Loyola softball head coach Alicia Abbott might be new to Loyola, but she’s not new to the game of softball. From playing with her dad in the backyard to being named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year in 2008, Abbott knows every aspect of the game, including what she deems most important — giving back.
She split her collegiate years between the University of Illinois at Chicago and North Carolina State University. After graduating in 2012, she became a softball coach.
“My dad always coached me growing up,” Abbott said. “I think it was kind of in my blood from the get go.”
The father-daughter duo have always been close, but Abbott said her biggest influence in coaching was her dad. At Abbott’s wedding in lieu of a first dance, they played catch. Now, Abbott’s dad is the head coach of the New Lenox Lightning, a fast pitch softball league based in Abbott’s hometown.
Following in her dad’s footsteps, Abbott got her start in coaching as a volunteer assistant coach at North Carolina State in 2012. Before returning to her home state of Illinois, she spent time as the top assistant coach at Newberry College in South Carolina.
After two seasons, she headed to the Land of Lincoln where she helped Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to the Ohio Valley Conference title in 2014. She spent five years at Northern Illinois University where she served as the associate head coach.
She was offered her first head coach position at Loyola in August 2019, after previous head coach Jeff Tylka’s contract wasn’t renewed, The Phoenix reported.
“[It was] really lucky timing,” Abbott said. “I just think that [the Loyola] education is kind of unparalleled and you get to offer that with a Division I experience. So that made the choice pretty easy in my eyes.”
Six months into her job she’s working with a group of players she didn’t recruit. But the reception has been good all around.
Senior outfielder Shannon McGee spent the last three years under Tylka’s tutelage, but was optimistic about the change of coaches.
“It’s good for moving forward,” McGee said. “She’s a very efficient, high-energy coach. She’s pushing us to move faster than we ever have. She pushes our focus into different aspects of the game.”
McGee said the team focuses more on pregame preparation than previous years. For example, they look at opponents’ statistics to help position outfielders for specific batters.
Abbott echoed McGee’s sentiments and described her coaching style as analytical. She’s “not a yeller,” and would rather analyze a situation instead of reacting emotionally.
“It’s more about how we can help empower the people that are in our program to become better humans and better people and get to do it through the game,” Abbott said.
With such a rich softball background, Abbott has a lot to bring to this Loyola team. Right now, she said she’s focused more on giving back to the game.
She said she wants to start small by building relationships and a solid atmosphere within the team. If winning comes with that, she said she’d be happy, too.
“How do we make sure that every day we’re shaping the culture that we want?” Abbott said. “This fall, a big focus for us was how do we put our team first and how do we get them to put each other first.”
Right now, the team has a 7-3 record. They’ve tallied three shutouts and five different players are hitting over a .300.
Being a new coach in a program isn’t a simple task. Abbott said she recognizes the journey she has ahead of her.
“Every day comes with its own given set of challenges,” Abbott said. “I think trying to adjust or identify a culture is a thing that isn’t easy to do.”
Abbott is content with the progress. She said she’s proud of the fact the Loyola softball team is a team that’s “there for one another at the end of the day.”