When reflecting on Carol Hutchins’ career as Michigan’s softball coach, tangibly it is about the overall success of the program, the wins, the national championship.
Hutchins is in her 38th season as Wolverines coach and is the winningest coach, male or female, in Michigan athletics history. She currently is the second-winningest coach in NCAA softball history with a record of 1,669-532-5 and is six wins from becoming the winningest coach, a mark she held for four years.
She arrived in Ann Arbor in 1983 as an assistant to Bob DeCarolis and then was elevated to head coach in 1985. Michigan has won 22 Big Ten conference championships under her guidance and the crown jewel, the 2005 national championship.
But it has been more than that for Hutchins.
“You learn at some point in your coaching career, when you've done it for 40 years, that you always thought you were just here to win games,” Hutchins said. “And then you realize you're really here to grow people up. And I certainly grew up myself. But watching them grow into strong, powerful women is, without a doubt, my greatest joy when they come back as former athletes as alums, as doctors and lawyers and educators and Olympians.
Carol Hutchins, Michiganian
The Detroit News
"It's my greatest joy for them to come back. I'm a part of their life for life, they're a part of mine. They've impacted me every bit as much as I've impacted them.”
Hutchins has been at the forefront of advocating for and promoting women’s athletics and women coaches nationally. When she arrived at Michigan, she would cut the softball field grass and chalk the lines. All these years later, she will jump in and help pull the tarp during a rain delay.
“The whole journey has been watching the evolution of women in sport and really women in society, and I've certainly been able to be a part of that,” Hutchins said. “I look back on the old days, and I think how far we've come, but I hope that we don't ever settle for that because we're still going.
“But I wouldn't change any of it. It's part of my life. It's part of my history, it is part of our history. And I hope we always look back and are thankful for where we've come, and I hope everybody is always thankful for those who came before them. Because it's one of the tenants of our program we tell our kids to be this is about those who came before you and to honor and respect them. And I feel the same way about all my former comrades who came before me.”
Hutchins is a member of several local and national task forces to move women’s athletics forward at all levels.
“I'm definitely not gonna let up on it,” Hutchins said. “It's one of my passions that women have the same opportunity in life as men in every category. I happen to be involved in women in sport, so that's a category I pay more attention to and have more impact on, and I continue to strive to make sure that women get the opportunity to do what I've done my whole life and are judged by the same standard as men."
In 2010, Hutchins founded the Michigan Softball Academy, a one-night, on-field clinic that has raised more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society, specifically breast cancer research and awareness.
When Kim Barnes Arico first arrived at Michigan to become the women’s basketball coach, it was the day of the academy, and that is where she began her friendship with Hutchins. Long before her arrival, Barnes Arico was more than aware of Hutchins and what she has meant to women’s athletics and called her a “pioneer.”
“We need to continue to fight for women, to fight for young women, to fight for girls to show them that they can have whatever it is they want, that they can be whatever it is they want,” Barnes Arico said. “They can be successful being a woman.
“Hutch obviously set that example and set that bar and she does it with class and integrity and character, and she's willing to help all the young ones that come along. I can't speak enough about her.”
Hutchins said she doesn’t sit back and think about her career and legacy.
“I'm still in the middle of it. Still day to day, game to game,” Hutchins said. “My mom always said I was the luckiest person she knows. I've just had tremendously great fortune. I've been around a lot of great people who helped me achieve any success I've had.
“And I do, I feel really lucky every day. I'm lucky to be sitting in this dugout, I’m lucky to be surrounded by all the people that I love. I’ve gotten to do what I love to do every day since I started doing it. I think that's all I can tell you, is I feel like I'm a really lucky person.”
Occupation: University of Michigan women's softball coach
Education: Bachelor's degree, Michigan State University; master's degree in physical education from Indiana University
Why honored: Hutchins is in her 38th season as Wolverines coach and is the winningest coach, male or female, in Michigan athletics history.