Q&A with a Razorback Coach: Mike Larabee

By Melissa AndersonArkansas Media RelationsMike Larabee begins his first season as the head coach of the University of Arkansas softball team after being named the third head coach in program history on June 25, 2009. Before coming to Fayetteville, Larabee served as the head coach of Wright State in Dayton, Ohio, for the past five seasons.Larabee’s teams at Wright State were ranked among the nation’s top 15 in batting average each of the last two years. He won 92 games over the past three seasons with the Horizon League tournament championships and NCAA Tournament bids in 2007 and 2008. In addition to his collegiate coaching experience, Larabee is a two-time member of the United States National Softball Team coaching pool and was a two-time all-world selection during his playing career.Larabee and his wife Dawn have a daughter, Michaela, and a son, John.MR: What was your biggest draw to the Razorback program?ML: I think the most obvious thing was the facilities. I had never seen anything like it before as far as everything from the football stadium to the indoor facility to the softball facility. Also, the ability to have your own indoor practice facility so you can hold practices at normal times along with the beauty of the campus was appealing to me. It is also nice that Arkansas has a weight room specifically for the female student-athlete. That was the one thing that was really just mind boggling when I got here.MR: What do you enjoy most about Razorback fans?ML: I enjoy their passion for their sports and for the university in general. As I have been around the state, no matter where I go, I see Razorback stuff so it is a state-wide passion for Arkansas athletics. Their passion and love for the university is hard to ignore.MR: What is the most exciting thing about your team this year?ML: I think the most exciting thing is just the process of starting from scratch. It is going to be exciting to see how we evolve as a team. So far it has been exciting to see such a great amount of improvement in such a short amount of time in all areas of the game: offense, defense and pitching. The pitching has really come along. I am excited to see the process and where we end up at the end of the year.MR: What is your favorite element about softball and why?ML: I just love the speed of the game. I love baseball and I played baseball but I have always said that fast pitch softball is baseball in fast forward speed. If you get two great pitchers out there the game can be over in an hour and a half. I like how the 60 foot bases add to the pressure and emphasize the speed of the game. MR: What do you enjoy most about coaching?ML: The thing I enjoy most about coaching is developing the players, not only as athletes, but their character and watching them come in and just get better. I think for all coaches that should be our primary focus, watching them develop over the four or two years you have them on your team. MR: What is your favorite Arkansas tradition?ML: Calling the Hogs. Woo Pig Sooie!MR: What has been the biggest challenge as a first year head coach?ML: The biggest challenge has been learning all the differences between Arkansas and other schools I have coached at, in terms of compliance and many other aspects. I think that has been the biggest challenge so far is learning the Arkansas system. MR: How you do think your previous coaching experience has prepared you for this job?ML: When I began coaching at Wright State, the program was really down and I think it probably humbled me more because I always thought I could come in and turn a program around right off the bat. But it took a couple recruiting classes to really be able to do that. I have realized through that experience that it is important to be patient, that the girls are not going to pick stuff up overnight and it is going to take time when you are implementing a system. I think I have been more patient with this group then I was previously.MR: If you could coach another sport, what do you think it would be?ML: Volleyball, because I love playing it. It is an exciting sport. Once again, it is action packed. A fast-paced game, that is exciting to watch.