For all the similar and different paths Jordan (Vannatta) Williams and Lindsey (Cargill) McLean have taken to become high school softball head coaches, there’s one common trait that has shaped their lives.
Both grew up playing softball since before elementary school on Central Texas fields and they’re still very happy on those same diamonds.
In late June, China Spring announced it had hired McLean, a Robinson and Baylor softball alum, as its new head softball coach. She became the second former Super Centex player and Lady Bear to take over a prominent local program since Memorial Day.
Williams was first. The former Valley Mills, West and Baylor standout was promoted from varsity assistant at Midway to Pantherettes head coach at the end of May.
“I remember doing a paper in the fourth grade. It was, ‘What do you want to be in life?’” Williams said. “I knew from an early age that I always wanted to coach. It was always a goal to be in softball.”
So far, so good.
Williams played two seasons of varsity softball at Valley Mills, earning Super Centex Newcomer of the Year in 2004, then finished her high school career at West, where she was a Super Centex first-team pitcher in 2007.
She went on to play four seasons at Baylor, helping the Lady Bears reach the Women’s College World Series as a senior in 2011.
Williams’ coaching career began right out of college as she served as Bosqueville softball coach Clint Zander’s assistant for a year before taking over as the head coach in Mart. After three years as a head coach, she was hired as Ed Trochim’s assistant at Midway at the start of the 2015-16 school year.
When Trochim retired in May, Williams got the chance to be a head coach again, this time in Class 6A.
“When I was offered the job, it finally hit me, ‘Hey, this is one of the top jobs not only in Central Texas, but in the state of Texas,’” Williams said. “It’s a fun pressure now that I haven’t had on me.”
Like Williams, McLean has found consistent success on the softball field.
She was a Robinson Little League All-Star before earning Super Centex honors all four years of high school at Robinson. She committed to Baylor as a Rockettes freshman, having already established a close bond with Lady Bears assistant Mark Lumley, who was her hitting instructor.
McLean proved herself at the college level by helping Baylor reach the Women’s College World Series as a freshman in 2014 and again as a senior in 2017.
She stepped directly into college coaching as an assistant at Baylor in the fall of 2017, then seized an opportunity to serve as a volunteer assistant at Stanford in the 2018 season. But she soon realized her desire was to coach high school players and she returned to her alma mater as Robinson coach Bobby Cervenka’s assistant a year ago.
When Williams hired former China Spring head coach Lisa Czajkowski as Midway’s varsity assistant, it opened a door for McLean.
Baylor coach Glenn Moore said he’s known for a long time that both Williams and McLean had the softball IQ and competitive demeanor to be good coaches. When China Spring asked Moore about McLean, he told them as much.
“My reply was, ‘If you want to win and you want to do it the right way, Lindsey Cargill is the one you need to go after,’” Moore said. “I think they just wanted some confirmation on that. She’s a winner, no doubt a winner.”
Taking the job at China Spring meant McLean had to jump from her alma mater to another strong program in the same district. But by the middle of last week, she had already traded her Robinson royal blue for Cougar light blue from head to toe.
“I’m hoping to build the program where I’m at for a long time,” McLean said. “I want to win district titles and state titles for China Spring, to have that type of winning program.”
Seated together in the Midway dugout last week, Williams and McLean spoke of their careers as linked experiences. By recruiting local players and keeping former players involved, Moore and the Baylor staff have created an extended family of alumni. Both former Lady Bears used the word “we” in conversation about their playing and coaching careers as if they had played on the same teams.
It might not be just their loyalty to Baylor at play. As Central Texas softball players, the Midway and China Spring coaches grew up in the same rich softball soil. They will each have the unique ability to see the road ahead for their players.
“We have so much experience as student athletes,” McLean said. “I understand there’s a lot going on for the girls even on the practice field. You’ve got to be able to separate yourself and just go all out for however long we’re practicing. Seeing it is easy because we know it. We understand it. I feel like we’re in the best position for young girls because we’ve gone through it and we can help them push through those hard times.”
Williams is far enough into her coaching career that she comfortably uses the term “kiddos” and understands that coaching is as much about attitude and relationships as double plays and sacrifice flies.
She said Moore expected his players to lead in practice and take responsibility for the group rather than focusing on individual performance. That’s applicable at the high school level, but it’s also important to read each situation as it comes.
“If there is ever a lack of intensity, it’s usually something going on outside of softball,” Williams said. “Like Lindsey said earlier, you’ve got to get to know your kiddos really well. Of course, you have so many different personalities. I’ve never met a kid that wants to make errors on purpose or wants to slack off in front of their team and have someone say something to them. It’s typically finding out, ‘Hey how was your day,’ and figure out what was going on here and try to maybe distract them from that moment that just happened. There’s usually a back story.”
Moore said the first thing he noticed about Williams, even when he was recruiting her, was her dynamic, life-of-the-party personality. He has seen how that trait pays dividends in her coaching career.
“You need that energy on the team and I think as a coach she’s going to have great energy that her kids will feed off of,” Moore said. “I’ve watched her coach. She’s very encouraging to her athletes. She doesn’t miss an opportunity to coach and make them better. That’s impressed me.”
Moore added that Stanford coach Jessica Allister gave McLean high marks for the season the former Lady Bears spent coaching at the college level. But that was to be expected as McLean was a vocal leader to the point of being an extra coach on the field right from the start of her Baylor playing career.
“Not long after we started her initial freshman fall here, one of the baseball coaches said to me, ‘Y’all have a new player over there?’” Moore recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah we have a few of them.’ He said, ‘Well one of them we hear at practice every day and we’ve never been able to hear a softball player at baseball.’ That’s how engaged Lindsey was at practice.”
Moore has a well-established coaching tree and Williams and McLean certainly aren’t the first two Baylor players to be head coaches. Even so, avid Central Texas softball fans are bound to notice common traits among the Baylor, China Spring and Midway programs next spring.
“I just want to say how blessed those student-athletes at Midway and China Spring are going to be to have that type of leadership,” Moore said. “(Williams and McLean are) going to be tough, but they’re going to mold them into what it takes. They know what it takes to play at the highest level.”