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Softball  . 

Catching Up with New Softball Coach Ashley Chastain

by Brad Muller

Full interview with Coach Ashley Chastain on Gamecocks+

Ashley Chastain is no stranger to South Carolina softball, and she is certainly not a stranger to success as a softball coach. The former Gamecock (2009-2011) was recently hired to come back to her alma mater as the head coach, and she hopes to continue that success where it all began.

“This is a dream opportunity for me,” said Chastain, who started her coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Gamecocks after her playing days were done. “‘Welcome back home’ was the message, and I cannot feel more at home. I’ve been flooded with so much support and so much love and kindness from people of all generations that played here.

“When your alma mater calls, it’s a dream come true.”

Chastain came back to South Carolina after serving as the head coach at Charlotte the previous five years where she led the 49ers to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments the last two seasons. Last season, she guided Charlotte to the American Athletic Conference Tournament title after winning the Conference-USA regular season championship the year before. While South Carolina has been a regular in the post season over the last decade, Chastain is looking to build the program to expect more.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Chastain said. “Every year as a head coach you are faced with new challenges. You have to surround the program with the right people, and that’s really in all facets; having the right staff around you, people you can trust that are loyal to you and are also great coaches, who know the game at high level, can connect with the players and have a really good player development system, and people that can recruit.

“We want to recruit players who can compete at a really high level. We want to put a fence around the state. This is the flagship school. We want to get the best players from South Carolina to be a Gamecock, play for us, and win a championship. This is a brand that we will recruit nationally as well. We want to go all around the country and get the best players to come here. Our recruiting net has no bounds.

“There are already some really great players in the program now, so we want to build on that. We want to build a team this summer that we think can compete at a really high level in the SEC next year.”

“We want to win the national championship. We need to build a staff that’s deep with a lot of different tools.”
Ashley Chastain  . 

The Georgia native ascended quickly through the coaching ranks after leaving South Carolina. She spent three years as the pitching coach at College of Charleston, before moving to the same role at Michigan State, and later two years at Ole Miss where she was named the 2019 Softball America Pitching Coach of the Year as the Rebels advanced to the Super Regionals.

“Familiarity is huge,” Chastain said of her SEC experience. “Just knowing what you’re going up against and knowing the level of talent you are going to be competing against helps you recruit the right players. It helps me to lead the team, so they know what they are up against.

“I will be very involved with the pitching staff here. Pitching is a big part of the success of any team that makes it to Oklahoma City (for the Women’s College World Series), which is our goal. We want to win the national championship. We need to build a staff that’s deep with a lot of different tools.”

Chastain noted that player development will also be a huge focus in her program.

“So much about development comes from player connection and player relationship and a lot of trust that is built in training,” Chastain said.

Chastain is busy assembling her staff, communicating with players, and recruiting, while making sure everyone is on the same page with their goals.

“It starts with the belief that we really can win,” Chastain said. “We’re going to be using the transfer portal heavily this summer to be able to find the right players to bring in with the players who are here. Once we have the team set for the fall semester, it’s about unifying everyone with the belief that we’re just as good as anyone else and helping them prepare like that every single day.

“We want to win more in conference. We want to host the postseason here. That’s a really huge piece. We want to be a national seed. We want a shot to play in front of the best fans in the country.”

While Chastain has hit the ground running, she will take one weekend off in the fall as she and her fiancé Robert Woodard, who is the head baseball coach at Charlotte, will be married in November.