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Always Learning, UT-Arlington’s Kara Dill Ready for New Challenges as Head Coach

Not many college softball coaches can lay claim to the coaching trees that Kara Dill can. The new UT-Arlington head coach played at Kentucky under Rachel Lawson, then saw the coaching side of the Wildcats’ program as a volunteer assistant. She went on to serve a stint on the coaching staff at LSU under Beth Torina before spending the last six seasons as an assistant at Texas A&M under Jo Evans.

Dill went to the Women’s College World Series in four straight years and as part of each of those three different coaching staffs. From 2014-17, her season ended every year in Oklahoma City. She coached pro ball in 2016 and shepherded the pitching staff at Texas A&M after working with slappers at LSU.

Entering this summer, virtually the only thing absent from her resume was the title of “head coach”. It didn’t take long for that box to be checked, too, as Dill was announced as UTA’s new head coach in early July.

“I think going into the summer, my answer would be yes, head coaching was always a goal and a dream of mine,” Dill mused when asked about her mindset entering the offseason. “When I got into coaching, head coaching was always something that I wanted to do. I think I learned in the different places and with the different head coaches I’ve been around, I love learning. I paid attention to the coaches that I had around me and that are successful in other sports. When we would be presented with situations – roster management, player personnel, other things – I would always put myself in a position and ask myself ‘what would I do in this situation?’

“So it’s always something that I wanted to do, it was just a matter of it finding the right opportunity and everything about UTA felt like it was the right fit for me and so far, it’s been great.”

Most coaches will caution that being prepared to lead a program doesn’t mean you know everything, and Dill is quick to agree with that premise. Describing herself as a lifelong “learner”, Dill says her goal is to never stop gleaning from others:

“I like opinions, I like asking people and getting feedback from people… I’m always trying to figure out what my philosophy would be, what my structure of things would be… [as a travel ball player], we would go to different camps and learn from different people and my dad’s perspective was always ‘Let’s try it. Try what they’re asking you to do. If it doesn’t work, we can always go back to something else, but if you’re never open to those ideas, you’re going to be limited’ in what you can achieve… so it was instilled in me early, from both of my parents. Always a learner, always have a broader perspective.”

The daughter of a teacher and a coach, Dill’s never-ending desire to learn and grow manifested itself early in her life. By the time she walked across the stage to receive her high school diploma, she had already earned her associate’s degree. Traditional graduation timings gave her a fun fact to quote later in life, but her work ethic and ambition to continue to learn were what earned her both pieces of paper.

Throughout her softball career, whether as a player or a coach, Dill has been a quiet success story. While at Kentucky, she was a strong leadoff hitter and finished her playing career with her name all throughout the UK program record books. At Texas A&M, she shepherded a pitching staff that helped lead the Aggies to a World Series berth in her first season in College Station.

Far from an issue as far as Dill is concerned, she embraces the opportunity to have that quiet success and adds that off-field impacts are what fuels her to do what she does. “The reason I coach is to impact people’s lives. I care about people and I care about the people who are on my team and on my staff. I want people to be able to say that I was a part of what they were doing and I challenged them in some way that made their life better, even if in the moment it didn’t feel like it.”

Calling UTA the perfect fit for her first head coaching venture, Dill was intrigued early by the role and her interest only grew as the interview process moved along. By the time she was offered the position, she said, it was a quick and easy “yes”.

“Once the opportunity came up, it’s the one that I wanted,” Dill noted. “I talked to [a member of the search committee], I started to do some research and I thought, ‘Okay, this seems like a really good opportunity.’ After I talked with a couple of the people, it was really the job that I wanted… the more people that I got to know, the more people that I got to talk to, the more my desire was that I really want to be there. Once it was offered, it was never back-and-forth. It was ‘Yep, I’ll be there; when do you need me to be there?’”

Once she got to UTA, Dill prioritized finding the right people to join her coaching staff, people she could both trust and rely on. With those pieces now in place and a returning roster fairly intact, the Mavs are also settling into a new conference home: the 2023 softball season will be the program’s first as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

In her new role, Dill seems primed and ready to lead the Mavs to new horizons. Now sitting in the head coach’s chair, she has some wisdom of her own to impart.


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