Michelle Venturella (born May 11, 1973) competed at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney where she received a gold medal.
Venturella played NCAA softball at Indiana University. She is currently the head coach of the University of Illinois at Chicago softball team.
Michelle Venturella interviewed on The Fastpitch TV Show
Produced By Gary Leland
Michelle Venturella Answers My 10 Questions
Written by Gary Leland
Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?
A. I was 8 when I started playing although I only played 16” slow pitch (Chicago) because there was no Fastpitch around. It wasn’t until my 8th grade summer that I was introduced to Fastpitch softball.
Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?
A. I think a lot of people helped me become a great player. First, the support of my family to give me the opportunities to play and compete was invaluable. My high school coach, Gary Lagesse, was extremely impactful because he was such a visionary and instilled the values necessary to be successful in softball. We ended up winning the first ever state championship under his direction and then went on to become back-to-back state champs my senior year. My college coach, Diane Stephenson, taught me how to catch changing me from a first baseman to a catcher my sophomore year in college so prior to that I had never caught. And of course the tremendous teammates I had in high school, college and on the national team. They pushed me to be the best and were great teammates!
Q. How do you get ready for a game?
A. Game day was always special. I thought about it from the time I woke up until it was time to take the field. Everything I did that day revolved around the game. Depending on what time the game was I would adjust my schedule accordingly. If it was an earlier game I would get up and eat a good breakfast. I would think about the opponent and do my best to stay in a good mental state about the upcoming game. I didn’t like to be rushed so I was always ready to go in plenty of time. I liked listening to music on the way to the game and would think of good thoughts about what was going to happen. I also connected with my teammates in various ways. I truly enjoyed the time with them and did whatever I could to help them.
Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?
A. When I not involved with softball I love spending time with my family and playing the piano. I also love reading motivational books and going to the movies.
Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?
A. I think the values that my parents instilled in me and my coaches I had in high school were the main factors that helped me when I was a player. I have a competitive personality and was always interested in challenging myself to truly be the best I could be. I also think being a part of something successful (my HS team) and doing something that no one else did (win state) showed me that it was ok to be the “first” at something. That’s why it was so fitting to be a part of the first-ever Olympic team. Even though it was on a different scale, I knew our team could be the first team to win gold.
Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?
A. The only superstition I had was putting on my right shin guard first and then my left one when I started catching. I had to do it that way!
Q. What is your favorite softball memory?
A. I have two favorite memories. Winning the first state championship for my high school because of the amazing coaches and teammates I played had and second and something I’ll never forget was as we were doing our victory lap after winning the gold in Sydney in the 2000 games, I found my mom in the stands (10,000 people filled the stadium) and literally lost my breath. It seemed like all of the hard work that she put in and all of the work I put in came together in that moment and it was awesome!
Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?
A. I didn’t know that some of the things I was taught were “mental training” until later in my career. I think it is EXTREMELY important for the success of athletes, especially at a high level. As a coach, we spend time incorporating these concepts daily! My advice would be to be open to these teachings. They are invaluable and will help you reach your goals. The athletes that are successful over time are those who have consistently worked on having a strong mental game.
Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?
A. The greatest obstacle when I was a player on the Olympic team is that my coach didn’t believe in left-handed catchers so it was challenging playing for someone who I knew didn’t believe in me. My biggest challenge in coaching is trying to balance my family life and coaching life. I believe strongly in family and do my best to take time for them. In the same sense I love coaching so I spend a lot of time working to be good at that too. As a leader, I want to always be the example to my staff and players as to making sure they know the value of family.
Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?
A. If I actually had the talent I would be in a band and be able to play not only the piano but the guitar and sing. Music touches so many people that I would love to be able to connect in that way with people.