Billerica’s Higgins celebrates win No. 300 – Lowell Sun
BILLERICA — Billerica Memorial High School softball coach Patty Higgins thought she was preparing her team for an ordinary game on Saturday. She noticed more alumni and more family members in attendance, but really didn’t think anything of it.
And when the game was over — a 14-0 win over Medford in the first round of the annual Krystle Campbell Memorial Tournament — the players, coaches, alumni and family members all surprised her in celebration of her 300th career win.
“I had no idea and it was totally shocking. My assistant coach Ed Romkey was the one apparently keeping track, so I had no idea about it,” Higgins said. “When they all came out and said 300 and I was like ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like, ‘Wow, I have been around for a long time.’”
Higgins is in her 29th season as head coach of the Indians. A former Billerica athlete who starred in softball and volleyball, Higgins credits former athletic director Barbara Hood for giving her a chance as the JV coach before replacing Josie McCafferty four years later in 1993 as the head coach.
“She is the one who I really credit for turning Billerica softball around and teaching me so much on how to coach. Josie showed me that coaching, especially with young women, it’s making them believe in themselves and each other, trusting each other and gaining confidence,” said Higgins, a physical education teacher at Locke Middle School. “And if you do that and they feel that way, they can accomplish amazing things. It’s just about supporting them and teaching them that you can do more than you think, and just trust yourself and trust the people around you. By setting that emotion, you can drill the skills, you can hit one hundred groundballs, you can teach them the game, as long as they have the love for each other, they’ll work hard to get better.”
In her first season, the Merrimack Valley Conference was featured some pitching. Billerica had Beth Love, Wilmington won the state championship behind Adrienne Fay and Dracut had flamethrower Carrie Ladebouche. Billerica had great success that first year and it has carried over the next three decades, which has included three league titles and three Div. 1 North titles.
This year’s team is 7-0, ranked second in the state.
“I have been so lucky to have been associated with so many great young women, who have turned into really special mothers and daughters,” said Higgins, who also gave credit to the late Ed Henry, as well as former Wilmington coaches Paul Lyman and Jake Townsend and former Tewksbury coach Leo DiRocco for teaching her so much about the game. “My name might be on the (300 wins), but there’s so many people involved. The best thing is this means that I’ve been fortunate to be connected with so many special people over the years. In every game, in every season, you just meet such strong young women who are playing the game they love as much as I love.
“That rubs off on you. It just makes you reflect on the relationships that I was able to develop over the years. It makes you reflect on all of the people who helped me along the way. Hopefully I have been able to give back to some of the women who have gone through the program.”
Billerica athletic director John Magliozzi said that when you look up Billerica softball in the dictionary, Patty’s face is next to it.
“Patty’s name is a staple in softball around here in Billerica. It’s the only name and face that I know with Billerica softball,” he said. “When the college kids get out in May, it’s amazing how many kids come back to catch a game. If you look around the fence, you can see all of the kids who come back and then all of the people who come back to volunteer to help her. She said it best that there’s probably a list of at least fifty people who helped her get to the 300 wins. She’s been able to establish that culture over the years. It’s so nice that she’s been able to reach that many kids, of softball players and a culture that kids want to be a part of.
“I think everyone knows that Patty is a tough-love kind of coach over the years. Over the last five years or so, she’s had to learn on the fly like everybody else to meet today’s kids. She’s always had the kids development, and not just on the field, but with the people that they are and become at the core of it all. She means what she says and says what she means.”