The First Head Coach of Duke Softball

The First Head Coach of Duke Softball

Softball has been a part of Marissa Young's life since the age of 7. Now, she leads the newly established program at Duke.

Photo by Briana Brough

The California native – born in Orange, raised in Santa Ana – was a three-time All-American selection as a pitcher at the University of Michigan, graduating in 2003. She played professionally for two years, one in Italy and one with the Texas Thunder. She got into coaching full time after she had her second child, serving as head coach at Concordia University in Ann Arbor before spending two years as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan and the next two years as an assistant coach at UNC. She was named the first head softball coach at Duke University in July 2015 and will lead the program in its debut season during the 2017-18 academic year. She lives in south Durham with her husband, James Lamar, and children Layla, 11, Jolyna, 9, and Kayden, 6.

What age did you start playing?

I started at 7. My best friend, who talked me into signing up for softball, was the pitcher and she would cry on the mound if she wasn’t doing well. Finally, I was like, “Give me the ball, I want to try this, I can do it.” So [my dad, Robert Young] got me pitching lessons and it progressed from there. I loved being in every pitch and having a lot of control over the game as a pitcher.

What are the motivations that drive you in your day to day?

Everything that I do, every day, is going toward creating something that people are going to look back on and remember for many years to come. We’re creating Duke Softball, and what I want that to look like 5 or 10 years down the road really depends on the decisions and the work that we put in right now. I’ve never had so many meetings or spent so much time planning details, and now I just want to get on the field and do what I love, which is coach softball.

How do you feel about the young women that you’ve gotten to work with so far?

We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on strength and conditioning, teaching them what we want Duke Softball to represent on and off the field, building our culture and their mentality – trying to lay the foundation of what it means to wear that Duke uniform. I’m really proud of this group. It took a lot for them to sign on to come to a school where the program didn’t exist; they didn’t have a field to practice on. And for their commitment to being a part of building this from the ground up, it’s not been easy, but they are really embracing the process.

Construction is underway on a new softball stadium, too. What’s the timeline for that?

It’ll be ready in July, in time for camps. Being able to help young kids in the community – building confidence and life skills through softball – is a big passion of mine, so we are hosting several summer clinics.

I’m excited about where our field is located and being in the Ninth Street neighborhood where people can go eat and then walk over to the game. We don’t have the Cameron Crazies, so we need the Durham community to come out to support and fill the stadium. Let’s make history together in the spring of 2018!

Who are you most excited about playing?

I would probably say Florida State – they’re the best team in our conference and you have to beat the best to be the best. Florida State has been at the Women’s College World Series, and that’s where we aspire to be as well. And of course, our rivals down the road, the Tar Heels! That goes without saying!

Amanda MacLaren
Amanda MacLaren is the executive editor of Durham Magazine. Born in Mesa, Ariz., she grew up in Charlotte and attended UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in journalism. She’s lived in Durham for seven years. When she’s not at work, you can usually find her with a beer in hand at Fullsteam, Dain’s Place or Bull City Burger or getting takeout from Guasaca.