Sept. 18, 2008
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 7, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2008-09 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — You will be hard-pressed to find a more deserving poster-child for the term student-athlete than University of Iowa senior softball player Colleen McGlaughlin.
Student: McGlaughlin not only scored a 35 on her ACT exam, but she has also maintained a perfect 4.0 grade-point average at the UI while majoring in actuarial science.
Athlete: A career .316 hitter, McGlaughlin also swings with power. She collected 19 extra-base hits as a sophomore and a junior and one of her nine home runs last season was a two-run blast in the first inning that sank No. 5 Michigan, 2-1, on April 4.
“I felt like Iowa was a perfect fit for me both athletically and academically,” McGlaughlin said. “Iowa has one of the top programs in the country for actuarial science. Athletically, I loved the softball team and how the players approached the game. I also wanted to attend a Big Ten school.”
A four-time all-state performer at Morton (Ill.) High School, McGlaughlin has developed into one of the most versatile players in Hawkeye history. Last season alone, she could be found in the outfield, third base or first base.
“I’m definitely a utility player,” said McGlaughlin, who hinted that she prefers playing the hot corner. “I’m happy to play any position and it’s fun to play them all. I don’t think it has been a problem for me at all.”
UI head coach Gayle Blevins remembers a conversation she had with McGlaughlin prior to Christmas break of McGlaughlin’s freshman season.
“She came up to me and asked, `Coach, would you give me an opportunity to work in the outfield, too?,'” Blevins said. “She was trying everything she could to get into the lineup because she just wanted to help the team somewhere. Because of her versatility, she has helped us since it’s easy to move her into a position in a hurry.”
Last season the Hawkeyes compiled an overall record of 42-20, including a 14-6 mark in the Big Ten Conference. Iowa finished runner-up in the conference tournament and went 2-2 at the NCAA Regional Tournament, where the Hawkeyes advanced to the championship by defeating Creighton and Long Beach State. With McGlaughlin on the team the past three seasons, Iowa has won 118 of 181 games (.652 winning percentage) and advanced to regionals in 2006 and ’08.
“I know we can win the Big Ten this season. It’s going to be a tough conference as always, but we can definitely compete for the title. I’ve never made it past regionals before. It would be great to win regionals and then go even farther.”
“I know we can win the Big Ten this season,” McGlaughlin said. “It’s going to be a tough conference as always, but we can definitely compete for the title. I’ve never made it past regionals before. It would be great to win regionals and then go even farther.”
During 29 years as a head coach, Blevins has won 1,178 games (an average of more than 40 per season), captured eight conference championships and taken seven teams to the Women’s College World Series. Like McGlaughlin, Blevins is eager for the 2009 campaign.
“I’m excited about what we have returning and the capabilities of this group,” Blevins said. “Now it’s a matter of building this team on the field and off the field. This is a very talented group and one of the most experienced ones we have had in awhile.”
McGlaughlin was named second team all-Big Ten as a junior and first team National Fastpitch Coaches Association Mideast Region. She was also named ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District and All-America first team.
“Colleen is just an amazing young woman,” Blevins said. “She works hard and I know the time she puts in. On road trips I’m usually awake pretty early, and it’s not uncommon to see Colleen already up studying. She always finds a way to put in additional time to get good grades and the same is true about athletics. She is meticulous with her skills.”
During a typical off-season, McGlaughlin would spend the summer playing ASA softball. This year, because of an internship with State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill., McGlaughlin couldn’t play softball, but she would still head to a local batting cage several times a week to take a couple hundred swings.
With McGlaughlin’s academic success, it would seem she would have her pick of a career. So why does she desire to become an actuary?
“My uncle was an actuary and when I was in kindergarten he was talking to me about prime numbers,” McGlaughlin said. “I picked that up pretty quickly, so ever since then he pushed me to be an actuary. I had a lot of fun with the internship this summer. They were training me, so I was doing real work.”
In high school, McGlaughlin played outside hitter on the volleyball team, but said she “wasn’t tall enough to play volleyball in college.” In the spring, she dominated on the softball diamond, finishing with a career batting average of .467 with 29 home runs. McGlaughlin said she didn’t pay much attention to sports as a youngster, so her athletic role models came from within her family. Her grandfather played basketball, track and football at Augustana College, two of her aunts pitched softball for Illinois State, her father played baseball at Southern Arkansas and her mother played volleyball at Southern Arkansas. McGlaughlin’s sister, Allison, is a freshman volleyball player at Northern Illinois, and another sister, Shannon, is a junior volleyball standout at Morton High School.
When McGlaughlin was three years old, she was introduced to softball as a pitcher. In high school, she said she struck out 300 hitters, but also hit 30.
“I know if I go to a class to take a test and I’m prepared, I will do well. In softball, you can be prepared and you still might not have success. It’s such a challenge and such a mental game, because no matter how prepared you are, you still might not always get a hit.”
“I hated it,” said McGlaughlin, who is now making a living on the diamond with her bat.
“Her hitting has been a great weapon and tool all the way through,” Blevins aid. “Colleen is an amazing person to watch during an at-bat. She might foul 10 to 15 pitches off until the pitcher makes a mistake or she finds a pitch she really likes. She has an uncanny ability to battle up there.”
Although hitting is her forte, McGlaughlin added that she “loves being out on the dirt playing defense.”
Blevins describes McGlaughlin as a quiet leader, who subscribes to the philosophy of being seen and not heard.
“I would love for her to speak more,” Blevins said. “She garners so much respect from her teammates and she leads by example. She’s a great example on the field and off the field.”
McGlaughlin’s personal goal for her senior season is to be able to adjust when things aren’t glowing at the plate.
“Slumps are easy to get into,” she said. “If something’s not working, I want to be able to adjust my stance or mindset to break out of it.”
Slumps are something McGlaughlin doesn’t experience in the classroom.
“I know if I go to a class to take a test and I’m prepared, I will do well,” she said. “In softball, you can be prepared and you still might not have success. It’s such a challenge and such a mental game, because no matter how prepared you are, you still might not always get a hit.”
Part of the reason for McGlaughlin’s achievements have been following a simple rule she has established for herself.
“Every time, every practice, every game I want to leave the field with no regrets,” McGlaughlin said. “I always want to know I gave 100 percent every day.”