College Softball The next chapter
After excelling on the softball diamond at Greenwich High School and Springfield College, Amanda Novak served as an assistant softball coach at Western New England University.
Now, the Greenwich native is ready to begin her next softball chapter.
Novak, a 2007 Greenwich High School graduate, was recently hired as head softball coach at Western New England, which is located in Springfield, Mass. Currently a physical education teacher at Springfield College, Novak begins her coaching career at Western New England on July 1.
“I am so excited, honored and blessed to be able to make this career move,” Novak said. “I have been looking forward to becoming a head softball coach for a few years now and I am thrilled it is at a place that I consider home.”
A resident of Wilbraham, Mass., the 29-year-old Novak replaces Lori Mayhew-Wood, who retired from coaching following a successful 22 seasons. She remains at Western New England as an athletic administrator. Mayhew-Wood, a 1995 graduate of Western New England, posted an eye-opening record of 567-315-2 during her tenure, including a 25-18 mark this spring in which the team captured the CCC title for the second consecutive season. Novak is aiming to continue the program’s winning tradition.
“I am looking forward to taking this program to new heights. We compete every year for a conference title and now I want it to be an expectation that we go farther each and every year in the NCAA tournament,” Novak said. “I love how our student-athletes perform both on and off the field and I look forward to continuing and maintaining the Golden Bear traditions. Western New England is one of the most well-known softball programs in the northeast. We win 25-plus games every season and we are consistently battling for a CCC championship.”
Prior to being named head coach of WNE, Novak was an assistant coach on Mayhew-Wood’s staff for seven seasons.
“Lori Mayhew-Wood at Western New England has been amazing,” Novak said. “I have learned so much from her these past seven seasons.”
Brought up to the varsity team midway through her freshman year, Novak played every position besides pitcher her first year-and-a-half at Greenwich, before becoming the squad’s starting catcher. The team was coached by Nancy (Cacciola) Tarantino, with current Cardinals coach Mary Beth Fratello serving as an assistant.
“Our team at GHS was competitive and we won, but we were well coached, and that absolutely helped and prepared me for the collegiate level,” she said. “She (Tarantino) she played at Springfield College, so she was the one who put me onto the school.”
While playing at Springfield, Novak registered a career batting average of .303 with 108 Hits, 17 home runs and 80 RBI. She received NEWMAC All- Conference honors and was the recipient of the team’s Unsung Hero Award. As a sophomore, she was named to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team. Her time on the Springfield squad saw her play for Hall of Fame coach Kathy Mangano for two seasons — an individual she learned plenty from.
“She is one of the most brilliant minds of softball,” Novak said of Mangano. “I never really realized how much I got from her, until at my own practices her catch phrases and her knowledge was coming out of my mouth. She made me such a competitor, she taught me to love the game so much that you would fight for every inch to gain every day. Whether it was practice, a game or in the classroom she taught us to never stop fighting.”
Following her graduation from Springfield, Novak received a graduate teaching fellow in Springfield’s physical education department, where she worked under Mangano, while also working toward obtaining her Masters Degree in Athletic Administration. She arrived at Western New England in 2011 as an assistant and is now preparing for her new role.
“My assistants and I are out recruiting almost all summer. We want to make sure we are seen and we get out and recruit some outstanding future Golden Bears,” Novak said.
Fratello, who Novak said is one of her coaching mentors, isn’t surprised about Novak’s ascension to head coach.
“Amanda has a true passion for the game and I think she’ll be a great coach,” Fratello said. “She was a great player in high school at Greenwich and in college and she will take what she has learned over the years and apply it in her new role. She was on our Greenwich team when I was an assistant coach and I noticed she had a little bit of coach in her. As a catcher, she was involved in every aspect of the game and she worked really hard.”
Novak knows handling the different personalities of players and the unique approach each athlete has is a significant aspect of the job.
“Over the years, I have found out what athletes I can push and maybe give a little more to, while others need more of the teaching approach,” she said. “Softball is a game they can learn so much from, but also take a deep breath, work hard and have fun as well.”