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West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Aug. 27, 2018 1 year ago

CFCA alumna Kristen Butler settles in as head coach for Rutgers softball | Observer Preps

Kristen Butler, an alumna of CFCA and the University of Florida, was named the head coach of the softball program at Rutgers University this summer after a successful run at the University of Toledo.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

Kristen Butler’s softball career has taken her around the world.

There have been many stops since she was a six-year standout for Central Florida Christian Academy — as a star player at the University of Florida, as a professional player in Chicago and in Japan, and then there is her coaching career — but Butler still can recall her time on the campus in east Ocoee.

Kristen Butler. Courtesy of the University of Toledo

“I grew up there,” Butler said. “I was there because mom worked there. I remember it like the back of my hand.”

Currently, she’s only about 1,000 miles away in Piscataway Township, New Jersey, settling in as the recently hired head coach of the Rutgers University softball program. It’s an exciting opportunity for the former Eagle to lead a program within the Big Ten after an incredibly successful four years at the University of Toledo — her first go-around as a head coach after years as an assistant.

Reached by phone Aug. 13, Butler said one of the more pressing goals for her and family is to simply finish unpacking.

“We haven’t been there a ton — this week will kind of be our first week being (in the family’s new home) for a good while,” Butler said. “We’re trying to finish unpacking and get going.”

Getting going will be important — there is no rest for Division I coaches. The spring season for college softball, which begins in February, is closer than it seems, and the work recruiting and building a program never ends. Butler wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s always been a dream of mine, since I was a softball player, to be a head coach,” Butler said.

Toward the end of her playing career — she retired in 2015 — Butler began working as an assistant for a handful of programs, including her alma mater. Toledo gave her a shot as a head coach in 2014, and she did not disappoint, overseeing a turnaround wherein the Rockets enjoyed their best four-year stretch since the late 1990s, reaching the 30-win plateau in 2018 for the first time since 1995.

Earlier this year, she was recognized as the Mid-American Conference’s Coach of the Year for the Rockets’ strong season.

Now, preparing to lead the Scarlet Knights, she has a good grip on coaching at the collegiate level and why she has been so taken by it.

“It’s a constant learning thing — each year the kids are different, and as a coach, you have to keep adapting to that,” Butler said. “It’s fun because every day, I still get to get out there and play softball, too.” 

Butler is looking forward to injecting a little more Florida into the program at Rutgers, too. While at Toledo, Butler had four players from Florida on the roster, including Samantha Golden, who graduated from West Orange High.

She is excited to lean into her local connections and was pleasantly surprised when the roster she inherited already had a head start.

“I was excited to look at the roster at Rutgers and see there’s a young lady from just south of Tampa,” Butler said. “There’s already a Florida girl there, and that’ll be a good connection.”

Steven Ryzewski was the Senior Sports Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and Southwest Orange Observer....

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