Preseason rankings may look nice, but they’re not what matters to University of Washington softball head coach Heather Tarr.
The Redmond native’s squad was ranked first in the Pac-12 and by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and second by USA Softball at press time. UW rolled out to a 5-0 record with victories at the Buzz Classic in Atlanta, Georgia, before taking on the University of Central Florida and teams at the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational in Florida after the Reporter’s deadline.
“In the end, we wanna win and prove that we’re the No. 1 team by the end of the year, but right now, that’s not really anything that we can concern ourselves with,” said Tarr, whose goal is “trying to develop a team to be the best version of itself by the end of the season.”
Redmond High graduate Kaija Gibson enters her senior season with the Huskies and nailed a two-RBI triple during the first run of games. Tarr tagged Gibson as a steady competitor who returns as a starter at first base and in the outfield.
“She’s just overall a great student of the game, an awesome teammate and becoming one of the best Huskies that we’ve had in just terms of leadership and who she is as a person and a student,” said Tarr, who graduated from Redmond High in 1993.
Redmond’s Amirah Milloy played with the Huskies in recent years and Mustang senior catcher Jennifer Cummings will join the UW squad next season.
“We know the academics are strong at Redmond, so that’s a given, I know the school,” said Tarr, adding that Gibson began her affiliation with UW as a bat girl and then attended Husky camps.
Before starring for and then coaching the Huskies to a national championship in 2009 and much more — including 600-plus victories and counting as she rolls into her 16th season — Tarr played softball, baseball, volleyball, basketball, soccer and attended a ski school as a youth in Redmond. As a high-schooler, she helped the Mustangs win a state slow-pitch championship.
Tarr credits former Redmond High coaches Jeannine Ewing and Kara Peterson for helping pave her path into the coaching realm.
“I just had great teachers and great coaches growing up, that’s probably the reason why I can do what I can do today ‘cause of their leadership,” said Tarr, who initially wanted to teach Spanish and geography, but gravitated toward coaching, something that was always on her radar as well.
While playing at UW, Tarr developed her focus on coaching softball by attending copious camps and clinics.
Tarr thrives on being in the position to teach players life skills like latching onto mental toughness and striving to put in their best performances.
She thinks it’s cool to see “people coming together as a group for a common goal, (and) just trying to learn every day to be a better person and be a better teammate.”
Leadership is a crucial part of Tarr’s game plan with her players as well.
“I love trying to help young women learn about leadership, learn that they are leaders, learn how to be better leaders within the environment that they’re in with us for the time that we have them,” she said.