The definition of a student-athlete is someone who competes in an organized sport while still being a full-time student. Nearly 500,000 student-athletes compete in sports at the NCAADivision I level each year. These young men and women rely on the coaches and professors they work with daily to help them become the future leaders of our communities. Coach Michael Lotief is one such coach who has helped numerous student-athletes thrive on the softball field,in the classroom, and in their lives beyond college.
Success on the Field
Coach Lotief spent 17 seasons coaching the University of Louisiana Lafayette softball team. The team made it to the NCAA tournament in each of those 17 seasons, winning at least 40 games in each of those 17 seasons. There were 50 wins in eight of those seasons, and in the record-setting season of 2004 his team recorded 60 wins.
If these numbers aren’t staggering enough to show a pattern of success on the field, Coach Lotief’s teams also captured the Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship 15 times. Beyond the wins and conference titles, teams led by Coach Lotief made it to 15 NCAA Regional tournaments, seven Super Regional tournaments, and three College World Series. CoachLotief’s career record at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette is 729-174.
It is one thing for a coach to string together a few successful seasons and another thing entirely for a coach to display this type of success over a 17-year coaching career. Coach Lotief taught his players what it means to work hard, persevere and compete with the best of the best. ULL is not one of the powerhouse schools when it comes to athletics, but that didn’t stop Coach Lotief from building a powerhouse softball program at ULL. The lessons learned by his staff members and women athletes about what it takes to prepare, compete and win can be carried into their everyday lives beyond softball.
Success in the Classroom
Student-athletes must do more than compete and win in their sport. They also need to work hard and succeed in the classroom. The reality for most student-athletes is that there isn’t a professional sports career in their future. They need to take advantage attending school at a top-tier university while playing their sport. Coach Lotief’s teams had a 99% graduation rate year in and year out. This is a great indicator of the importance he placed on the classroom. His teams regularly had a team grade point average above a 3.0. Coach Lotief’s teams took a great deal of pride in their academic work, which stems from the lessons they learned while practicing on the field.
Another indicator of success in the classroom for Coach Lotief’s teams was their extensive involvement in the ULL community. His softball players were regularly involved in service projects that benefitted the surrounding community. These were life lessons his players likelyused to help them in their lives after college. Coach Lotief showed that success in the classroom was just as important, if not more important, than success on the field.
Records and Achievements
Ticket sales and attendance records were set at the school during the years Lotief coached the ULL softball team. The success his softball teams enjoyed on the field attracted a much wider audience for the softball program than in previous years. The community was excited about the softball program, and the teams built an enthusiastic following over the years. The success of the teams also led many other big-name schools to bring their softball teams to ULL for games. This increased the national exposure for the program, and that led to many achievements for the teams and the individual players.
During his 17 years of coaching college women’s softball, Lotief developed over 25 All- Americans. These players were at every position: They were power/homerun hitters, slappers/speed players, and pitchers. Whether players attained the status of All-Americans or
were just role players or pinch runners, Lotief considers it his greatest accomplishment that he helped all of his staff, including himself, and all of his players get better.
Accolades for Lotief’s former players not only included All-American, but also Academic All-
Americans, Outstanding Graduates, James Corbett Award Winners, Sunbelt Female Athletes of the Year, Nominees for ESPY, and more.
On the athletic side, consider the journeys these four athletes took:
Lexi Elkins struggled as a freshman at Texas Tech in 2013. She had a .282 batting average, with 0 homeruns and a .350 slugging percentage. Elkins then transferred to UL Lafayette, where during her sophomore year she compiled a .388 batting average, with 24 homeruns, a .835 slugging percentage, and became an All American. Elkins earned multiple All-American honors and was drafted No 1 in the 2016 National Pro Fastpitch player draft.
There is a similar story of three softball players who came out of Mississippi — where they still play slow pitch during half of the high school season — who played college softball under Lotief at ULL.
D.J. Sanders, a shortstop from Columbus, MS, played at ULL from 2014-2017. She earned All- American honors during the 2016 season and is another example of a great athlete and an awesome person who just needed exposure to a learning environment in order to flourish.
Sanders is now working toward a master’s degree in Sports Psychology from the University
Missouri and playing pro softball for the Chicago Bandits. Her jersey number is 37, which she
explains stands for 3 persons in one GOD – 7 days a week.
Nerissa Myers and Brianna Cherry
Nerissa Myers, shortstop, and Brianna Cherry, center field, are first cousins from Petal, MS. Both played at ULL from 2010-2013. Myers and Cherry attained All-American status, and both play professional softball in the NPF.
Myers most recently starred for Great Britain, hitting over .500 for a team that finished runner-up in the Olympic qualifier. Myers and Cherry were basically unrecruited or under recruited other
than by junior colleges and small Division I schools. Both played slow-pitch fastball more than select fastpitch travel ball, yet they had the talent and potential to be developed into the best Division I softball players in the country.
That’s a Coach Lotief hallmark: his willingness to serve and help and work to make all of his players take the struggles of any softball experiences and turn it into a learning/growing experience by implementing a proven player development process. Everybody “gets better” and gets value from the experience.
Coach Lotief was also honored with the Donna Newbery Perseverance Award for Courage in
- This award is given annually to a coach who has demonstrated the strength of will and character in the fight to overcome adversity. Coach Lotief is a 30-year cancer survivor and had to endure a trachea and a feeding tube while still coaching during much of the 2016 season. He continued to make road trips and carry out all of the duties required of the head coach while working overtime to ensure he took care of his body.
Coach Michael Lotief is the picture of grit and determination. He has positively affected the lives
of many people in his time as a softball coach. The scope of his teaching, coaching and
mentoring will continue to grow year after year as his former players pay it forward.