By MORGANA KENNEDY
KENNESAW, Ga. – Kennesaw State women’s softball coach has become very popular with the team through his “player-first” coaching style.
Tory Acheson, known by his players as Coach Tory, officially became head coach for the Owls in April 2015. Acheson began coaching softball when he was in high school and continued on to the college level. Before coming to KSU, he coached at Tennessee Technological University for 16 years.
“I’ve been coaching all of my adult life,” Acheson said. “It’s not something I got into thinking of coaching as a profession. It’s something that just found me.”
While at TTU, Acheson had at least 25 wins in 13 of 14 seasons and averaged 36 wins per season. He acted as the interim coach during the 2015 campaign for the Owls. He led the team to a 32-19 record and finished third in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The winning season came just months after Acheson’s wife passed away. He has one son who is working on an advanced degree in Florida, so he has thrown his heart into coaching this team, he said.
When he first began helping with a team in high school, Acheson met the woman who would become his wife. They did not know each other before he started helping with the softball team. They fell in love and got married two years after graduating.
They coached together throughout his career. They were married for 34 years.
Head Coach Tory Acheson posing for the camera in his office at Kennesaw State University on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. (Photo by Morgana Kennedy)
Acheson has changed his coaching style over the years and credits his positive relationship with the women on the team and assistant coaches to empathy.
“My coaching career is the really the tale of two different stories, almost like two different personalities,” Acheson said. “When I was a young coach I was a very much a hard-driving, screaming, yelling old-school military type of coach, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve become much more of a laid-back and player-friendly kind of coach.”
This approach has earned Acheson respect among players and other coaches, assistant coach Cathleen Fritts said. She has known Acheson since she was a child and was recruited by him for TTU.
“It’s like coming to work with a family member, you know, someone you’re close with and comfortable with,” Fritts said.
The women on the team are free to come to Acheson with any concerns, even those that are not related to softball. He has an open-door policy.
Though Acheson has demonstrated an ability to effectively coach, he was not a great player, he said. He played baseball for many years, but describes himself as a mediocre player.
“My whole athletic career I was just a very average athlete, but I was a really hard worker and was just interested in learning about the games that I played,” Acheson said.
According to Acheson, connecting with the players became the most rewarding part of sports. He enjoys watching his players grow, and the true payoff comes when a player has a breakthrough moment and really achieves something.
Acheson views his success as being directly connected to his players. But, he admits that softball doesn’t yield professional success for players in most cases. Professional softball is not a very popular sport, and most athletes have to supplement their income in other ways if they continue on to the professional level, Acheson said.
Despite the lack of popularity in the professional league, students who play in college benefit from scholarships. Acheson recruits players in high school and at other colleges, and they can potentially become scholarship athletes.
Fritts wasn’t the only player to be recruited by Acheson and end up working alongside him. He recruited assistant coach Amanda Paz as well.
Paz has worked at KSU for a year, but she has known Acheson for many years.
“Coach Tory is a great boss,” Paz said. “His priorities with the team are family, faith, academics and then softball. He really does live by that. He sets a great example for the girls and the staff, and he pours his heart into everything he does here at KSU.”
Coaching became intertwined with Acheson’s life, and his warm personality has become a positive influence on everyone he works with. He puts his players above the game, and putting all his effort toward being the best coach he can be has helped him get through the loss of his wife.
“I think the things that make me a successful coach is that I’m very, very dedicated to the people I work with,” Acheson said.