By World Baseball Softball Confederation, www.wbsc.org
USA Softball announced long-time Women’s National Team leader Ken Eriksen as the Head Coach for the Tokyo 2020 U.S. Olympic Softball Team. Selected by members of the USA Softball Women’s National Team Selection Committee (WNTSC), Eriksen will lead the Red, White and Blue in their return to the Olympic Games as Team USA looks to reclaim the Gold Medal from host country Japan.
“Ken Eriksen has a proven track record in not only leading our Women’s National Team program to the top of the podium, but also maintaining that success and developing world-class athletes,” said USA Softball Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Craig Cress. “His accolades speak volumes and in the 11 years that softball has been off the Olympic program, he has been a constant for our Women’s National Team. He has built upon the legacy established before him, and we are confident that he will guide the team to the Gold in 2020.”
Eriksen’s journey to Olympic Head Coach began in 1987 as men’s fastpitch player before transitioning into coaching within the USA Softball WNT program in 2002. Currently the Head Coach at the University of South Florida, Eriksen has previous Olympic experience, having served as an Assistant Coach for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team.
“First of all, I am humbled by the fact that I am able to follow in the footsteps of two of my mentors in fastpitch softball, Ralph Raymond and Mike Candrea, the last two coaches to lead Team USA in the Olympics,” said Eriksen. “Coach Raymond and I had shared a few dinners and talked the game many times over the last 25 years. I will miss him tremendously. Coach Candrea’s philosophy has been one for the ages. He always puts the ‘game’ above everything. It’s all about the ‘game’ and how you approach it with people that fit your approach as a coach. His simplicity and his athlete-centred approach have lent itself well to Team USA even after he retired from the National Team.”
Eriksen’s dedication and commitment to the USA Softball WNT program culminated with a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games berth which was earned at the 2018 WBSC World Championship last August in Chiba, Japan.
“Winning the World Championship and the Olympic bid in 2018, it was an affirmation of how Team USA has approached and prepared for the biggest stages since our first National Team Program was put on the field.”
His first Head Coach role with the USA Softball National Team program came in 1997 when he led the USA Softball Junior Men’s National Team (JMNT) at the WBSC Junior Men’s World Championship in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Five years later, he joined the WNT as an assistant coach in 2002 – the same year the team captured a Gold Medal at the WBSC World Championship. A highlight of his Team USA coaching resume includes being an assistant coach in the 2003 Pan American Games where the team won Gold and going on to coach at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Eriksen tacked on another Gold Medal as an assistant coach at the 2010 WBSC Championship in Caracas, Venezuela before his Head Coach appointment in 2011.
With softball off the Olympic program following the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Eriksen was instrumental in continuing the gold standard set by his predecessors – often times with rosters comprised of rookies and veterans of the international stage. In his tenure as Head Coach, Eriksen has guided the U.S. to two WBSC World Championship Gold Medals (2016, 2018) and two Silver Medals (2012, 2014), a Pan American Games Gold Medal (2011) and Silver Medal (2015).
“I am proud to be selected as the next head coach to lead Team USA to its re-entry into the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. It goes without saying that if you don’t have people and an organization that believes in you none of this is possible. I’ve been fortunate to have had a tremendous amount of support from family, the National Governing Body, the NFCA, USF, Assistant Coaches with our Team USA program, and lastly many USA alums from both the men’s and women’s programs. Thank you to the USA Softball National Team Selection Committee and Board of Directors. We hope to continue to represent the Red, White, and Blue in the class manner that we have. Go Eagles.”