success.

Q: You had a successful softball career at the University of Michigan, at what point did you decide to go into coaching?

MG: After being injured my junior year I had to assume more of a coaching type role with my teammates and I knew right away that coaching is what I wanted to do.

Q: Since Michigan is the defending national champion, Do you think that gives you an upper hand in recruiting?

MG: Yes, because Michigan has been on the national level for a long time and now they gaining national respect since winning the national title. The visibility is great for anyone involved associated with that program, past or present.

Q: What do enjoy most about softball?

MG: I enjoy spending time mentoring athletes to become better players and individuals. I also love competing in the sport.

Q: If a potential recruit asked you to describe yourself as a coach, what do you tell them?

MG: I am a coach that expects a lot out of you, both as a player and as a person. I will give you the opportunities to reach your potential, but it is up to you to do the work.

Q: You had the chance to play for Team USA. Please explain what is was like playing for your country.

MG: Playing with and against the best players in the world like Lisa Fernandez, Jennifer Brundage, Michelle Smith, and Dot Richardson forces you to become the best player you can be. I learned so much through my experiences with USA Softball and formed an even greater appreciation of the game

Q: What do expect out of your athletes from the time they come into the program until they graduate?

MG: I expect my athletes to work hard, play hard and mature as individuals. It is not enough to be successful in only one aspect of your life. I want my players to leave this program having had a great experience at JU.

Q: What does Coach Amanda Lehotak bring to the table and how does she fit into your program?

Coach Lehotak brings a wealth of knowledge to our program, but more than anything else she balances our staff out. Her versatility allows me to focus on our hitters and pitching/catching unit while knowing that our defense is in great hands.

Q:Who would you love to have on the Dolphins schedule for upcoming seasons?

MG: Well obviously I want to schedule my alma mater and defending national champion, Michigan. I also want to schedule the best the softball world has to offer. We need to play a tough schedule because that is how we get better to face the teams in the A-Sun.

Q: Who was your biggest influence in coaching and playing and Why were they so influential?

MG: Carol Hutchins, Michigan softball head coach, has been the biggest influence on me coaching and playing. She is one of the strongest, most dynamic leaders and motivators that I have met. I have continued to learn from her long after playing for her.

Q:Describe the fall season with the Dolphins. Who stood out? What were the things the team did that you liked or didn't like?

MG: Initially we had a lot of things to work on, but I loved their heart and work ethic to get through it to finish with a strong fall season.

Q:The softball team is in its fourth year. Where would like to see the program go over the next four years?

MG: I have few a goals for next few years. The first is to finish as one of the top three teams overall after we end the A-Sun conference regular season schedule this year.

The next goal is to win the Atlantic Sun Championship.

After that we hope to bring JU Softball Regional and National attention through a tough preseason schedule and recruiting the top athletes. My main focus is on recruiting Florida's best student-athletes with a mix of some of the top players nationally.

My final goal is to build upon the great foundation already in place for the JU Softball Complex and make it one of the top facilities in the region.