Joyce Compton Retires from South Carolina Softball
April 22, 2010
Courtesy of NCAA.com
"I have been fortunate to have had the pleasure to coach so many great players but more importantly great people in my 24 years as a Gamecock," Compton said. "My success is only because of these players, and I want to thank them. I take with me many great memories, and I will always treasure the friends that I have made not just here but throughout the softball community."
With that statement, the winningest coach in South Carolina athletics history announced her retirement on Monday, April 19, 2010, effective the end of the 2010 season. Joyce Compton has won 951 games at the helm of the Gamecock softball program against 479 defeats and three ties. A 2002 inductee into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame, she is one of nine coaches to win at least 950 games at a single NCAA Division I school. She's the winningest coach in any sport at South Carolina, topping June Raines' 763 victories in baseball.
With an NCAA Division I record of 1,066-556-3, Compton ranks 10th among all NCAA softball coaches regardless of division and ninth in Division I history. In four years at Missouri, she went to the Women's College World Series once while claiming the Tigers' first Big 8 title. Compton has taken the Gamecocks to 13 NCAA regional appearances, four regional titles, one super regional appearance and two Women's College World Series. The Gamecocks have won the SEC East four times under her watch, the SEC Tournament twice and claimed the inaugural SEC Championship in 1997. A New Jersey native, Compton began her coaching career at Mattatuck Community College, going 93-19 in seven seasons there. In 35 years as a head coach, Compton has compiled a record of 1,159-575-3 entering Wednesday's final home game of the season against Coastal Carolina.
Compton has inspired a generation of women while playing and coaching softball. Karen Johns grew up watching Compton play for the Meridian (Connecticut) Falcons.
"My dad was trying to get me out of baseball and into softball," said Johns. "It was about an hour and 20 minutes to drive from our house and he would take me to watch Joyce Compton and Joan Joyce play. It got me pumped up. They were great athletes and it was very cool for me."
Johns wound up playing collegiate softball at South Carolina and had made plans to transfer following her sophomore year with the Gamecocks. That summer at ASA women's nationals, Johns was approached by former Oklahoma State player Liz O'Connor, who told Johns she should go back to South Carolina because the new coach was great and would make the team a winner. Johns decided to return to Columbia, S.C., and play for that new coach, Joyce Compton.
"When I went back, I didn't have a scholarship so I had to pay my own way for a semester," said Johns. "I worked at the pizza joint, and right from the very first day of practice I knew I made the right decision. [Joyce Compton] came in to our program and she instilled discipline and a competitiveness that we were lacking. We had the talent and it was all upwards from there. She changed all of our lives because she made us understand what being a winner was and what it took to be a winner. To this day, all of us look back at that day and say that was a very pivotal day in all of our lives. I will always be grateful to her for that."
Since the completion of her collegiate playing career, Johns has continued in softball as a coach. She is currently an assistant coach at Mississippi State and served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Johns has been selected by USA Softball as the head coach of the 2010 U.S. Junior National Team. She started her coaching career at South Carolina as an assistant to Compton.
"I learned a lot from Joyce," said Johns. "She was very hard on us as assistant coaches on learning to do things the right way. It has been a great teaching moment for me. There are so many things I have learned that I wouldn't necessarily have learned had I coached with someone else. She was always a professional. As a kid, I watched her play. She was always a pro. The way she took the field, the way she handled herself in the dugout and the way she handled herself as a coach she was a true professional. Being at one spot for 24 years just doesn't exist anymore. It shows how loyal and dedicated she is to the sport and to the people she works for."
"I knew Joyce as an opponent and as a competitor," said former UCLA head softball coach and fellow NFCA Hall of Famer Sue Enquist. "I had an opportunity to go back east and play the year the [Raybestos] Brakettes went pro. My first opportunity to meet [Joyce] was to see her play with the Falcons. She was a prolific hitter. She always had such a presence about her. An approach on how to play the game and she has been such an icon in our sport. She has built a program and sustained it. There are a lot of people who are leading in softball who have played for her. She has influenced a lot of people and is one of our greatest coaches we've had in this sport.
"As an opposing coach," Enquist continued, "I think Joyce's legacy is the sustainability of running a competitive collegiate program over decades. When you talk about sustainability, that list is very short. There are very few who have sustained their place for decades like Joyce Compton has. I was always so impressed by her presence on the field. You never knew by looking at her whether she was clubbing you 10-0 or you were clubbing her 10-0 and I always respected that about her. She was such a professional and good for our game."
Although Compton's influence within collegiate softball coaching is prolific, her former players are making a difference outside of the white lines as well.
Michelle Delloso became a last-minute addition to the Gamecocks roster in the summer of 1987, following her senior year of high school. Today, she is the National Softball Marketing Manager for adidas.
"I had already graduated from high school and Joyce got a call from the dad of one of her current players," said Delloso. "He had coached against me and Joyce went out of her way on a recruiting trip to Pennsylvania and recruited me in July. Three days later, I flew down to South Carolina. It was just Joyce and I since the team was gone for the summer. She sold me on the program. She sold me on the fact that she would start a freshman and that she felt like I could take the team to the World Series. With that kind of confidence, I knew I wanted to play for her. I signed my letter of commitment that next day. It was fate that all of that happened, but I thank God that she went out of her way to recruit me."
Delloso went on to earn three NSCA All-America honors and she did lead the Gamecocks to the Women's College World Series in 1989, her sophomore season. Delloso always knew that her dream was to work in sports marketing, and after a short stint in coaching she started working for Nike, then Louisville Slugger and now adidas.
"I have been blessed to stay in the sport [of softball] at a distance," said Delloso, "but I try to stay in contact with the people who have affected my life and try to give back tenfold what they have given to me. I will never forget the opportunity and scholarship that Joyce gave to me and I still honor that to this day."
"Joyce has this tough exterior," said Johns, "because she is very competitive on the field. But off the field she one of the kindest, most caring people you could ever be around. She would do anything for you. I played for her 20 years ago and if I needed something I could call her and she would do it."
"She has been a good friend. She is the quiet type. She's not an extrovert like I am, but that's what makes her who she is," said Delloso. "To me, she is the epitome of integrity and ethics. That has meant a lot to me. More than anything, her legacy is going to be the student-athletes that she has worked with. Most of them are still in the sport. I think her integrity for the game is her legacy. A lot of people consider her an 'old timer' but a lot of those 'old timers' are the pioneers. They are the ones that laid the foundation for the sport. They are the ones that maintain the integrity. If you're lucky enough to have her as a friend, she will be there for life. She's got your back and in this day and age, that's hard to find."
When Joyce Compton coached in her first Women's College World Series in 1983, the event took place in Omaha, Neb., had a total attendance of 16,174 fans and a championship game attendance of 2,391. In comparison, the first session of the 2009 WCWS in Oklahoma City was attended by 6,093 fans. Over 12,000 fans went through the turnstile on Thursday's opening day alone. Joyce Compton spent the vast majority of her time in softball away from the television cameras that now air every game of the WCWS, but the foundation that Compton and others like her built in the early days of the sport have paved the way for softball's current success.