Yvette Girouard, legendary softball coach, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss her incredible career on the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX which made it illegal to discriminate in educational programs that receive federal funds.
A native of Broussard, Yvette served as head softball coach at UL-Lafayette from 1981 to 2000, and then at LSU from 2000 to 2011. She won over 75 percent of her games on the collegiate level.
Yvette has been named coach of the year by three separate conferences: the SEC (four times), the Sun Belt (2000), and the Southland (1984, 1985 & 1987), as well as Louisiana Coach of the Year 13 times.
Yvette Girouard is one of the most accomplished coaches in NCAA Division 1 History.
She is one of only 3 coaches to take two teams to the Women’s College World Series. She has been inducted into the Louisiana Softball Coaches Hall of Fame, the UL Lafayette Athletic Hall of Fame, LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Hall of Fame in Natchitoches, and the National Fast Pitch Coaches Hall of Fame.
Today, many of us take equal opportunities in sports, especially for women, for granted. But for Yvette, who attended Comeaux High School and then USL before Title IX had taken root, the opportunities were slim to none. The only sport available to Yvette was softball. And there were no scholarships offered to the women volleyball players.
Yvette began playing softball in Lafayette at 18 and was picked up by a New Iberia team the next year; both were slow pitch teams. She had never seen fast pitch softball until she was 19 and saw men playing. Fastpitch softball is a fast, underhanded throw clocked at speeds of up to 70 mph. Yvette says at 43 feet, that pitch is comparable to one Nolan Ryan would pitch in his heyday.
In 1976, Yvette was hired at Lafayette High to coach fastpitch softball. One catch: there was no softball field for women and Yvette and volunteers had to build their own field. She says, “I hand-tilled the infield.” After four years at Lafayette High, she returned to work for her family’s restaurant, Ton’s Drive-In in Broussard.
Then in 1981, USL called and offered her a job coaching softball. Once again, there was no field, and more amazingly, no player scholarships to entice good players. The team consisted of walk-ons, mainly from Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, and Houston which had established fastpitch teams. It took quick work to get it together; Yvette was hired in October and their first game was the next February. In those days, the kids played all the games and didn’t specialize in sports.
Getting the USL softball team was a Girouard family effort. Her mom made the first uniforms, taking the men’s discarded basketball warmups and converting them into pants. Her dad gave her a truck to use to store the team equipment. Her starting part-time salary was $3,000 and she continued to work part-time at Ton’s to make ends meet where other coaches could call her to schedule games and work out arrangements. After 10 years as she had become full-time, her salary was $25,000.00 and she had cajoled seven scholarships from USL for recruiting players. At the end of her tenure, there were eleven scholarships awarded each year.
Dr. Ray Authement had promised to build Yvette a softball field, and she recalled the location being the old dairy farm before Cajundome Blvd. or Bourgeois Hall had been constructed. A bull greeted her on her first visit to the property.
In no time, Yvette’s teams grew in national stature as well as became quite popular in the local community who grew to love attending games and rooting on the girls.
“Our softball games became the event you wanted to be at. It became my passion. It became my child. I gave birth to it and it kept getting bigger and bigger. And I could sell it. I’m a Cajun girl, I graduated from here. Once we became really, really good, my girls were the Cinderellas of the town.”
Even with success, Yvette had to raise approximately $85,000 a year from supporters to cover the cost of operations, team travel, umpire fees, uniforms, and dirt and seed for the field. She remembered fondly the support offered by Carol Ross who came up with a fundraiser called “Apple pie, softball, and Service Chevrolet, where Carol got a bright red Camaro donated to raise $25,000, a “huge chunk of money.”
Over the years as her successes mounted up, LSU courted Yvette to become its head softball coach. On their third attempt to offer her the head softball coaching position, she finally relented although it was difficult. She had turned down offers from schools in Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota and Washington. But only 60 miles down the road, LSU was close to home. The position also quadrupled her salary.
Yvette’s days at LSU were also successful. Working from 2000 to 2011 as head coach, her teams won 9 NCAA tournaments, and 3 SEC Championships, among many other victories.
LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward with Yvette Girouard.
Yvette says she’d like to see more women stay in coaching. For many women with families, it’s very hard for them to build a career in coaching because of the travel and challenges of taking care of their children. “Men are enticed with golf memberships. How about we offer childcare to women and a nanny for travel?”
Today, Yvette Girouard provides LSU’s color commentary for the SEC network, as well as commentary for the Ragin Cajuns. “I’ve always said, TV was the last horizon for women’s softball.”
When asked to give advice to young players and coaches, Yvette says, “Nothing compares to hard work. And don’t take no for an answer right away. Be willing to work your way up. Coaches pay attention to hustle. And, you have to be a team player.”
We thank Yvette Girouard for sharing her inspirational story! She is truly an example of outstanding dedication and love of the sport.