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How Did Sandra Moton Transition from LSU Player to LSU Coach?

I was able to have a conversation with former LSU star softball player Sandra Moton or as many would know her Sandra Simmons. We discussed her recruitment to LSU as player, her time here as a Tiger and what that means for her, her journey into the coaching world and how she ultimately wound back up at LSU and her new journey into motherhood.

Our conversation began by talking about how the California native ended playing college softball in the deep south at LSU. She detailed the experience like it was yesterday, saying "When I grew up in California , the PAC 10 at the time was really the only conference that I knew about just because it was so local and that's what everyone talked about". She knew at an early age that college ball was possible "I was probably 10 years old when I started realizing I wanted to continue to play softball and probably about 12 years old is when I learned, I could play college softball and I just realized, like, I don't wanna be close to home. I wanna go experience another part of the world and see what the other part of the country is like. And so since I was 12 years old, I knew I didn't wanna play in the pac because that's kind of what everyone talked about."

We discussed when recruiting started becoming a thing for her, she stated "And as soon as I was at that recruiting age, about 13, the SEC was kinda up and coming. They had just made some appearances in the World Series. You had Florida going out there and competing in championships. You had Alabama winning their first championship. I was kinda like, OK, what's this next big thing that's coming? I wanna be a part of that. Where did LSU come into the picture ? she added "Kristen Hobbs, who was our old assistant,Kristen Cain is her married name now, she and coach DeFeo were out in South Dakota, at one of our USA nationals and that's where she first saw me, she.

asked my coach if I would come on a visit called her after the summer was over.they brought me out on a visit and simply just fell in love with it." As much as she loved it there was a roadblock to shutting things down. She detailed how it went down "My coach was kind of my mentor in all of this. My parents weren't extremely involved in knowing what was happening in college softball. They did everything they could to get me to here and my experiences, but they didn't know the direction. My coach had just had a daughter play at Penn State. So, he was like, don't go there and commit. You're gonna have a lot of opportunities. I want you to keep your options open."I just started my freshman, New York High school. And so I was like, OK, OK. Yeah,I won't do it and just fell in love. I came on a visit with one of my travel teammates who also played here, Kailey McCasland. We both just loved it. And they offered, I said, OK, I'll let you know, thank you.

We left and that was Saturday night. I got in the car and I said, mom, I have to commit here, like this is home. And she said, well, then go do it. Why didn't you? I said, well, Coach Bill said I can't. And she said, you know what you need to do and if you like it, then it's your decision. And so I ran back up our stairs and said I wanna be a Tiger.

She added "as soon as I set foot on this campus and saw the atmosphere of what a college game day was like for football and how fans supported football. The amenities that they had for the athletes, the coaching staff, how the players interacted, just all the things that kinda draw your attention. As a softball player going away from home, knowing that I wasn't going to be

around anybody. I still felt like I was gonna be supported and loved and taken care of. So it was an easy decision

She came in as a freshman started 57 of 58 games at first base and missed only the Michigan game. That would be the only game of her four year career that she would not start. Going on to help lead her team to back to back WCWS in 2015 and 2016. She was at her best when the lights were the brightest as she had some of her best performances in post season play. Her Junior season she was SEC All Defensive team and was also named the MVP of the Baton Rouge Super Regional registering an .800 batting average in two games, leading the team with six RBIs as she helped send LSU to the WCWS in game two against Arizona by going 3-for-3 and setting a new career high in RBIs with five and three runs scored with a triple and home run.

As she reflected on her time as a player I asked her to sum it all up and se recalled "I would say the word is everlasting. The coaching staff is the coaching staff that I played under was coach Beth and coach Howard were also my coaches and then Lindsay Leftwhich, who is now at NC State were my coaches Quinlan, was still the director of Ops Pam was still my trainer. So the staff is still who I'm working with, was still who I played with. I think what they do the best is that they just leave an everlasting impression on your life to be better." She detailed something else that left a lasting impression "So if you ever come to our facility and you see Tigers, we have it everywhere in our facility. We created this when I was a player and we started it with our mental performance guy. He said, you guys need some way to define what your program is and what you guys are gonna live up to and what kind of team do you wanna be? And so. they had us one day in our team film room and said, all right. Well, what we've came up with words, so tigers became it." Whats it stand for ? She detailed "It's trust, integrity, grit, energy,relentless and selfless. Then they said, well, now it's your guys' turn to define it. What do these mean? And so we as a team came up, what, what it means to live, to be, trust in the classroom, to be a student with trust, to be an athlete with trust to live, trust in your personal life. Then we came up with a short little definition to be able to tell people what it is and to be able to remember. So I trust and believe in our process.

"So we just kind of went through and did those things and it became at that moment really simple of what, what we were trying to do here like we were gonna be Tigers for life and we were gonna be LSU for life. But every day we stepped on the softball field, we were gonna be playing with Tigers. I was gonna trust

my teammates to do the right thing on the softball field to do the right thing outside of softball. So it gave us the best opportunity to compete. We were gonna come out and be really relentless, that whatever the task was that the coaches asked us to do, we're gonna be ready. We weren't gonna make excuses. We were gonna find a way and I think, the coaches empowered us to do that, every day by making us set the standard for us. We really hold on to it and I think these are all things that you wanna apply in your everyday life. It was the opportunity of everlasting, not only am I becoming a better softball player and I'm learning the game more and I'm being challenged and I'm getting better and closer to reach my goals and to be at the World Series. That's everyone's ultimate goal is to win a national championship playing at this level." She added to this by finishing with "You also know softball is gonna end one day for you. You're not gonna make millions of dollars like men, baseball and football get to do. So, you know, like I have to be an adult in society one day and I think it was really cool to be able to walk away and still be able to use these characteristics in life. Now being a coach, I still pride myself on making sure my players can trust me and I'm living integrity every day. So the players know like, hey coach Sandra is going to do the right thing for us and if I don't know the right decision, I can go to her and she's gonna give me the right decision. I hope to embed this in my kids one day. So I think the impact that they give you is just, not just for the four years that you're here, it's for your entire life."

So how did she get into the coaching world ? She had a different plan for herself as she stated "my ultimate goal in life was always to be a lawyer and I got to my senior year and I said, I don't wanna go to school anymore like I'm done with school. And my athletic trainer looked at me and said, no, you're not. And I was like, Pam, I'm not going to school. I'm not gonna be a lawyer. She said, well, then you need to go get a master's like an undergrad isn't enough in today's world. And what you wanna do. If you wanna go into social work, you're gonna need a master's. I said, ok, well, I can't afford a master's. Like I just graduated college without debt. How am I gonna do that? And that's when I was Like , well, I can go be a manager. I get to, I get to be around softball still.I don't have to fully grow up yet and have a big girl job. I get to see if Ilike coaching because everyone in my whole life told me I was gonna be a coach and I told them they were crazy. I went to Beth and I said, how do I become a manager? And she's like, well, where do you wanna go? And I said,I don't know wherever somebody will let me go. Like, what are my options?  She said, well, how about you do some research? Beth is not the person that's gonna give you the answers, she's gonna make you work for what you want. So, of course, I had to go and do some research and find some schools that had managers already existing and graduate managers and kinda make a compile a list. She said I'll tell you. spots that are yes or no, give me a list and I'll help guide you and I'll start talking to them and we'll take the next step."

So I come to the her with the list and Kara Dill who was our volunteer assistant at the time was at Kentucky and she said I really think you would really Like coach Lawson and I said, Kentucky, that's cold. Like, I'm from the west coast. Like I'm thinking I was gonna go back to like the west or stay super warm south. I was like, well, I'll consider it. And so I put them on the list and. she said, I think you, you guys would have a really good connection. I think you, you guys have a similar personality. I was like, all right. So I told coach, coach I agreed Kentucky would be a good option. I emailed Kentucky that I was interested . And so they responded and they said we would like to set up a phone interview and I was like, phone interview. I thought people just said yes to these to managers. Like, I'm an athlete like, you know who I am just look at my resume and Kara is like, that's coach Lawson. She's

gonna wanna make sure you're a right fit for her program before she brings somebody in. So I was like, ok, and we did the little interview and I remember being like, I don't get intimidated by people easily. Like I am not an intimidated person. And I remember getting off the phone and I said, Kara, she's the first person that's ever intimidated me before in my life. and she just laughed. She said she's serious. But if she's your people, she's your people. So I never really heard anything kinda, she just said, let's finish the season. Now, I'll talk to you after the season. I said, ok, they came to us kind of towards the end of the year. I'm also a really big planner, like, need to know what's happening next in my life and having a plan. And so still, like, was like, well, what am I gonna do? at this point, I'm one month away from softball being over, like, I need to know a plan. And so kind of talked to her when she was here after the series, hoping she was gonna tell me yes or no. So I knew what direction and she's like, we'll talk this summer and I was like, all right, I guess we'll talk this summer. I'm not sure, but Kara was like, I think it's gonna work out, it's gonna be fine. And so I was gonna go play in the NPS and one of our, my teammates who was the catcher was a alumni from Kentucky as well. And while we were playing, she said Lawson

was also coaching NPF at the time for another team. She said, Lawson wants to go to dinner while we're playing each other. I said, ok, great. So I'm thinking I'm gonna get the formal "Yes, you're coming to school here. We will, we'll take you as a manager." we go to dinner and Lawson asks a few questions, we hang out, we talk. and then she says, well, if you have any questions, just ask Griffin. Griffin and I are in the car and I say, "so Griff like what is, is there scholarship money? Am I expected to pay? Does she pay for your rent? Like do I have to have another job? Like what does this entail?" And she goes. well, I think you have to ask her that. I said, but she never even told me yes, I packed up my entire apartment after I graduated and kind of just put it in a storage out in Akron, Ohio where I was. So I had everything of my life with me just in a storage hoping that I was going to Kentucky. So everyone kept saying I was going to Kentucky, but I hadn't gotten a response of like a confirmation from Lawson. And so Griffin finally like a week later was like, yeah,you're coming. Like, we're gonna go, we'll, we'll drive down there together after the season's over. And I was like she still hasn't told me anything. Like I've applied, I got accepted, but like I haven't said anything.And so finally, it was like the end of the summer and she's like, can't wait to see you on campus. And I was like, well, I guess I'm going to Kentucky everyone." So, it was a very different way of how I was expecting."

On her time at Kentucky she said "I got to be their director of Ops. They didn't have a director of Ops at the time. So I was their graduate assistant, but also director of ops and did their all their travel and food

and everything that a director of Ops does. And so. I not only got to be on the field at practice and in practice planning, she does an awesome job of including her managers, and staff as treating them like staff members. She expects you to work, like show up to the office every day. So while she knows we're going to class, she also expects us to be in the office and at the softball field when we're not in class. We got to participate in input on what we thought the team needed where, what practices should look like. Now, we couldn't coach, but we got to be in the practice planning and kinda listen and if we ever thought like, hey, this would be a good drill to do. She was always willing to listen and she really just kinda treats you as an actual staff member. So it was really cool to be a part of an organization that let me have a voice and, but also taught me a ton of stuff as well and gave me the ability to learn the travel side of things because when you're at a big university, you don't have to do any of that stuff. Somebody is doing it for you as a coach. So if I ever have to go to a small school that doesn't have a director of ops, I at least now understand the budget of the university and like what travel looks like and what food looks like and all of those things.I thought it was a really cool opportunity to not only learn that I did want to be a coach and enjoy that side of it, but also learn the other side of the program that you don't always get to because somebody, you have so many people that can do those things at a big university for you."

Moton on the path back to LSU "I kinda always stayed in touch with coach throughout my time, As soon as I left and I was playing in the summer and then at Kentucky, We talked frequently and I didn't really ever think anything of it. I still thought I wasn't gonna coach softball and thought I was just gonna get my master's and still work. I have my master's in rehabilitation counseling and mental health. And I always thought I was gonna go back to California and, and practice that and become a licensed therapist. The last spring of my last year graduating, I just started realizing,I do wanna coach and coach said, call me after the season's over and I said, ok, for what she said, just call me after we'll talk about some things and make sure you're going on the right track. And I was like, alright, and so season ended and I called her. I was like, coach, I don't know what I'm doing. Again,this is not me. I hate not having a plan. I'm stuck in. Like, do I go home? I don't want to live at home but I can't afford to live in California right off the bat. Like, I'm gonna have to live at home while I get a job. And, or do I still wanna coach? I really enjoy these two years. Like, what do I do? And she said, well, do you wanna come be my volunteer? And at that moment it was a really simple, easy, yes. I watched two different volunteers come in our program while I was there. Howard at the time was with USA, so he wasn't recruiting in the summer. we had a little unique spot for the volunteer that I also got recruiting opportunity. At the time, the volunteer was allowed to recruit. You could only have three accountable recruit coaches out at a time. But since he was with USA, I was wavered on in the summers.  It was, it was a super simple, hey, do you wanna come be my volunteer? And it was absolutely yes, I would be stupid if I turn this down. Like I get to coach on my alma mater at a program that just finished at the World Series for three straight years and coaching staff that I know is like family that treats you like family and that's gonna support you and give you the autonomy to do what you want in the spots where they're telling you to coach at. That's super big to me is to know that like somebody's gonna trust me to do my work and allow me to do my work and either succeed or fail. Like not everything's gonna be successful. But knowing that like, they're still gonna have your back when something doesn't go right too. I told her I would love to. So I left in the end of July 1st actually. Drove down to Baton Rouge and my former teammate who I grew up playing with Kailey McCasland, had started a family here. She and she lived just over across the river and she's like, just come live with me until you get a spot. And so I lived with her for about six months just to like get grounded, and undertsand what I'm doing. To have an income actually like growing not a scholarship check.

Moton was elevated to assistant coach in July 2023 after serving as the program’s volunteer assistant coach since 2019. In her time as a volunteer coach she has helped produce four NFCA All-Americans, 20 NFCA All-Region selections and 17 All-SEC selections. On how that transition happened she added " honestly long years of waiting for the NCAA to pass it." After a few years of it being supposed to happen and always falling through Sandra made her peace with it after much internal debate " And I was like, dang another year, like, do I go be a coach somewhere and have the benefits and the retirement or do I stay here and kind of keep doing what I'm doing of building my own retirement, paying for my own health insurance. It was a hard but easy decision. At times it was like, oh, you need to like, be an adult and have a retirement, like you need to start thinking about your future family here. But at the same time, it was super easy to know that like, that's not what life is about life is about. They say

like if you enjoy your job, you never have to work a day in your life. And I enjoy being here. It wasn't worth me going to find another job that was gonna make the same if not less money, just to have retirement and

benefits. COVID hit and then I was like, oh my gosh, how am I gonna live in with no camps? Because that's where my income comes from. Not one day that I ever worry about money. They made sure that my income was still my income. So they took care of me in that spot and like the next year they NCAA was like, oh, we're gonna pass it again. And so that year I said I'm just gonna decide if they pass it great if they don't, I don't care. I'm happy where I'm at. And at that point I never even considered again, wanting to look for another job. I knew one day the NCAA was gonna pass, allowing the assistant spot and if they didn't I was happy, knowing that I'm in a culture and a program that I truly love working for. I'm with athletes that I enjoy coaching and they're really cool kids and I get to hang out with them every day. So I was content with just being the volunteer as long as I needed to be the volunteer."

She added "I also met my husband while I was a volunteer and he's from Baton Rouge. So at that point too, his whole family is here. It was really hard to even consider wanting to move away from family, knowing that we would start a family one day as well of our own. So it kind of just all kind of fell in line of like this is

where God has, has intended you to be. There everything has always worked out for you, you're happy. You're starting a family in life here. So it was,it's been a super easy, just stay with the process and know that the people that love you are gonna have your back and when your time is your time, it will happen.

We discussed her new journey into motherhood and she says "it's challenging. But it's so rewarding, it's super cool. I totally understand now like why randomly when we're leaving for the first trip, you cry like. it's like you wanna be in one spot but you wanna be at the other too. Like I wanna be with this team and I want the opportunity to coach these athletes and develop them as people. But I also wanna see my son, he's four months old but I really enjoy hanging out with him. So he did come to Clearwater, my sister came, flew out there and watched them, but my husband works at traction down the road as a sports performance director. So he has local high schools that he runs their performances and he also has some combine guys. So this time of year is too busy for him to be able to leave. So he doesn't get to really travel and so that means Sebastian doesn't get to travel, but I would say the transition is good. My husband is a rock star he really loves being a dad and embraces doing all the things. So while we have a nice routine of, I do the night feeding at 10:30 I do the middle of the night feeding and get him off to school. Tevin is the one that is giving him the last feeding and is with him on the weekends.Unfortunately, like I don't get to see him much on the weekends. Tevin brings them to the game. He comes early now just so I can see him for two seconds before I go down for warm ups. Just so I can give him a little kiss before he leaves and goes to sleep for the night and he's asleep by the time I get home. So it's been challenging but it's been really rewarding too like. the the players love on him. They get so excited when he shows up to the field. He doesn't know it yet but he, they all are in love with him as much as I think mom and dad are and I have a super awesome husband that understands the lifestyle and also is willing to do the extra things that maybe I can't do during the season. So I know people always say it's 50/50 but I would say it's probably like 80/20 right now. He's doing 80% of the workload , as the family and I'm doing about 20 but he's doing it so I can coach and get to invest the time into this program that the way it deserves.

On the differences in Coaching with and playing for Beth " I think she demands the highest level of what you have in the day. As a player, like she tells our kids all the time, you have to give us whatever your 100% is. Whether your 100% is 80% that day, give us the 80% , but we need everything that you have. We need you to be a consistent person when you show up to the softball field. That is really big to her is like, we, we need to know who you are as a player when you show up. We need to know that you're gonna be this person every day. We need you, we need to know that you're gonna work like this every day. That's exactly how she is as a boss. She is gonna demand you

to you to perform at your, the highest level that you can perform at, but she also knows that there's some days that are harder than others. She's gonna be OK with you might be tired this day and you might not have everything or you might be sick, but thanks for showing up and given what you have. She still values us as employees being consistent with our players. She loves her players like her own kids. She sees them more. She spent more time with us as an athlete. Her babies were just babies when I was a player. I was around for all three of them. my senior year Tenley, the youngest was just barely six months. So I got to watch her in this new phase of parenting. She invests in her players, the same way that she would invest in her kids life and she does that as a staff member too. So she knows exactly what's happening in everyone's life. She supports them, she encourages us to be with our family. She finds ways for us to be with our families and that sometimes takes a toll on like what she gets to do

with her family. But if there's an opportunity for us to go do something. and she knows that it means something, she's gonna encourage us to go and do it. So, she invests in us as humans just as much as she invested, invested in me as an athlete.I think like who you see as a player is exactly who I've seen as, a boss. She was my coach. She's a mentor. She's my boss. I'd also say she's one of my closest friends



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