Experiences have grown Richards into the motivator she is today
Oct. 15, 2009
And when he turned his interest to hockey, Richards had every intention of doing the same -- until her father made a serious objection.
"He wanted me to keep my teeth," Richards recalls. "And so that's when I also lost all hope for becoming the first female quarterback in the NFL."
Richards managed to still do alright, though. She went on to become a rare two-sport student-athlete at Stanford, where she won a national championship with the basketball team and earned All-American honors as a golfer.
In many ways, those formative years on the sun-splashed campus in Palo Alto, Calif. -- where Richards' Texas Women's Golf team is playing this weekend in the Stanford Intercollegiate -- did a lot in forming Richards into the coach she is today, even though golf and basketball aren't exactly sports that lend themselves to one another.
Basketball is about contact and movement, and success on the golf course is predicated on keeping one's head very, very still. But it's not the physical tools that Richards still uses -- it's the mental ones.
"College golf is an interesting combination," Richards says. "You need good team energy, but you also have to coach them individually. You have to figure out what each one needs to play well."
Certainly, those words ring true, but as we all know, saying them is the easy part -- it's the showing that's difficult. And this fall, the Longhorns have traveled to spots that, indeed, show the value and action behind Richards' words.
Last month, the Longhorns played in the elite Mason Rudolph Women's Invitational, hosted by Vanderbilt. Richards spent seven years with the Commodores and built the Vanderbilt golf program into one of national prominence. She inherited a team that had never advanced to the NCAA postseason, and eventually led the Commodores to an SEC title and a program-best fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2004.
When Richards arrived on the Forty Acres, the Longhorns had not made a team appearance in the NCAA postseason since 2004. UT has now been to back-to-back NCAA Championships under Richards.
The secret formula, Richards' magic potion? It all goes back to the lessons she learned as a two-sport star at Stanford.
Richards understands people, and how they best work together.
During tournaments, Richards and longtime assistant coach Tracy Parsons walk the course with individual players, but Richards has a knack for intuitively knowing what's happening on another hole, what another player might need at that given moment. And she responds.
"I take some of that mindset from basketball, and know that the energy of the group can make you better," Richards says.
Often times, it's competitive energy. During practice rounds at The University of Texas Golf Club, it's not uncommon for Richards to challenge her players to chipping contests or putting contests. And because Richards often attracts athletic players who have multi-sport backgrounds like herself, pick-up basketball games and H-O-R-S-E aren't off limits either.
Richards realizes that golf is an individual game, but success on a college level is realized when everyone plays for a common goal -- just like in basketball. Since the Longhorns can't do passing drills on the fairways, they work on that team bond in afternoon workouts with strength and conditioning coach Lance Sewell, or in Monday morning yoga sessions.
And while different players have different needs, there is one common thread that ties all of the Longhorns together.
"They are my kind of players in that they like to compete," Richards says. "They like to have fun. They like to get after it. They are hungry."