Coach Newberry's incredible journey to the Hall of Fame
NEW CONCORD, OHIO, December 12, 2008 - The National Fastpitch Coaches Association inducted legendary Muskingum College Head Softball Coach Donna Newberry into the NFCA Hall of Fame at the NFCA 25th Anniversary National Convention on December 12, at the Marco Island (Fla.) Marriott.
The entire Newberry induction ceremony, Newberry career highlight video and Newberry Hall of Fame photo gallery can be viewed by clicking the links below.
[Introduction] [Induction Speech Part 1] [Part 2] [Hall of Fame Video] [Photo Gallery]
Below is the story of Coach Newberry's incredible journey into the NFCA Hall of Fame.
In 1973, Coach Donna Newberry began a journey that would cover the next 35 years. A journey beginning at Muskingum College and encompassing the building of a National Championship caliber softball program, her courageous battle with breast cancer and summer adventures that have helped her become a wiser person through gaining a better understanding of the world.
Newberry, a native of Parkersburg, West Virginia, was the middle child of five. She began playing softball as something to do and carried her love for the sport to Glenville State College (W. Va.) where she played centerfield on the softball team. Following her graduation from Glenville State, with a double major in math and health and physical education, Newberry started graduate school at Ohio University. While at Ohio, she earned a master’s degree in physical education, which opened the door for her first coaching job – and began an illustrious career at Muskingum.
That job was coaching field hockey, basketball and softball and she added volleyball once she arrived in New Concord.
“I coached volleyball and field hockey in the same season; I taught an unbelievable teaching load and then coached basketball and then softball. I was a 22-year-old kid with head coaching responsibilities in four sports at the college level.”
The one person Newberry leaned on in her early days was Muskingum men’s basketball coach Jim Burson. Burson, former president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and coach at Muskingum for 42 years, has a tremendous amount of respect for Newberry.
“Donna is a leader of all women’s sports,” added Burson. “I’ve known her since she started at Muskingum. She is very quiet and unassuming, until she goes onto the field. Then you see underneath all of this is the heart of a competitor. Her players are as good as any I’ve ever seen.”
When Newberry came to Muskingum, she changed the softball program to fastpitch, making her a pioneer in the sport.
“It was kind of a dirty word, fastpitch, and we’d play either Ohio Northern or Division I institutions,” said Newberry. So, for the first eight to 10 years, Muskingum played the likes of The Ohio State University and Ohio University. Once the smaller schools switched to fastpitch in the early to mid-80s, the high schools switched, too. “So when they all started – we had already been playing fastpitch for 10 years.”
Newberry eventually transitioned from coaching multiple sports to focusing on softball. She stopped coaching volleyball and coached field hockey for 12 years, until 1986, when the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) adopted soccer as the sport of choice for women in the fall. She coached basketball until 2001, leaving it with 403 career wins and six NCAA Tournament appearances, including one trip to the National Championship game.
Newberry’s impact on softball has been tremendous. She is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division III history, with 858 victories. She led the 2001 Muskingum softball team to a National Championship, the first for any sport at the College. Her record stands at 858-382-1 (.692 winning percentage) overall and a 334-64-1 (.839) slate in the OAC, which includes 18 overall conference championships and a current streak of 11 straight. She has been selected as OAC Coach of the Year 10 times and has guided the Muskies to a national top-25 ranking every year since 1999. Under Newberry’s leadership, Muskingum has won eight regional titles (1992, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008) to advance to the NCAA Division III World Series. A total of 14 players have been named All-American under Newberry’s tenure and more than 100 student-athletes have garnered all-conference recognition (Academic/All-OAC).
"There is no finer mentor and coach of student-athletes in the country than Donna Newberry," said Muskingum College President Anne C. Steele. "We are pleased that the National Fastpitch Coaches Association has affirmed what we have known for 35 years: Donna Newberry is one of the outstanding coaches in the history of the sport," she added.
The coaching style that Coach Newberry is most known for is centered on the ideals of perfection.
“I think I am very intense,” said Newberry. “I can’t stand anything less than the best. If it’s not the best, then it’s not good enough; then let’s work harder, let’s do more, let’s invest more time. I also think I care a great deal about what kind of character I’m building in the players versus what kind of team I’m building.”
Kari Hoying, a two-time Muskingum All-American and current Muskingum assistant coach, has grown as a person from what she has learned under Newberry’s tutelage.
“She has taught me perseverance, to give it my all no matter what circumstance, and to never give up,” said Hoying. “Anyone who has been through the program knows it’s worth it, that the hard work pays off. If she didn’t care, it wouldn’t be hard.”
Newberry’s journey at times has been a battle – not only on the field but in the doctor’s office. In 1996, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After winning the fight the first time, the cancer re-occurred in the summer of 2007. Again, Newberry won the fight.
“All through the fall of 2007 I would go to treatments in the morning, teach classes in the afternoon and then run practice,” Newberry said. “You can’t preach mental toughness without being mentally tough, and I think that’s helped me through it. I know what I expect from my team and therefore I expect it from myself.”
The spirit of a champion Newberry displays on the playing field and the warrior’s spirit she displays in the face of cancer are complemented by her summer adventures which have helped her grow as a person.
Her trips have included stops in Alaska to live with the Koyukon Indians and learn from them and their culture; to Sweden to stay with the Olympic team, going through their training for winter athletes; to the Betty Ford Center as a faux patient to see first-hand the struggles of addiction; and most recently to the South American country, Guyana, where she taught volleyball, basketball and soccer to the indigenous people.
“The ability to immerse yourself in different cultures and environments has made me a stronger person and has helped shape me into who I am today,” said Newberry. “A lot of the trips aren’t sports related, they are more of a personal growth type of thing where you do something different and see where it takes you.”
For Newberry, the past 35 years have been a journey filled with accomplishments, challenges and courageous battles. But one thing has held constant from the very beginning – her love of coaching.
“I can’t even imagine doing anything else. I love the competitiveness. I love the churning of the stomach when you have to play big teams, the gratification when you beat them and the disappointment of when you lose to them. I can’t imagine staying young without that,” said Newberry. “It’s weird, because life goes by so fast. It seems like yesterday that I was 22. I’m not at the end of my journey in my mind. I think I have a lot of good years left. I have more to offer to students and athletes beyond the game itself. I live with no regrets. If someone asked me if I’d do it all over again – I’d say ‘yes’ in a heartbeat."