New coach hopes to turn program around

Corey Carmichael | Contributing Writer


After almost a decade at James Madison University, Kristy Norton has joined the UNC Wilmington family as the school’s new softball coach.  Following her is an impressive track record both playing and coaching that gives the program hope for sunny days after a few dismal years. 

Just the fourth coach in the fast pitch era at the university, Norton already feels the full support of the administration and community behind her.

“Having such a low turnover grants me the sense of stability, giving both me and my recruits a great feeling of a bright future,” Norton said. 

Her coaching experience dates back to her freshman season at UNC Greensboro when she led the Carolina Wildcats, an 18-under travel team.  Although starting to coach at 18 was earlier than most, Norton was groomed from a very young age to be a leader in the sport. 

Growing up as an only child with a coach as a father, she found the transition from player to coach to be a rather seamless and natural progression. 

“I remember coming back from games or driving home from tournaments and my father and I breaking down the metrics of the game,” she said. “I was also fortunate to have a lot of good coaches along the way that really taught the game rather than throwing the balls out and saying go figure it out.” 

Norton began as an assistant coach at her alma mater in 2002, spending two seasons at UNCG.  She assumed many vital roles for the team, such as working with outfielders and hitters, as well as administrative duties, revising the strength and conditioning program and coordinating travel. 

At JMU, 24 of her players received a total of 42 All-CAA and CAA All-Rookie teams.  Also under Norton’s instruction, the team provided the best year in school history in 2007, setting record-marks for batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, home runs and runs batted in, ranking nationally in many of the same categories en route to a program-best 37 victories.

The many roles Norton has played coming up through the ranks have prepared her to take the reigns of her own program, and it is starting to show.  UNCW has already surpassed its win total from last year with 22 games left on the regular season schedule, currently standing at 11-8 with a 1-4 record in CAA play. The new coach shows the fire and determination to meet the challenge of the turning the proud program around.

“I really have to be a coach,” Norton said. “These players are hungry to learn and get better to turn things around.  It’s my job to make sure they improve from their freshman year to their senior year, and develop them as players and people.”

Norton is a native of Fayetteville, N.C., and earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science with a minor in coaching from UNCG in 2002.  She also completed her master’s in recreation and sport management at JMU in 2005.