Penn State softball’s fourth-year head coach Amanda Lehotak can finally cross a career milestone off her list: coaching in front of her family.
This weekend’s road series at Nebraska marks the first time she’ll be able to bring one of her teams to the Cornhusker State in 11 years as a head coach. It’s only an hour drive from her hometown of Omaha to Bowlin Stadium in Lincoln, meaning just about everyone she grew up with will be there for Penn State’s three-game series against the Huskers.
“My stepdad has Alzheimer’s, so it was always his dream for us to come back and play there,” Lehotak said. “Literally everybody in my life lives in Nebraska but me and two other cousins.”
Lehotak’s Nittany Lions have their road routine down pat, having already played 33 away games to just five at Beard Field due to weather-related cancellations earlier in the season. For any other Big Ten coach, this weekend would be just another business trip, but for Lehotak, it couldn’t be more special.
“[Coaches] miss everything. We miss weddings, birthdays, reunions, and parties, so to be able to share what I do with my family for a weekend, I can’t wait,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Lehotak has made a long-awaited homecoming. A decorated softball player herself, Lehotak jumped on the opportunity to play college ball at Ole Miss, where she set the program’s single-season hits record as a sophomore in 2001. But it simply didn’t feel right in Oxford, so she transferred home to Nebraska-Omaha for her final two years of eligibility.
“I got the best of both worlds,” Lehotak said. “I got to play in the SEC, then I got to go back, grow up a little bit, and be with my family.”
She graduated from UNO with a bachelor’s degree in family science then immediately embarked on her coaching career. Lehotak started locally, serving as an assistant at Daniel J. Gross High School in Bellevue, Neb., before taking an interim position at College of Saint Mary back home in Omaha.
Lehotak made another stop at Missouri Western State then it was off to sunny Florida and Jacksonville University. After one last year as an assistant, Lehotak finally landed her big break, being promoted to head coach of the Dolphins – a position she held for five seasons. Next up was a two-year stop at Texas-San Antonio.
Lehotak took her biggest career leap in July 2013, when she was named Penn State’s seventh softball coach in program history.
This weekend is an exciting next step in Lehotak’s coaching career. In front of scores of family and friends, she’ll lead her Nittany Lions with a little extra Nebraskan spirit. Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.