Leading off: Lawson raises standard for UK softball



By Chandler Howard

Things changed when Rachel Lawson was named the third softball coach in UK history. After a rocky 17-37 record in her first season in 2007, the Cats posted one of the best seasons in school history last year, going 34-23. This year, UK (19-12, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) is off to another hot start.

Under her guidance, numerous athletes have inserted their names into school record books. Her ten years of prior collegiate coaching experience have helped her lead the Cats to the first NCAA tournament appearance in school history.

But even after a decorated career at the University of Massachusetts, Lawson never intended to pursue a career in coaching. She was interested in becoming a lawyer.

“Initially, coaching was just a way to help me pay for graduate school,” Lawson said. “I never thought I would have a career in it. But then I discovered the passion I have for it and I have never looked back. It has been great for me so far.”

Lawson accepted an offer from UK after serving as head softball coach at Western Kentucky University from 2005-07 and as an assistant coach at the University of Maryland from 1996-2002.

“I was very impressed by the administration’s mindset and the overall class of the program,” Lawson said. “Not only are they focused on winning but they strive to ensure the athletes have a positive experience while playing here. That was the deciding factor for me.”

UK also claimed its first postseason victory last year. Currently, UK is off to another fast start (19-12). The Cats also attained their first national ranking in school history when they held the 23rd position in the USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll for one week earlier this season.

But Lawson still has other goals for the program. As a former player, she understands the needs of the each athlete on the team. Lawson said she hopes to serve as a mentor for the girls, as well as providing them the opportunity to see their potential.

Growing up, Lawson was the 10th of 12 children. She credits much of her present character to life in a large family.

“My childhood had such an influence on the person I am today that I owe part of my success to it,” Lawson said. “Being in a family of twelve children made life interesting, to say the least. All of the things that go along with living in a family like mine are truly unforgettable.”

Off the field, Lawson keeps a passion for reading, particularly literature pertaining to law. Staying true to her Montana roots, she also enjoys outdoor activity.

But Lawson’s strongest passion remains on the softball field.

“I love everything about the game — playing, being on the field, watching players succeed — everything,” Lawson said. “I want to be the person who shows the athletes how great they can be.

“There is no place I would rather be.”