If there was any softball coach that not only stamped their name in Shippensburg University history but left a lasting and lifelong impact on their players, it was Bobby Davis.
Davis, who held the reigns to the SU softball program from 1985-2000, died March 22 at his home in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He was 85.
In his 16 seasons at SU, Davis assembled an overall 449-204-4 record, ranking him among the Top 15 most winningest coaches in NCAA Division II history. Under his direction, the Raiders appeared in nine Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournaments and five NCAA tournaments. Outside of the postseason appearances, SU reached PSAC runner-up honors on four occasions, hitting that mark three years in a row from 1997-1999.
Additionally, his .686 winning percentage earned him an SU Athletics Hall of Fame distinction in 2001, a year after his departure.
While Davis concluded his Raider coaching career with a plethora of accolades, his success is just a glimpse for what he is remembered.
Former players Tracy Starke Yeager and Sandra Smith Taylor — who played under Davis toward the end of his SU career — both said Davis was a tough, yet loving coach.
He pushed his players to the best of their ability. Believed in his players. Held his players accountable.
Davis owned all the qualities of a well-rounded coach.
“He was a coach that coached us super hard, had super high expectations for us, was an amazing communicator and we knew exactly where the line was with him,” Yeager said of her former skipper. “But at the same time, as hard as he coached us, he definitely taught me that you can coach a team hard and love them after.”
“He was a tough coach, but in a good way, because he only wanted to make you better,” Taylor added. “And he had your back, no matter what. You knew he was going to be there to support you.”
Yeager, who now coaches softball at Chesapeake High School in Pasadena, Maryland, said she has carried some of Davis’ coaching techniques and qualities over to her coaching career.
“The one thing that Coach Davis taught me and that I have taken to all the teams that I have coached is that it’s really not about softball,” Yeager said. “We want to win and we’re super competitive, but sports are just an avenue to prepare your athletes for life. And in hindsight and looking back, I see everything that he ever taught our team was really about life, and we just happened to play great softball in the meantime.”
Taylor feels the same about her late coach. As a walk-on freshman in 1999, Taylor said she was not at the performance level she had hoped, a level that she thought was not good enough for collegiate softball.
Davis saw something in Taylor that she did not see in herself. The end result: a 1999 All-PSAC Second Team nomination — later followed by All-PSAC First Team honors in 2002 — and a takeaway that is ingrained in her mind for the rest of her life.
“To believe in yourself,” Taylor said in regard to the lesson learned playing under Davis. “When I went to college, I didn’t think I was good enough. When I was playing travel ball, I didn’t think I was good enough to play softball on a college level.”
“But I went out and he made sure I believed in myself. It doesn’t matter what you do or whatever you put your mind to. If you want to do something bad enough and you’re putting in the hard work, he made sure to point out you can do anything.”
In the end, both Yeager and Taylor said they are forever grateful for their time and memories with Davis.
They said they can easily recall the laughable moments. The moments where Davis may not have been very happy with them. But in hindsight, they said those moments made it all the better; they were a key piece to their SU careers.
“The way I coach today is definitely a reflection of the way Coach Davis coached me,” Yeager said. “Before I had Coach Davis, I would definitely say the coaches that I had growing up were very, very old school.”
“And although Coach Davis also had that tough love approach, again, it was ‘coach them hard, love them later.’ And I think that is 100% the way that I’ve mothered, the way that I’ve coached and who I am today, is because of Coach Davis.”
In lieu of flowers, those wishing to remember Davis are asked to make memorial contributions to the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org or to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at www.stjude.org.