Illinois softball coaches bring a new approach to an old dream


Austin Yattoni

Head coach Tyra Perry talks to her team during a doubleheader March 26. Illinois’ coaches are changing the program and their methods to fit team members’ personalities, goals and skillsets.

By Tatiania Perry , Staff writer

Two years ago, the Illinois softball team was on the market for a new head coach after Terri Sullivan retired. Sullivan had been with the program since its inception — 16 years total.

The coach to follow would be the first ever change to the program.

After looking over many coaches, the Illinois decided on Tyra Perry who had spent 15 seasons as an NCAA Division I softball head coach, totaling 409 career victories with Birmingham-Southern, Western Kentucky and Ball State.

In her time at Ball State, Perry coached the Cardinals to 67 wins along with nine All-MAC selections and 13 Academic All-MAC honorees.

So when Perry was hired at Illinois, she wanted a coaching staff to reflect her vision.

“The biggest thing for assistants that I like is loyalty,” Perry said. “Coach (Laura) Trout’s name came up and then the same thing happened with (Lance) McMahon; they were both highly recommended by people I know really well.”

McMahon grew up in Missouri and has always been a Midwest guy, which was part of the reason he came to Illinois, but mostly it was Perry.

“I think coach Perry is doing something really big here,” McMahon said. “She has always won wherever she’s gone, so that was really an attraction for me.”

Although they each had different paths that led them to Illinois, each went into coaching for similar reasons: a love for the game and the desire to extend their knowledge to others.

Perry got her start by migrating to the field during her free time, working as an intern for the athletic director after her scholarship ran out at LSU. She said that eventually she realized that coaching is what she wanted to do.

McMahon knew he wanted to get into coaching and always loved the influence coaches had on athletes. His sisters played softball, and that’s what got him interested in the sport, but it wasn’t until he began to play some fast pitch that he truly dove into it.

In Trout’s case, she always had great coaches to inspire her.

“I recognized how they developed me as a person, and I wanted to be somebody who did that for someone else,” Trout said.

These aspects were also important to Perry.

“They are both character people; they know how to develop people, which is very important at this level,” Perry said.

All three of the coaches got their start at LSU, and aside from wearing more jackets, their transition to Illinois was an easy one.

Trout said the team was very welcoming and made the new staff feel right at home.

As far as any shift in coaching style, both Trout and McMahon agree that the type of athlete who goes through Illinois is different than what they were used to.

McMahon said that he has had to work on getting to know the athletes on a more personal level in order to find what he can use to inspire them to be the best.

For Trout, she has noticed that the athletes are very intellectual.

“They think a lot, so I had to adjust my coaching style to one that thinks a lot, so just trying to get them to shut their brains off for a little bit sometimes when they perform,” Trout said.

With these little changes here and there in coaching style, Perry hopes to realize her vision for the team.

“We want it all, but we know that it is a process,” Perry said. “We are mostly focusing on our part of becoming a championship team and program.”

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