By LARRY VAUGHT
There’s a lot to like about Kentucky softball coach Rachel Lawson and the way she’s built her program into a highly ranked national team annually. She has 452 wins in 13 years – the most of any UK softball coach – and 11 NCAA Tournament appearances.
However, Lawson knows there is one thing about her that likely would surprise most UK fans — and probably even coaches she competes against in the Southeastern Conference and nationally.
“I think the most interesting thing about me is that I was in the rodeo, which I think is really funny,” Lawson said. “It was something our entire family did. I started at age 5 and did it until I was 14 or 15. I did not start organized sports until I was 12 or 13.
“Rodeo was a family tradition passed down from person to person, horse to horse. It’s an all-year thing to take care of horses and compete but I really liked it.”
Lawson had eight older sisters and two brothers. She grew up on a farm and says her father was looking for an activity where all his children could participate at the same time. She lived in Utah until her family moved to Montana her junior year of high school.
“The amount of work on the farm and taking care of the horses was unbelievable,” Lawson said. “But rodeo was our family activity.”
Was she a star?
“I do not know if I would call me a rodeo star,” she laughed and said. “My siblings all loved rodeo. I liked riding. All I had to do was sit on the horse and race. I could rope and barrel race because that’s 100 percent the horse. I would just sit there and get credit, which is not much different from coaching.
“I learned a lot about hard work and how out of control you are as a rider. If a horse wants to do something it will. Again, kind of like coaching.”
The rodeo did have an impact on her softball interest. The rodeo arena was next to the community softball field and between events she would watch softball sitting on her horse. Later she played softball at Massachusetts and helped UMass reached the 1992 College World Series.
“Then my siblings would come get me (when she was watching softball) and I would come back for my next event,” Lawson said. “But that was really my first exposure to softball.”
She remembers playing baseball when she was younger and her family would play against neighborhood kids.
“We took out all the weeds and made base paths. I liked it because it was us against everybody. It was pretty cool,” the UK coach said.
She liked that sports specialization had not really started when she was young.
“Whatever the season was, that’s what you played. I kind of miss that,” Lawson said. “I would roller skate, play hockey in the garage. I tried track and volleyball. I was not inside very often. There were no video games or all these TV channels. I loved being outside and have no regrets at all about what my childhood was like.”