Benched: Michigan Softball Coach Carol Hutchins on getting creative with her players and fundraising for a good cause

Michigan had high hopse heading into the softball season -- but COVID-19 changed its plans

DETROIT – Team 43 was ranked in the top 20 in the country and primed for a great season. But, in Mid-March, Head Coach Carol Hutchins got word that the whole season was cancelled.

“I got called out of practice, it was the 2nd head coaches meeting and I was 100 percent sure this was it,” Hutchins said of a meeting with Athletic Director Warde Manuel and other Michigan coaches. “I proceeded back out to the field. Our practice was in session. I just watched it for awhile. I watched the assistants run the drills. It was a beautiful day. I knew it was their last day. I just let them go for awhile. Then, I brought them into the dugout and I told them. It was the worst day of my coaching life."

Tough as it was, Coach Hutch said she told her players not to feel sorry for themselves.

“It’s tragic beyond sports,” she said. “Sports is a small part of society. We found out on a Thursday, by Saturday, I knew this wasn’t about us and our season. This is about humanity.”

So how is Team 43 coping? By getting creative with weekly ZOOM video calls, that they lovingly refer to as the Hutch Bunch a nod to the Brady Brunch.

“We’ve created team engagement within our softball program,” Hutchins said. “We have four teams that compete every day in a variety of functions. You get points if you participate in physical and mental training. It’s really created some energy that the kids need right now and so do the coaches.”

For 10 years, the Wolverines have raised money for the American Cancer Society through their Michigan Softball Academy fundraiser. It’s an event in which the athletes team up with participants on the field for skills and drills. That’s followed by dinner and a silent auction.

This year, that’s not possible, but the fundraiser is still very much on.

“it’s one of the greatest events I’ve ever been apart of and our student athletes are over the moon about doing it.”

This year, the Michigan Softball Academy will be completely virtual. They have 16 teams already signed up. A Michigan player will be assigned to each team. Coach Hutch said the players are already working on their home videos.

In 10 years, the Wolverines have raised $1.3 million and donated it to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. That’s a stat Coach Hutch is most proud of.

“We understand this year donations are at a premium,” Hutchins said. “We understand money is tight, but if you can donate a dollar, that’s great. If you want to spend a night we Michigan softball, we welcome everyone we are excited to still put this on.”

The Wolverines softball team is the first women’s collegiate team to raise $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

The Michigan Softball (Virtual) Academy is April 23rd. Click here to sign up.


About the Author:

Jamie anchors sports coverage on Local 4 News Saturdays at 6 & 11 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m., in addition to hosting Sports Final Edition.