By Tom Mauldin
Nathan Ohta. who has 14 years of experience of college coaching, has been hired to lead Warner Pacific’s start-up softball program.
Prior to being named WPU head coach, he was at George Fox University (GFU) in Newberg, as an assistant coach for the Bruins for two seasons. He helped the squad to a 55-28 record, a Northwest Conference Championship, and two post-season appearances.
Ohta’s duties are many, especially for a start-up program. But he knows hitting the recruiting running is a priority.
“I am focusing solely on recruiting and getting everything in order for us to begin intercollegiate competition next fall,” noted Ohta. “Next year, we will have a mix of transfer students, junior college transfers and incoming freshmen.
“Recruiting has gone very well thus far, and I can't say that there have really been any major challenges. In any collegiate program, it takes a lot of hard work to be successful, and that is no different here, but things have gone very smoothly so far, and I am enjoying being a part of this University. I'm looking forward to a very talented class coming in and beginning competition in the CCC next year.”
Prior GFU, Ohta was the head coach at Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) member Corban University for nine seasons. He led his teams to a 257-171 record and a CCC Championship in 2013. That same year he was named CCC Coach of the Year.
WPU will join the CCC in fall and compete in the 2020 spring season.
Ohta graduated from Western Baptist College in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Mathematics Education. He received an M.S. in Education with an emphasis in curriculum and instruction from Corban University in 2012.
Q&A with Warner Pacific University head coach Nathan Ohta
Q – What are your most successful practice drills (hitting, fielding, baserunning, pitching -- indoor or out)? Can you explain it and tell us what the benefit is?
“It is tough to isolate a single drill that we use. We focus a lot on being fundamentally sound defensively and put time into doing the little things right (footwork, glove work, etc). That being said, the programs I've coached in have been pretty successful offensively. I would say that while we have a few core drills that we do with everyone on a regular basis, we have seen tremendous growth offensively as we have gotten better at breaking down an individual player's swing, and being able to utilize drills that help them with the specific things that they need to work on. So rather than implement a cookie cutter approach to every practice and just make each player do the same drills every day, being able to design a hitting plan for a given day that allows each player to work on what they need to work on has proven very successful.”
Q – What information do you want from potential recruits.
Here is what I really need to know:
Name Grad Year Contact Information Major Skills Video Team Name and Schedule Position GPA/SAT/ACT
“I get a lot of emails, calls, text messages where athletes leave out their grad year, position or Academic Information. For the skills video, it doesn't need to be something too fancy that costs a lot of money to make. Just take your phone record a few swings, show yourself taking a few reps at your defensive position. That is enough for me to know if I need to come watch you play... make sure to send me your schedule so I can find the tournaments players will be at.”
Q – What advice would you give a young player, say 13 or 14, who dreams of playing college softball?
“Work hard, be a good teammate, and find a way to get in front of the coaches at the schools you are interested in. College softball is tough and there are a lot of players that want to be a part of a college team. The best advice I can give to get yourself recruited is to have a work ethic that separates you from the pack. There is going to be players that may be bigger, faster, stronger or more talented than you but your goal should be the best player you can be and work as hard as you can to make the most of every opportunity you have. When I say to be a good teammate, I am looking for players that play with energy, encourage their teammates, help carry gear, are the first ones to the field and the last to leave, that speak respectfully to and about their coaches and teammates. The thing that gets players crossed off my list faster than anything else is when they talk down their teammates or coaches to try and make themselves look better. Parents should be careful about this to. As a college coach evaluating talent is my job. I can tell if you (or your daughter) can play even if a teammate had a bad day or a coach made a bad decision. To get in front of coaches, the biggest recommendation I can give is to attend camps at the schools you are interested in. I recruit as many kids from the camps I am a part of as I do from anywhere else.”
Q – What is your most memorable softball/baseball experience (coaching or playing)?
“I'm headed into my 14th year coaching collegiate softball, and there have been a lot of great memories. I've coached three conference championship teams, and each one of those teams was special. It's hard to describe everything you go through as a team in a championship season and how you come together to reach a common goal. It's pretty special. We won the first one on a walk-off 3-run home run; that was pretty exciting. I also had the privilege to coach a player named Stephanie Nippert who set the NAIA career record for home runs with 83. The season she was chasing that record was very memorable. But, over the years, I think it has been more rewarding to watch the young ladies I've coached grow into successful young women. I spoke with one of my former pitchers just yesterday and she was telling me about the new job she just got, how her son is doing. Seeing my players move on and be successful after their playing days are over is more rewarding to me than anything that happens on the field.”
Q – When you are recruiting, what attributes in a player are you seeking?
“I am looking for players that work hard, are great teammates, and are coachable. Then I start looking at athleticism. We like to hit, so if you can do that it definitely helps put you on our radar as well.”
Q – If you weren't a softball coach, what would you be doing?
“I would go fishing a lot more than I do now. I'd spend the extra time with my kids and wife, and I'd strongly consider going to culinary school. I love to cook and have always thought that would be an interesting career to pursue.”
Q – And, finally, what is it about softball you love?
“I love that the game of softball provides an avenue to learn about teamwork, communication, work ethic, and so many other life skills that extend far beyond the game. I love the challenge of striving to be the best you can be. I love the competitiveness of the game, and I love being on the field being a part of a team that is giving their best for each other. There is not many things in life I enjoy more.”