Ball State has been a softball coaching factory over the last few years, turning out top-level coaches left and right and sending several coaches to jobs at Power Five schools. While Megan Bartlett certainly fit the moniker of a quality coach with a good resume, she didn’t expect to leave BSU anytime soon.
Having settled into a comfortable life in Muncie, and at the helm of a rising program, Bartlett was in a good place. Then she got a phone call from an old friend. Steve Singleton, an assistant coach at Texas, was calling to ask Bartlett how she’d feel about the possibility of joining the Longhorns’ staff. Her initial reaction? “It took me almost a week to really wrap my brain around it,” Bartlett said later.
As she mentally processed the impacts that accepting such an offer would hold, one thing that wasn’t a factor in Bartlett’s thinking was any qualm about giving up a head coaching role and returning to being an assistant coach. While she excelled in running her own program, Bartlett was never egomaniacally-tied to the title.
“The nature of coaching is that you should always be growing, and always be learning, and always strive to be better,” Bartlett said. “I felt like this was an opportunity where I could really see how things are done at the most elite level. I’m always trying to hone my craft and learn from people that are more experienced than me and who have come from different backgrounds. Going from being a head coach to an assistant coach, I look at that as being a really fun challenge and an opportunity. At the end of the day, the better I become at my craft, whether it’s as an assistant or as a head coach, that’s the best thing that I can do for the program.”
What did factor heavily into her thinking, though, was what she would leave behind: A group of players, recruits, assistant coaches, and support staff that had led to such comfortability during her time in Muncie.
“It was gut-wrenching,” Bartlett said of the decision-making process. “I wasn’t sleeping very much, lost some weight. It was easily the hardest decision that I’ve ever had to make. I love Ball State, and I’m so incredibly proud of the culture that we built there and the group of kids and families that bought into that program and sacrificed for it. I worked for absolutely incredible administration. My bosses were wonderful, my support staff was fantastic. Most of all, having to tell the kids was horrible; it was so hard to watch that look of shock on their faces.”
Ultimately, she decided to accept the position and join the Longhorns’ coaching staff, where she will work with the outfielders and as part of a tandem with the team’s offense. After making the decision, Bartlett prioritized being able to personally deliver the news to her players and recruits. Not always a consideration in such instances, she credits her upbringing for instilling the right set of values in her.
“I believe in the value of face-to-face conversations,” she said. “It was just how my parents raised me, honestly. If there’s a hard conversation to be had, I want to be the one to have it. I would never want the team or the recruits to read it in a release or hear about it randomly and that be how they found out. As hard as they’ve worked, and as much as they sacrifice for the program, I think they’ve earned the right to hear it first.”
In the past, Bartlett had rebuffed interest when other schools made a call or put out a feeler, but there was something different about this job. As agonizing as the decision was to leave Ball State, heading to Austin brought a lot of excitement to Bartlett and her family.
“The opportunity to work with coach White and coach Singleton is a career-changer, I believe,” Bartlett said. “They are some of the best coaches in our game presently. The opportunity to put together a ‘super staff’ is pretty incredible. And in the sense of a family move, I thought it would be a great place for [my husband]Mike and I to continue raising the girls. My husband was really a catalyst in making the whole thing happen; he has an accounting degree and a Master’s in finance, and having access to a big city, I think he’s going to be able to build a career and really put down some roots himself. Plus, to be able to compete in Oklahoma City for a national championship was something that I absolutely wanted to do in my coaching career, so all of the stars really aligned at just the right time for everything to happen.”
Now officially a Longhorn – and with her whole family already rocking burnt orange gear – Bartlett doesn’t anticipate much change in her coaching style in a new role and a new place. “Of course, it’s coach White’s record, and what he wants goes, but as far as who I am, with my personality and how I lead and coach, I don’t foresee those pieces changing,” she noted. “That’s what makes me ‘me.’ That’s what helps me connect and resonate with the younger generation; I think was a big selling point for coach White, having a strong role model for young women. I expect a lot out of them, and that message has been well-received by the players that I’ve coached and we’ve had success with it so far.”
With a goal of helping her new squad win a National Championship, Bartlett nicely summed up her primary aim in her new locale: “I’m an insanely competitive person,” she said with a laugh. “Anytime I do anything, I want to be the best at it. If I can, in any way, help a program achieve that kind of success and excellence, then I’m there for it.”