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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Softball’s Kristi Bredbenner reflects on coaching, changing the culture

Kristy Mace
Head Coach for the Shockers softball team, Kristi Bredbenner stands by the dugout in the second inning of a game in April 2023.

When head coach Kristi Bredbenner was a little girl, she played many sports but found that softball was the perfect fit for her.

“I wasn’t gifted with speed, and it was a sport that allowed me to hit the ball over the fence and not have to use my speed,” Bredbenner said.

She played travel ball before committing to Truman State University in Missouri, where she was named a four-time All-MIAA pick, two-time Division II All-American, and MVP of the conference in 2000.

In her fifth year with the Bulldogs, she helped coach the team after head coach Kristi Schroeder left. Bredbenner said the administration felt comfortable with her leading practices and gave her the position of head coach for the year after a failed open search.

“I fell in love with coaching, and (I) was originally going to do something in the business world and ended up deciding that coaching was what I wanted to do,” Bredbenner said.

Bredbenner was an assistant coach at UC Santa Barbara before becoming the head coach at Emporia State University.

She said coaching a Division II school is not substantially different from coaching a Division I school; both revolve around the fundamentals and foundation to help players get better at the game.

Bredbenner joined Wichita State for its 2012 campaign, taking over a young team in a season that saw many injuries. She said when she first arrived, she worked on changing the culture of the team.

“I think the biggest thing … was just working and getting the athletes to buy into the fact that they could be good enough,” Bredbenner said. “I think we started off when we first got here with much more of a disciplinarian like, ‘Hey, we’re going to do all the little things right.’”

Getting the little things right meant changing the way players dressed, acted, practiced and how they went to school. Bredbenner said that although the changes seemed like a lot at the time, she thought that it would create an expectation level that the players could meet.

“The first couple years were tough,” Bredbenner said. “The kids worked really hard, but we didn’t see a ton of results. And you know, it was just more getting the kids to believe in being winners.”

In her first three years at Wichita State, Bredbenner took the Shockers from a 15-40 record in 2012 to 34-21 in 2014, winning the American Athletic Conference regular season title for the first time in program history.

Bredbenner said she has gotten less strict with the players over time, something she attributes to the hard work she put in in her early years. She said in the first six years, she personally handled conditioning the players because there was no one else to do it.

“We were in great shape, and that was a part of the area to me where we worked hard, and we took pride in it and kind of weeded out the kids that didn’t want to put the time and effort into being in good shape,” Bredbenner said.

She said she has not changed much in her expectation level but thinks that veteran players have done a great job of teaching the younger players that when “Coach B yells,” it’s coming from a place of teaching and learning.

“I think that we have a very close-knit team that has really learned to pick each other up, and they know at the end of the day that their coaching staff’s fighting as hard as they possibly can for them,” Bredbenner said.

Redshirt senior Madyson Espinosa said that fans do not get to see Bredbenner’s soft side and how much she cares for her players’ mental health outside of the field.

“She’s never somebody that is going to give up on you,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa said Bredbenner will be first to tell a player to “pick it up,” but also the first person to praise the player as well. Espinosa said players have to pay their dues and respect to the success Bredbenner has brought to Wichita State.

“She’s really changed the whole thing around,” Espinosa said. “I really don’t see Shocker softball without Coach B. I think that the reason we have become so successful is because she is a great person on and off the field.”

Bredbenner said that although she has received offers from different schools, she loves the City of Wichita and Wichita State.

“The people in the community are very involved in Wichita State; they want to see it be really successful, and so if you’ve been a sport that has had success. They really make you feel special,” Bredbenner said. “And it’s that piece of it to me from the community aspect of. It’s really hard to walk away from.”

She said she loves her staff and student-athletes and thinks Wichita State is a great fit for her.

“When something’s a really good fit, maybe the opportunities that come along sound really good,” Bredbenner said. “But when you start to dig deep, you (have) got to do what’s best for you professionally and personally, and I just haven’t had that opportunity yet; Wichita State’s been able to beat them out in many different areas.”

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About the Contributors
Melanie Rivera-Cortez
Melanie Rivera-Cortez, Sports Editor
Kristy Mace
Kristy Mace, Photo Editor
Kristy Mace is the photo editor for The Sunflower. She's majoring in psychology. Currently a junior, Mace hopes to go on to get her Ph.D. and become a neuropsychologist. She also plays for Wichita State's bowling team and does professional photography aside from The Sunflower.

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