The role of an assistant coach is usually a simple one. It involves tasks such as leading team drills, giving players pointers on their game, and assisting the coach with scouting and game preparations. Marist softball assistant coach Morgan Royer completes duties like these each day. But she also does a whole lot more.
Royer, who joined Marist as an assistant coach in 2017, is one of the very few full-time assistant coaches in softball. This is because head coach Joe Ausanio only works part-time, which makes it necessary to have an assistant that can be present nearly all of the time.
“Joe’s a part-time employee and he is the head coach,’ Royer said. “And I’m a full-time employee and I’m the assistant coach. It’s extremely rare in division I sports to have that.”
Since Royer’s arrival, the softball team has made it to the MAAC Championship every single season. In her first year, the team finished with a record of 37-22, which set a record as being their second-highest single-season win total in program history. Royer also helped the team win the MAAC regular season championship in 2019.
“Coach Royer is great,” Ausanio said. “She plays such a major part in what we’ve been able to accomplish here and I’m really glad that I have her as my assistant.”
In a way, it always seemed as though Royer was destined to be a part of the Marist softball program. In 2009, Ausanio, who had only just become the head coach of the Marist softball team, was scouting Royer in the hopes that she would join the team after she graduated high school. Unfortunately for Ausanio, she declined and attended Saint Joseph’s University instead, where she played in 145 career games.
In 2017, Ausanio was on the hunt for a pitching coach. During his search, he was recommended Royer, who was working as a part-time assistant softball coach at the University of Pennsylvania. Ausanio, who remembered Royer from his time scouting her in 2009, knew that bringing her on to the program would be a great fit.
“She said no to me once,” Ausanio said with a laugh. “I told her when I talked to her that she said no once, and that she couldn’t say no to me again. Thankfully, she didn’t. And she has been a great asset to the team ever since.”
Instead of adding Royer as the pitching coach, Ausanio decided to make her the assistant coach, as he would take on the role of pitching coach while Royer handled many of the day-to-day functions. Royer’s role now has allowed her to get plenty of hands-on experience full-time, even though she is not the head coach.
“My role now has allowed me to dip my hands into every facet of this program,” Royer said. “I look over the budget with Joe, I look over travel, I work on recruiting and player development, and equipment. Everything that goes on in our program, I have a hand in, which is awesome.”
One of the intricate and important areas of Royer’s work is the scouting and recruiting process. Every year, as soon as the season starts, Royer and Ausanio start looking through a long list of players to see which would best fit their roster. Ideally, Royer and Ausanio look for the top players in the country, then break it down by who best fits their team and what positions they need filled. Once they have their list narrowed down, Royer hits the road.
“Recruiting is a whirlwind in and of itself and it’s essentially a whole other season,” Royer said. “Each weekend, we travel to games and tournaments. And the process starts June first and goes till the second week of August, so it’s pretty much every weekend.”
“We usually split the travel and recruiting,” Ausanio said. “So, for example, Morgan might go out to tournaments in California and Colorado while I go to tournaments and games in Pennsylvania and Florida. This way, we get to see a lot of our potential recruits play.”
As important as recruiting is for Royer, few things matter as much to her as being a good coach and leader for the athletes on the team. This isn’t just limited to helping them on the field. Royer believes that the best way to help her athletes is by getting to know them as a person and being there for them when it’s necessary.
“I think connecting with them, not just as a player but as a person as well, is how you get the best out of someone,” Royer said. “Just getting to know them as a person, as a player, what their interests are, and having trust between one another is so important.”
Royer’s approach to coaching has been extremely valuable for the players of the team, as it’s helped them develop as both people and players on the diamond. Caroline Baratta, a senior infielder for the softball team who has been here since Royer’s first year, has been able to constantly improve her game thanks to her hard work and Royer’s guidance.
“Coach Morgan has definitely made me a better person and player, easily,” Baratta said. “She is always in my ear in a good way about keeping myself positive and keeping myself up. She can tell when I get in my own head, which is a lot. And she makes sure to let me know that I’m doing good and that I got this. She’s always been such a positive influence these past four years.”
Royer’s influence isn’t just limited to the infielders, either. As a coach, she makes sure that she is able to be a guiding presence to everyone on the team. And her ability to relate to her athletes has taken the coach and athlete relationship that one extra step forward.
“It’s definitely nice to have someone to relate to,” pitcher Calista Phippen said. “It’s really having a younger coach because we can’t always relate to Coach Joe. He was born more than a few decades before us. But having Coach Morgan, who is pretty similar to us in age, is honestly great. It almost feels like she wants to be out on the field right next to us.”
Royer’s time as a full-time assistant coach has given her the tools and experience necessary to eventually become a head coach. And ideally, that’s the goal.
“It’s pretty much not having the title of head coach, but you are in every facet of the program, which is such a huge steppingstone for me moving forward if I wanted to be a head coach one day or move to a bigger conference program,” Royer said. “I have all of those skills that a head coach has, but just not the job title. It’s a great job to be in just for the experience.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that Morgan will be a head coach one day,” Ausanio said. “And when she gets there, it will be more than deserved. I can’t wait to see it.”
For now, though, Royer will continue to be a part of the Red Foxes as an assistant coach, helping out her athletes as much as she can. But don’t be surprised if you see her as a head coach one day. She has the experience, after all.
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Mackenzie Meaney
Photo by Marist Athletics