After a successful five-year playing career at Nebraska, Olivia Ferrell is ready to take on new challenge in coaching
Olivia Ferrell always had an idea of what she wanted to do after her softball playing career: she wanted to be a college coach.
After her freshman and sophomore seasons as a Husker pitcher, the Elkhorn South grad did not stop bugging the Nebraska staff about her dreams.
Husker head coach Rhonda Revelle said she remembers the moment that came about and knew from there that Ferrell would make a great coach someday. A fifth season of eligibility as a player delayed those coaching aspirations. But after a standout career, Ferrell is on the Huskers staff as a graduate assistant for the 2023 season.
“I’m super excited,” Ferrell said. “I’m really putting a lot of energy into the girls and what I can do to make them better. I’m looking forward to when you hit a bump in the road, I want to be there and help them get out of it and be that leader for them and help in any way I can.”
Ferrell was one of the voices for Nebraska after she served as a team captain during the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
Coaching, in a way, is not too different for Ferrell. During her playing career, the other players always referred to her as ‘Coach Liv’ because of her strong leadership presence.
Current Husker players look forward to having Ferrell as a mentor on the coaching staff.
“She is always trying to get the best out of her teammates and that was her role as a leader,” fifth-year pitcher Courtney Wallace said. “I think it helped me a lot going into this year with being able to have her around. I still go to her for advice.”
Revelle said she saw those qualities like Ferrell’s work ethic, her relationships with her teammates and her leadership throughout Ferrell’s time as a pitcher. Revelle was looking forward to the opportunity to keep Ferrell around for at least one more season.
“She can’t get enough of the game,” Revelle said. “The coaches have to put in long hours, and she has that appetite for that. She just keeps going. She just wants to be a coach first and foremost.”
The transition was drawn out for Ferrell to finally hang up her glove and cleats, made even more difficult after she returned for her fifth season in 2022.
Ferrell was the Huskers’ ace last season, as she led them to a Big Ten Championship and the school’s first NCAA Tournament in six seasons. Ferrell finished with a 2.00 earned run average in 171 and 2/3 innings and was second-team all-conference.
As a team leader last season, she got a peek into the coach’s circle. But Ferrell said she is looking forward to fully diving into managing a college softball program.
“I feel like this year, having that look into why we are doing certain things in practice or structured this way,” Ferrell said. “Then the behind-the-scenes like the office work and scholarship building or why we are doing certain things. I do want to be a head coach, so I try and listen to what Coach Revelle does because there is a lot of administrative work.”
Even though Ferrell is in a different position now, Revelle said she has seen the same work ethic and habits that she showed as a player.
Whether that is popping into the other coach’s offices, helping out with pitching coach Lori Sippel or throwing bullpen sessions, Revelle has not had to restrict Ferrell into the coaching world.
“There hasn’t been a challenge at all because she is such a good student of the game and she is still the same person,” Revelle said. “She has got big eyes for setting up and tearing down. She did that as a player. She is doing that as a coach. Those are the intangibles of a great coach right there.”
The most difficult part for Ferrell has been trying to rework her relationships with her now-former teammates. Ferrell and the rest of the Huskers were all close and she still lives with senior first baseman Mya Felder.
But as a member of the coaching staff, Ferrell and some of her close friends, like Felder and Wallace, have tried to not talk much about softball just to be safe.
“It was not like I went from the party teammate to the stern coach to them,” Ferrell said. “I was always this embodiment of the standard.
“It’s not about keeping distance really; it’s just making sure we don’t talk about softball that much because that is where it can cause some trouble.”
Wallace, who has been friends with Ferrell for almost a decade, said their prior relationship and Ferrell’s coach-like tendencies as a player have not made a move awkward.
“I think some parts of our outside relationship have changed a little bit because she is a coach, which is fine,” Wallace said. “Sometimes we just have to dial it back at practice when we are laughing at practice because she is a coach now. But it doesn’t feel different because she was doing those exact things before.”
Revelle said she has noticed a small shift between how Ferrell and the rest of the Huskers work with each other but knows the players are cognizant of the boundaries between them.
“I even asked the other day if it has been difficult because your teammates have conversations with the coaches that they don’t have,” Revelle said. “She said they are really respectful of that side of it. I think on that side of it, the team has made it really easy for Liv to transition to being a coach.”
Despite being in a new position, Ferrell said she is ready to use her leadership skills and experience to help replicate Nebraska’s success from last season to 2023.
“I’m trying to make sure we still uphold those standards and still being me and setting that example every day at practice,” she said. “It will be interesting to see what my role will be when they start playing and how much I will bite my tongue or not and how well they take it. They’ve been doing a great job.”
Nebraska is off to a 5-5 start on the 2023 season and will play five games in the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, New Mexico starting Friday.