Two weeks before the fall 2020 semester, Lacy Wood received a phone call from Ball State Athletics personnel telling her she would become the next head coach of Ball State Softball. After hanging up the phone, Wood realized she would have to move her life from her Boston apartment to the Crossroads of America nearly 900 miles away.
Her job became official Aug. 24, 2020. With the fall semester already underway, Wood didn’t have much time to settle into her new role, but within a couple days of arriving in Muncie, she was already getting to work.
The hardships that come with a new job were piled on top of a global pandemic, which meant Wood couldn’t meet her new players in person. Having previously worked on the coaching staff at Harvard University, she moved from a place she had called home for nearly five years
“My priority was making sure that the girls knew that they were taken care of,” Wood said. “Zoom meetings with the team was a priority. I literally spent the next week before we were allowed to do practices just doing one-on-one phone calls. I wanted to make sure that I had a conversation with every single student-athlete.”
A 2007 graduate of the University of Louisville, Wood played catcher for the Cardinals before graduating and was inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019. After graduating, Wood coached locally and eventually found herself back at her alma mater in 2012 when she took on a volunteer role on the Cardinals’ coaching staff and helped lead them to a 55-5 record and a Big East Title.
Wood said her passion for coaching started with that opportunity, but the moment she realized it would be a sustainable career was when she became the head softball coach at Presentation Academy High School in Louisville, Kentucky.
“They had just recently lost their head coach two or three weeks prior to the season starting,” Wood said. “After two days of coaching, I knew that I wanted to find a way to coach. I didn’t know at what level, but I knew I wanted to pursue it.”
After her time with Presentation Academy, Wood spent three seasons coaching at Eastern Kentucky University before joining Harvard as an assistant coach in 2016. She attributes a lot of her progress throughout her coaching career to Harvard head coach Jenny Allard.
“The first couple years was a lot of learning and growing,” Wood said. “The last two years I was there, I knew the next step for me was to take over my own program. A lot of the things that Jenny put on my plate prepared me to take over a program of my own.”
As the Ivy League’s longest-tenured coach, Allard has more than 25 years of coaching experience at Harvard. She said much of her success comes from her organization and efficiency.
“I was a very different head coach than [Wood] had worked for previously,” Allard said. “We had different styles. My style of coaching has to do with being as organized, as structured and as efficient as we can be. I think she had to adopt that a little bit more.”
Wood is just the latest assistant coach from Allard’s former staff members to run their own collegiate program. Schools where her colleagues have moved on to head coaching jobs include Yale, Brown, Covenant College and, most recently, Ball State.
“My responsibility is to help an assistant coach become a head coach,” Allard said. “I am basically training them to leave — to go be a head coach. There were several things that came through on [Wood’s] resume and application that I was specifically looking for.”
The biggest thing about Wood’s coaching that stuck out to Allard was her ability to coach offense. In Wood’s inaugural season with Harvard, the Crimson went 16-4 in Ivy League play. Once Wood settled into Allard’s coaching style, she was promoted from assistant coach to associate coach. Allard said it was clear her presence was improving the team on and off the field.
“She was just a really good coach,” Allard said. “I thought she had some personal qualities and the ability to connect with the student-athletes in a way that was important to me. We are in the business of developing people — it’s not just the softball piece. It is really being present with them and caring about them.”
In her first season donning the cardinal and white of Ball State, Wood’s players are confident in her abilities to successfully help them develop their game. Redshirt sophomore catcher/utility player and 2021 team captain Jazmyne Armendariz said Wood has done a great job of keeping the team organized despite the nuances that come with navigating COVID-19.
“Just from the beginning of the year, we were a team that really needed structure, and [Wood] brought that to us,” Armendariz said. “I am feeling pretty confident. We are walking into the MAC with a chip on our shoulder. I am excited because we have a lot of talent.”
Despite the adversity she has faced with moving and adapting to COVID-19, Wood said, she is optimistic about the unprecedented 2021 season.
“Our administration has done a fantastic job of just preparing us,” Wood said. “The expectations that we have in daily life — we are just going to put them in a travel setting with the softball program. I am really excited. We are going to learn a lot about the persona of this team. It is going to be exciting to watch.”
Contact Drew Pierce with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @drewpierce.