Thursday, February 2, 2023

No coach, no problem for Michigan State's elite club softball team

December 6, 2022
Photo courtesy of Madison Cytlak.
Photo courtesy of Madison Cytlak. —

Recently released National Club Softball Association (NCSA) rankings have put the Michigan State women’s club softball team 3rd in the country for the month of December.

The Spartans are 6-0 in conference play, 9-1 overall. While this is an enormous stride for the green and white, this was not any surprise to the women who have seen the team build over previous years. Not to mention, the team is completely student-run, without any help from any coaches.

From coaches stepping down abruptly over the years, and the team presidents having to take initiative, the women’s club softball team learned to play for no one but itself and the school it represents. And with a chip on its shoulder, the team has had one of its most successful seasons.

Most responsibility falls on the team president, Madison Cytlak, standing as a coaching figure for the rest of the team. In other words, not only does the team president have to coach, but also makes important decisions for the team itself.

“Practice this year has been extremely difficult to secure a home practice field," Cytlak said. "(In) previous years, we have practiced at Ranney Park because our coach got it for us for free. This year we have to pay for Ranney and we can only afford to pay for it for games and our tryouts.”

From places to practice to tournament expenses, the team is entirely student-funded by any means necessary.

“The girls pay player dues at the beginning of the year to fund our season," Cytlak said. "On top of that, we do lots of fundraising and if we qualify for the World Series we have to start a GoFundMe to support our trip to worlds, which we are hoping to qualify for again this year.” 

Cytlak started her term as president her sophomore year. Though she evidently handles her responsibilities well, she was quick to mention those who also help manage the various tasks that keep the team up and running.

“I was voted in and have three wonderful board members underneath me," Cytlak said. "My Vice President is Maddie Vasquez, my Treasurer is Lauren Hassenzahl, and my secretary is Paige Stroster. We also have a MSU Club Softball Alumni, Claudia Rea, that continually helps me out with so much. She helps me run practices, organize fundraising, keeps my head straight, and so much more.”

Cytlak is also an outfielder on the team. She was a Second Team All-American selection last year. 

“We have a lot of motivation just to prove we don’t need a coach to be successful,” Cytlak adds.

From winning their first NB tournament and Regionals, the Spartans started to catch fire. Last season, three players were awarded All-American Honors: Savanna Gapinski, Taelor Zeise and Cytlak. In addition to this, Rea was awarded the Sportsmanship Award, the third ever to receive such recognition, as the NCSA started administering this award three years prior.

“We were there to prove we should be there,” Cytlak said.

The club president plays a vital role in the organization of the team itself. With no coach being there to figure out team chemistry, the president takes up responsibility to find where players work best. Despite no higher leadership, Cytlak uses this as an opportunity for reasons to play even harder on the diamond.

Because of this high demand of attention to the team, Cytlak said she recently had no choice but to take up the sport of metaphorical juggling.

“It has been a challenge to juggle school, work, and club softball but I am able to donate an adequate amount of time to each," Cytlak said. "I absolutely love leading this amazing group of women. This role of president and coach has been extremely challenging and a huge learning experience but is extremely rewarding.”

With their first rivalry game approaching this spring against Michigan, the team continues to prepare for yet another winning season and any other offspeed pitches that might try to disrupt the season.

Coach or not, the women’s club softball team embodies the renowned MSU saying:

Spartans Will.

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