North Texas Daily

Merrida becomes key member of softball staff

Merrida becomes key member of softball staff

Merrida becomes key member of softball staff
April 02
00:05 2015

Reece Waddell / Staff Writer

Standing all of 5 feet tall, Mean Green softball assistant coach Christina Merrida delivers a much larger impact than her size would suggest. Many times, she is even mistaken for a player on the team.

At a tournament this past month in Houston, Merrida was actually given a warning from an umpire who thought she was a player shouting onto the field. It took a moment before Merrida and head coach Tracey Kee could explain that she was, in fact, a coach simply calling out instructions.University of North Texas Mean Green Softball Team

Christina Merrida

Even during her playing days at East Carolina University, Merrida was often underestimated. A four-year starting centerfielder and lead-off hitter at ECU, Merrida hit .378 during her senior season and was one of only five players to end the year with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. As fate would have it, Merrida played under Kee at ECU and is now coaching under her at North Texas. Merrida said getting to coach with Kee has been an incredible experience.

“Its been great, because she coached me in college,” Merrida said. “She’s one of the best coaches and mentors so I thought, ‘Why not come coach for her?’”

Prior to North Texas, Merrida spent two years as a volunteer assistant coach at Chowan University and most recently served as an assistant coach at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas. Merrida said the transition to North Texas has been smooth and painless.

“Its been easy, because I’m familiar with the system that [Kee] runs,” Merrida said. “It definitely helps with the chemistry of the team because we know how each other works.”

There have been cases when former players will try their hand at coaching. But Merrida said there is a fine line between playing and coaching, and she has to be careful not to cross it.

“The biggest difference to me is instead of being out there in the action, you’re just kind of sitting and observing,” Merrida said. “It’s important for me now that I’m a coach to see the bigger picture and to be able to help our girls out. One thing I have to work on is watching my mouth, since I’m not a player anymore.”

Merrida’s official title is “assistant coach,” yet she works with a wide variety of players. Merrida said she enjoys getting to help as many players as she can to the best of her ability.

“I really just want to make a positive impact,” Merrida said. “I feel like I bring a lot of energy and I help keep everyone up.”

Merrida has not been the only person to follow Kee to North Texas. Associate head coach Natalie Kozlowski was an assistant under Kee for 14 years at ECU before joining Kee in Denton last year. Kee said it’s nice to have people she is comfortable with on her staff because it makes everyone relax and do their jobs better.

“Really, it’s just been a ton of fun,” Kee said. “We have fun in the office. Christina brings an incredible energy to the field and my whole thing is, ‘If it isn’t broke, why try and fix it?’ I know these ladies really well and I’m excited to coach with them.”

Kee said Merrida has always been passionate about the game, and her enthusiasm  has always been her biggest asset.

“She got into coaching by herself,” Kee said. “She picked up a couple of schools before she came here and paid some time. But whenever you get someone that is young and energetic and full of passion you just know they will make a good coach.”

Because Merrida is still relatively young, having graduated from ECU in 2012, girls on the roster are able to relate to her more than other coaches. Junior utility player Taylor Schoblocher said Merrida’s age makes her easy to talk to.

“She’s just someone you can go to if you need to talk or get advice,” Schoblocher said. “She is still really young and she got through playing not too long ago, so that helps and she will give you the best advice she can.”

Merrida insists she has a lot to learn as a coach, but is excited about her opportunity at North Texas. She said working with both Kee and Kozlowski has been helpful and a dream come true.

“I always wanted the chance to work with the coaches that coached me in college,” Merrida said. “Now I have it.”

Featured Image: The team greets junior catcher Bryanna Wade at home plate after senior outfielder Kat Strunk smashed a two-run homerun during the game against Southern Mississippi University on March 15. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor 

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