Fast Riser For Santa Clara

Aug. 19, 2004

By Mark Gomez
San Jose Mercury News At 23, Jaime Forman-Lau is not the youngest to coach Division I softball. She's not even the youngest to be named Santa Clara's softball coach -- her predecessor was 22. But Forman-Lau is making an unconventional jump, from player to coach. The Archbishop Mitty High graduate, who spent the past two seasons as SCU's pitching ace, will now be calling the shots for the Broncos. ``It's not the path most schools take,'' said Forman-Lau, whose only coaching experience was at Stanford and Santa Clara softball camps. ``What I lack in coaching experience, on the other hand, I have an advantage. I played for this team. I know the players, the school, how things work around here.'' In July, Forman-Lau was named Santa Clara's 10th coach in 25 years, taking over for Marcy Crouch, who left after earning her MBA at Santa Clara in June. Crouch took the job shortly after her senior season at Stanford then spent five years at the helm. A few months earlier, Forman-Lau was leading the Broncos to a first-place finish in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, earning pitcher of the year honors for a second consecutive season. She set a school strikeout record with 557 and is second in career wins (46), ERA (1.39) and shutouts (21). She spent her first two seasons at Stanford and was on the 2001 team that placed third in the women's College World Series. She graduated in three years with a bachelor's degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, opting not to play during her third year in order to complete her degree. Once she started playing at SCU, Forman-Lau didn't often hang out with her teammates, in part because she was a graduate student. (She received a master's degree in higher education administration in June). Instead she spent most of her free time in the coaches' office helping Crouch with administrative duties. . Crouch said she knows her one-time ace will face some hurdles. ``The hardest part is learning how to manage the players,'' said Crouch, who has been accepted to Boston University's sports psychology doctoral program. ``Learning how to manage people was definitely the biggest challenge for me and will be for Jaime also.'' Kelley Johnson, one of several returning players, believes adjusting to a former teammate turned coach will be seamless. ``She was the leader the last two years,'' Johnson said. ``The fact that she knows all of the returning players and the way the team has been run in the past, she knows what needs improving. I only see good things coming.'' Just three weeks on the job, Forman-Lau recently embarked on her first recruiting trip. She spent the first few weeks moving into her office at the Leavey Center and going through boxes of letters, statistics and videos submitted by recruits. She also sought out some advice. She recently spoke with Jerry Smith, the Broncos' highly successful women's soccer coach, to gain some insight on coaching at the collegiate level. She plans on utilizing several of the experienced coaches to help ease the transition. ``There's a lot of people here to learn from,'' Forman-Lau said. Forman-Lau was left with a well-stocked team. The Broncos enjoyed a milestone season in 2003, setting a single-season mark for victories while placing second in the inaugural season of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference. The Broncos followed with another 30-win season in 2004, the first time the program strung together winning seasons. Santa Clara lost another senior catcher Rachel Sherman, and will welcome four freshman. This marks the first season that the conference winner receives an automatic playoff berth. ``Our program's goal, which has yet to be achieved, is to make postseason,'' Forman-Lau said. ``We're in a unique situation to make that possible and keep it in our own hands.''