Eriksen turns to national team duties

The USF softball team played its final game of the season May 12, and by now coach Ken Eriksen should be well into his offseason and enjoying some time off. Yet he’s not.

For Eriksen, the end of the USF season means he can turn his full attention to his other job as coach of the USA Softball Women’s National Team.

Eriksen’s desk is littered with paperwork detailing all the players in his player pool as he prepares for the National Team Selection Camp, which will be held in Chula Vista, Calif., June 12 to 17.

“We’ve got to pick a whole new team,” Eriksen said. “To go out and try to find the talent and mesh the philosophy of Team USA, the tradition of Team USA with the type of people – not just the players, but the type of people – to continue such a great winning tradition is a daunting task, to say the least. There’s been not much sleep going on. There’s been piles and piles of paperwork going on, poring over stats and reports on personalities and everything else to try to mesh a great unit to go out and win the world championship in 2012 … We’re bringing the best players in the country to take a look at possibilities to fill 17 spots.”

Once the tryout period is over, Eriksen will bring his team to Plant City to play a set of exhibition games against the Junior Women’s National Team on June 25. After Plant City, the team will also play exhibition games in Salem, Va., and Bowie, Md., before heading to Surrey, British Columbia, for the Canadian Open FastPitch International Championship from July 9 to 17.

Eriksen will also lead the team in the sixth annual World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City, Okla., July 21 to 25.

In the past, USF has had two players in the national team system, and current infielder Kourtney Salvarola is a member of the 2010-11 junior national team. Eriksen said he believes USF has players who have a chance to earn a spot on Team USA if they can prove themselves to the rest of the coaching staff.

“(USF players have) to earn it. Kourtney Salvarola is in the junior national team program right now,” Eriksen said. “She’s working her way up and through. I think that we have players on our team right now that have potential to be involved in the United States national team program. I’m glad to say that the players that we have now and the players that are coming are all that type of caliber. And now they have to prove – not just to me, but to the rest of the coaching staff of Team USA – that they deserve a shot.

“I like the fact that we have four players right now that are up for All-America status in (Stephanie) Medina, Janine Richardson, (Gina) Kafalas and Sara Nevins. We’ve got some players here that can play, there’s no doubt about it.”

Though softball was dropped from the Olympic program following the 2008 games – largely because of the U.S.’s dominance – Eriksen said he still feels USF can benefit from his side job because he coaches the Bulls the same way he coaches the national team.

“I think that’s a great selling point because it brings USF recognition,” he said. “I’m not doing anything different than I’ve done with the national team in coaching than I do with USF. We do the same stuff. You have a different level athlete though. The toughest territory to work with as coaches is the six inches between the left ear and the right ear. If we can get those six inches to buy into what we’ve got, then we’re in business, but that’s a tough six inches sometimes.”