Lehman softball coach’s recipe for success:

Have fun, learn how to win, compete for a title

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For the past decade, the Lehman College softball program has been one mired in mediocrity. 

Actually that may be putting it mildly. 

Since the start of the 2008 season, the Lightning have won just 72 games while losing a stunning 208, posting just a 32-83 mark in City University of New York Athletic Conference play through March 31.

So when the Lightning got off to an 0-10 start to begin this season, it seemed another lost season was in the making for Lehman. Especially with the departure of head coach Donald Gannon, a New York Police Department officer who couldn’t spare the time after a promotion at his day job.

Enter Erin Van Nostrand.

Van Nostrand joined the school a year ago as the associate athletic director, but has impressive credentials. She’s a former national softball coach of the year from her days at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington, where she led the Lutes to the 2012 NCAA Division III national championship. 

So after getting Gannon’s resignation, all Lehman athletics director Martin Zwiren had to do was walk down the hall, knock on Van Nostrand’s door, and say, “Help!” 

Accepting the task of turning around the long-struggling softball program is a huge undertaking, but Van Nostrand has known only success wherever she has coached. She logged more than 100 wins in her five seasons at Pacific Lutheran, and prior to that, guided Pine Manor College of Massachusetts to four 20-win seasons, including a school-record 31 victories in 2008. 

So on March 25, when the first two games of Van Nostrand’s Lehman coaching career ended with losses of 16-0 and 13-0 in a doubleheader vs. the College of Staten Island, how did she handle it?

“That day was maybe one of the most fun coaching days that I’ve had in a long time,” Van Nostrand said. “I don’t have to prove myself to anybody in terms of wins and losses and my ability to coach this game. So for me it’s about making sure these girls have a really positive experience and understand the game and learn the life lessons that come along with it. 

“So standing over at third base and watching them cheering and having such a good time — and at that point in time it was 10-0, we were getting buried — but they were still having a real good time and I was like, ‘This is what it’s about.’”

Van Nostrand credits assistant coaches Melissa Torres and Moises Rivera with helping make the transition back to coaching a smooth one and feels, despite Lehman’s record and history, the Lightning are not far away from turning things around.  

“Really, we’re not far off,” Van Nostrand said. “We did a lot of good things, but we’re inexperienced. So there’s a lot of technical stuff that we’re trying to explain to them. But they are awesome, and they’re having fun, and if you can make it fun then they’re more willing to learn.”

The learning paid off pretty quickly as Lehman defeated CUNYAC-rival John Jay, 6-3, on March 30 for its first victory of the season in Van Nostrand’s third game as head coach. 

Can she turn Lehman into a program that can eventually compete for CUNYAC titles?

“Well, that’s the goal,” she said. “But we have to take baby steps. So we’ll see.”

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