Most coaches that you see coaching high-level teams started their journey on the field, playing through college and often in the professional world as well. A head coaching job is typically the end goal for these athletes.
In the case of Hannah Flippen, one of the newest coaches on the University of Utah softball team, she was not expecting to come into this position so soon.
Flippen graduated from the University of Utah in 2017 with her bachelor’s degree in psychology and human development. For her, graduate school was the logical next step. She has career aspirations to be a teacher, so she was hoping to go back to the U to study elementary education.
“My mom was a teacher and I love kids and love being around kids and that’s why I chose to pursue teaching,” said Flippen. “I knew through my four years at undergrad that I loved being with the people and the team and the state of Utah. Coach A told me after I graduated to stay and help out with the team and study here and work with the team. It was so easy to say yes because I love it here so much.”
Flippen spent the year after graduation attending graduate school and helping out with the team in her free time. She never expected to be offered a full-time position as an assistant coach.
Flippen received the news while at a summer softball tournament with Team USA during the summer of 2018. It came out of the blue, and she remembers feeling overwhelmed for the rest of the day.
“The day that I got the call — I remember it exactly — I was walking around the mall with some of my USA friends at a summer ball tournament. I remember having the biggest smile on my face after she told me,” Flippen said. “Coach A wanted me as her assistant coach. I get to represent the school and the team and to build the program in the way that I want to. I was proud and shocked, but ecstatic and happy.”
Flippen brings a unique perspective to the coaching staff at Utah because of her past as a professional softball player. She has been a member of numerous teams, including the Scrap Yard Dogs and the USA National softball team. In the upcoming summer, Flippen will be living in Chicago and competing with the Chicago Bandits.
During her time at Utah, Flippen was a standout player on the team from 2014-17 where she left her name as the first three-time All-American in the team’s history. She also left her name in the record books as the first Utah player to be honored as the Pac-12 Player of the Year multiple years in a row. Flippen was also the first athlete in Pac-12 conference history to win player of the year as well as Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
Flippen is at the top of the Utah record books in runs, hits and batting average and she is the only Ute who made the All-Pac-12 team all four years that she was on the team.
Now that she is off of the field for Utah, Flippen is excited to step fully into a coaching role. She primarily works with the hitters and outfielders on the team and helps them with daily drills as well as scouting ahead and preparing them for whatever team they will face in the next weekend.
Outside of helping the team on the field, Flippen sees herself as a middle ground between the players and the coaches since it has only been a few years since she was in their shoes as a collegiate student-athlete.
Although she is not actively pursuing her education degree, Flippen can still utilize many of the skills she gathered, both on and off the field, in her coaching job. Being a member of so many different teams has prepared her to work with each individual player on the roster.
“There are so many different ways to teach and learn something and to coach kids. I have learned the different ways that people respond to coaching, the different ways that you can coach and the different values that other coaches have,” Flippen said. “Having those experiences has helped me as a coach because I have learned to say and teach skills in a different way.”
Stepping into this assistant coaching role has helped Flippen to see an entirely new side of the game and to work with players in a unique way. Flippen offers both a professional and alumni perspective to the girls on the team, and because of this, she is seeing success from the sidelines as a coach.
Flippen’s prior knowledge and experience are two of the key tools that she is using to accomplish some of her goals for the Utah program. Most importantly, she wants to continue to build on the culture that has always existed within the program. She wants to stress how grateful they all are to play the game that they love every single day.
“Without [the Utah softball program], I would never have developed into the player that I am and I would not have had the opportunity to play pro,” she said. “I wouldn’t have met the people that I did and I would never have had any of the opportunities that I have had.”