Archives For Bluejays

I couldn’t think of a better way to follow-up my coaching series (which featured insights from a baseball coach, a soccer coach, a basketball coach, and a volleyball coach) than to share recent and upcoming experiences that are connected to my former softball coach and teammates at Creighton University.

I had the privilege of providing color commentary for the Creighton University vs. DePaul University final regular season conference softball game on Mother’s Day.

It was a memorable experience that I won’t soon forget.

Big East commentary_Woodard and Ryan

Heidi Woodard and Jake Ryan prior to the start of the Creighton vs DePaul softball game on May 8, 2016.

Although my focus was obviously on the game at hand (unfortunately, the Bluejays lost 2-0 to the Big East regular season champion Blue Demons), I couldn’t keep my mind from drifting to the six C.U. seniors, particularly in the bottom half of the seventh inning of that game, who I knew were three outs away from seeing their collegiate playing days come to an end.

I remember what it was like to have to say goodbye to my coach and fellow teammates after they had influenced my life in a way that is indescribable with mere words.

senior day goodbye

Coach and Heidi Geier back in 1999

Brent Vigness

Coach and Heidi Woodard in 2015

There were five of us in the class of 1999 (self-nicknamed the Fab Five) who competed and grew up together for four years. We each entered into college as All-Stars from our respective teams, had our butts collectively handed to us as underclassmen, learned to elevate our game as we matured, and progressively raised our squad’s performance until we left the field as conference champs.

We won, lost, bickered, supported, belly ached, belly laughed, and most importantly believed in each other. As a result, we found a way under Coach Brent Vigness’s leadership, to improve year-after-year before recording our final out against the eventual College World Series Champion UCLA Bruins softball team in the NCAA Regionals.

fab five

Young and fearless: the very best friendships and memories are the ones that last a lifetime

Over the past 17 years, the Fab Five have grown up. We’ve returned to our home cities, married our spouses, started our careers and our families, have celebrated triumphs, and endured losses.

Sadly, the recent loss of a teammate’s mom prompted my reunion with these wonderful women this weekend. Val and her mom, Sandy, are pictured above in the photo of me jumping on my coach. Sandy passed away on April 26, 2016.

Isn’t that how life tends to work? It doesn’t wait around patiently for you to make the time to prioritize people. It slaps you in the face with a wake-up call when you’re least expecting it.

I am counting down the hours before I can see my teammates again and scream out their names in gratitude for the chance to hang out for a few days. I have missed past opportunities to get together…and I know I won’t be able to fly across the county at my every whim in the future…but THIS TIME, well THIS TIME I’m making it work.

Life has moved on with or without our permission. Loss will bring us together again. Love and laughter will remind us how much we mean to one another, even after all these years.

Every athlete will remember the memories made with their teammates over everything else. Crossing the figurative finish line is something to be proud of, but stories are told from one generation to the next about enduring the race itself.

Lastly, before I forget, yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the longest game in NCAA softball history: a 31-inning epic battle between Creighton and Utah. Even crazier than that, both teams turned around after a 20-minute break to play the third longest game in NCAA history – 25 additional innings. These doubleheader games took place in 1991, while I was still an overly confident high school player. 🙂

Thanks for allowing me to take a trip down memory lane.

Creighton Softball Timeline in the late 90s
Earned an NCAA Regional Appearance; lost to eventual National Champions UCLA Bruins in tournament elimination game
 11-3  MVC* record. Repeated as Regular-Season Conference Champs and won MVC Conference Tournament (31-28 overall record)
1998: Head Coach Brent Vigness earned MVC Coach of the Year Honors
1998: 16-2 MVC record. Won the first Regular-Season Conference Championship in Program History (33-15 overall record)
1997: 10-4 MVC record (32-30 overall record)
1996: 6-12 MVC record (17-24 overall record)

*Creighton moved from the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) to the Big East Conference in the 2013-2014 season.

Written by Heidi Woodard


Ssshhhhh. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of hardwood nirvana – on the college court, on the high school court, and in the Woodard household.

Sportscasters and fans alike like to refer to this time of year as “March madness,” but to me, it is a moment every year where basketball players have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to convert their dreams into reality.

I graduated from Creighton University, home of the Bluejays and a special basketball player named Doug McDermott. I could go on and on about what this young man has meant to my alma mater, but here are a few highlights worth mentioning:

– National Player of the Year

– Son of the head coach, Greg McDermott (one of the coolest father/son relationships I’ve ever seen)

– Holds Big East tournament single game scoring record (he sunk 35 points last night in Creighton’s first game in the Big East tournament, in a far tougher battle field as compared to the Missouri Valley Conference the university left last year)

– Pictured on the latest issue of Sports Illustrated in a throw-back, Larry Bird inspired cover

c/o Sports Illustrated

c/o Sports Illustrated 1977 & 2014

– Surpassed the NCAA college basketball 3,000 points mark at home in front of a record breaking crowd in Omaha, Nebraska (scored a mere 45 points that game)

– Heading into tonight’s game against Xavier, sits at #7 on the NCAA all-time scoring leaders list (must score at least 20 points to jump to #5)

– Doubted his own potential to succeed in basketball and once considered retiring from his playing days to become a team manager for his dad

– Thanks his family, his teammates, and his university every chance he gets – both privately and in front of the media

– Can score from literally anywhere on the court  (Think I’m exaggerating? Watch this gif pinpointing every place on the court he scored from last night.)


My two sisters-in-law played basketball at Creighton. And I played softball there. Now you know why I bleed blue.

Here’s an understatement for you: I married into a family that somewhat appreciates the game of basketball.

I personally transformed from a player who played the sport in high school to keep myself in shape during the off-season into a mom who voluntarily pulls her kids out of school to support their grandpa and future high school in the postseason.

The Woodard clan (L to R): My daughter on my shoulders, my husband, my mother-in-law, my two nephews, my brother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, and another brother-in-law

The Woodard clan (L to R): My daughter on my shoulders, my husband, my mother-in-law, my two nephews, my brother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, and another brother-in-law. Yep…we’re that family rocking the matching shirts.

My father-in-law was my former teacher in high school and coached my husband and my brother-in-law nearly two decades ago in basketball.

He continued to coach throughout the years and decided to move from our smaller high school, Roncalli Catholic – where his team won a state basketball championship in Class B in 1996 – to coach at one of the larger high schools in the city where we live now. During his time at Bellevue West, the TBirds have won three state championships in boys basketball: 2000, 2004, and 2005.

They’re back competing in the NSAA State Tournament at the same time their college idols are playing in their respective post-season conference tournaments.

They just dethroned the four-time defending Class A state champion Central Eagles in their tournament opener last night. They’ll face the Norfolk Panthers tonight in the semifinal.

They are hungry.

That makes me happy.

I know I’m not alone when I say this is a special time of year. My hope is that, no matter what the score reads when that final buzzer sounds, these young men can step outside of themselves and fully appreciate this amazing chapter in their lives.

Written by Heidi Woodard