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Assistant softball coach Shelby Pendley directs a player on how to grip a bat at the Lobo Softball Field Wednesday afternoon. Pendley, along with Jessica Garcia, are former Lobos hired as coaches following the departure of Lisa-Ann Wallace.

Assistant softball coach Shelby Pendley directs a player on how to grip a bat at the Lobo Softball Field Wednesday afternoon. Pendley, along with Jessica Garcia, are former Lobos hired as coaches following the departure of Lisa-Ann Wallace.

Softball: Former softball stars return to coach

When Erica Beach needed two assistants to fill her softball coaching staff, she turned to two local products. One played for her during Beach’s early days at New Mexico. The other had a stellar prep career at a metro area high school.

This year, the Lobos brought in Jessica Garcia and Shelby Pendley to complete their coaching staff after an assistant coach left the program for an opportunity elsewhere. Last year’s assistant coach, Lisa-Ann Wallace, took the head coaching job at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, opening the door for Garcia and Pendley to return to Albuquerque to help the Lobos.

“It’s an awesome feeling for a coach, a head coach, to have that trust in you and that faith in you to be able to contribute to a program in that sense,” Garcia said. “And being looked at in that way is pretty awesome.”

The program got lucky bringing in both Garcia and Pendley, Beach said, considering how tough it is to transition from player to coach. So far, both have risen to the challenge and brought that energy and challenge in games and practices, Beach said.

“It’s a new role when you’re a player to go to that coaching position,” she said. “They’ve both been fantastic leaders to the team.”

Former Lobo wants to give back to program

Garcia played for New Mexico from 2009-12 and Beach said, put together one of the best careers in the program’s history. She twice earned top offensive player and MVP awards. Her 24 home runs in 2012 rank fifth in Mountain West single-season record books.

She also became the fifth Lobo, and the first since 1990, to earn NFCA All-American honors.

After completing her time at UNM, Garcia entered the professional ranks with the Akron Racers, a National Pro Fastpitch league team, winning the NPF title in 2014.

Garcia also has previous coaching experience. After holding assistant posts at Division III University of Redlands in California then at Monmouth University in New Jersey - spending one year at each stop - Garcia returned to the college program where she found so much success.

“I’ve just always had a really good relationship with her,” Beach said of Garcia, who also held a student-assistant position in her final academic year at UNM. “I knew she was hungry to continue in the coaching game, and I knew it would be a really good fit both personality-wise and coaching-wise.”

UNM hired Beach as its head coach in 2010, Garcia’s junior season on the team. Garcia said that the program had already been heading in the right direction, but Beach’s arrival helped the program make strides.

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Garcia pointed to the confidence she gained as a player, and as a woman under Beach and her coaching staff at the time. She will be working with the catchers and outfielders for on-field skills, but she said she wants to ensure current players get the positive experience that she received playing at UNM.

“I felt like if I could give a player just an ounce of what they gave me, it would be more meaningful for me, coaching-wise,” Garcia said. “They made me a better person. They made me a better player. They gave me confidence, so if I could give that back – even just a little bit – I feel it would be worth everything.”

Prep star returns to home state for first coaching gig

While Garcia’s resume features other coaching stops, Pendley is making her assistant coaching debut with the Lobos this year.

During her prep days, Pendley received all-state honors at Rio Rancho High School. The Rio Rancho Sports Advisory Council also named her its Female Athlete of the Year in 2010.

She spent one year at Arizona as a player before eventually transferring to an Oklahoma squad that won a national title in 2013. The NPF’s USSSA Pride drafted her No. 2 overall, and she won the league’s rookie of the year award.

Beach referred to Pendley, a three-time All-American, as one of the best players, if not the best player, to come from the state of New Mexico. Beach said after a couple of phone conversations with Pendley she knew she would make a solid addition to the staff.

“Even though she’s young, she’s wise beyond her years,” Beach said. “She’s doesn’t act her age, I guess you could say. She’s mature. She is really driven, one of the hardest working people I know.”

When the chance came to return to her home where she accomplished so much to return the favor, Pendley said she didn’t think twice to turn down the opportunity. It gives her a good feeling to do so, she said. Like Garcia, Pendley said her top goal as a coach is to help the players progress in playing skills as well as life skills.

“That was something we had to do at Oklahoma,” Pendley said. “We were taught how to act off the field. The saying was always ‘women amongst girls.’ That saying meant instead of being a child, being an adult, and preparing them for the real world.”

That doesn’t mean it’s been challenge free. Pendley said seeing the game from the other perspective offers its own difficulties. As a player, she said you don’t see half of what’s going on like the coaches deal with, whether it be office work, scouting reports or travel logistics.

It’s also different as a coach, Pendley said, since players have direct control over what happens during games, and coaches can’t do the work for them.

“As a player you actually have a physical impact on the game,” she said. “As a coach, it’s you instilling your trust in your athletes and preparing them. That’s the biggest difference.”

Advancing the runners

Beach has a track record for sending assistant coaches to head coaching positions. In addition to Wallace, who re-entered the head-coaching ranks after her time at UNM, former Lobo Lyndsey Angus became a head coach at Pensacola State College in Florida. Former UNM volunteer assistant Jennifer McKibben joined Angus at Pensacola.

The head coaching profession isn’t solely about developing skills and character within the players under her, Beach said. Another component involves helping young coaches advance their skills to be able to lead others in the right direction.

Beach said she takes great pride in having her assistants find their first head coaching jobs as much as her players moving on to bigger and better things.

“You want to hold onto them for as long as you can,” Beach said. “But you have to realize that if they’re good coaches then they’re going to get recognized and they’re going to get some opportunities down the road.”

Editor's note: This story had been corrected and clarified to fix mistakes made about UNM's former assistant coaches.

J.R. Oppenheim is the assistant sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s basketball and women’s soccer. Contact him at or on Twitter @JROppenheim.


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