Dot-ing history at LU

Most people would run in the opposite direction after hearing a lion’s roar. However, this year’s theme for the Liberty University softball team is “Chase the Lion.” 

The team chose this theme as the mindset of playing each game with freedom from doubt and fear by chasing their fears, meeting them face to face and overcoming them in Christ’s strength. 

Head Coach Dot Richardson fell in love with softball because of the freedom it granted. However, due to a societal view of gender at the time, she was denied the chance to play.

Richardson was just 10 years old when she was catching with one of her friends at her brother’s baseball game and the coach of a Class-A fast pitch team made up of 22-year-olds noticed her and asked her to join their team.

Richardson helped the U.S. to nine gold medals (photo by Siani Null)

“I was denied the opportunity to compete because of who I am, and there were a lot of other women who were denied the opportunity,” Richardson said. “So, for me there was always this freedom about how now I have the opportunity to play.”

Richardson’s fast pitch debut in 1972 was just the beginning of a long line of opportunities God planned to open. In 1975, at 13, she became the youngest girl to play in the women’s major league after receiving an offer to play for the Orlando Rebels. After nine years on the team and one year of playing collegiately for Western Illinois, Richardson then transferred to play softball for University of California, Los Angeles.

At UCLA, Richardson was part of the 1982 team that won the first NCAA Softball National Championship. Other collegiate-level accolades include earning UCLA’s All-University Athlete Award, 1980’s NCAA Player of the Decade and No. 43 of the Top 100 NCAA Student-Athletes of the Century.

The start of her national career began in 1979 as the youngest starter for the United States at the first Pan American Games that included softball. Richardson went on to compete in four more Pan American Games and five World Championships in addition to making the 1996 and 2000 Olympic teams, earning a total of nine gold medals for the U.S. 

After graduating from college, while still training to represent the United States in softball throughout, Richardson received her Master’s in Exercise Physiology and Health from Adelphi University and her M.D. from University of Louisville.

She completed her five-year orthopedic surgery residency at University of Southern California, went on to run her own practice and even considered running for U.S. Senate for the State of Florida in 2013. 

But all her plans changed when Richardson received a phone call from Liberty University’s former Athletic Director Jeff Barber. 

Dot Richardson has been head coach for five years (Photo by Nathan Spencer)

The night before she received the call, Richardson said she prayed the Lord would make it clear to her where he wanted her to be so she could serve him more. She had never coached college before and was not even aware of Liberty’s location. But she felt the need to be obedient to the Lord’s calling. 

“It was very humbling and very modest,” Richardson said. “Softball was on the South campus and the field was just like a rec field. The office and the locker room were in a double wide trailer, but we just felt this is where the Lord wanted us to be.”

Liberty softball has come a long way from the “humble” beginnings in the five years Richardson has been head coach. A new softball stadium was built and the team that was once ranked 276 out of 295 programs in 2013 is currently ranked 29th in the nation. Each year since the first has brought an improved record upon the previous year.

“The second year we became the most improved Division I softball program in the nation,” Richardson said. “The third year we won more games in the history of Liberty softball in one season. The fourth year was the pivotal movement of our program, that was when we won the NISC (National Invitational Softball Championship). I knew that our program had now overcome that hurdle when I looked into the faces of our players because they believed they can beat teams all around the country and win a national championship.”

Last year, the Lady Flames won Big South regular-season championships and the Big South conference tournament that took them to the NCAA Columbia Regional.

As for the upcoming 2019 spring season, the Flames hope to continue in the direction of growth. They match up against several top 100 ranked teams including No. 1 Washington, No. 3 UCLA, No. 10 Tennessee and No. 14 Texas A&M. 

“My prediction for this year is that our team is going to be challenged, and my prayer is that we are facing those challenges with the heart of a champion,” Richardson said. “That means a heart determined to refuse to be the weakest link of the team and a heart that is selfless and will lift each other up to make their teammates play better than they ever thought possible. If they do that, there is no telling how far we can go.”

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