At AAF Tuscaloosa’s September meeting, University of Alabama’s head softball coach, Patrick Murphy, shared his “homemade” approach to building his team and its fan base.
“Alabama softball is like a homemade cake made with a lot of love for one individual person, not a store-bought cake that you can get anywhere,” Murphy said. “Our culture is about the person first and the athlete second.”
Murphy explained that many Division 1 athletic departments today “are not made with love at all,” sending student athletes through their program without ever getting to know them as an individual.
“I want my player to know that whether she goes 0-4 or 4-4, Murphy is still going to love her at the end of the day. It’s not her performance that’s the best thing about her,” Murphy said. “We are a homemade cake, and I think that is why we win.”
Murphy expressed that his “homemade” approach doesn’t stop with his team or players, it translates and applies to his interactions with Alabama softball fans.
Being the first college softball team to average 3,000 fans at a game, Alabama softball has one of the highest game-attendance rates in the country. This past season, the team sold more season tickets than four Division 1 football programs.
“When I first came to Alabama, I didn’t want softball to be a black hole of money, because that is usually what happens with women’s sports,” Murphy said. “I wanted people to come watch us.”
According to Murphy, Alabama softball’s game attendance started to rise when the team won its first SEC championship under his leadership in 2003. Since then, season attendance has topped 90,000.
Murphy highlighted a few tactics that he uses to cultivate fans.
- Thank-athon: “Every winter we have a Thank-athon. All the players sign up for a thirty-minute timeslot, I give them a script, and they call to thank every booster or season ticket holder. You would be amazed at what one phone call can do.”
- Thank you notes: “I teach all the players how to write a proper, hand-written thank you note. When we go to the World Series, I bring a ton of blank cards on the plane and we write hand-written thank you notes to season ticket holders during the flight. We mail them when we land in Oklahoma City so that they receive them while watching the World Series. It’s the smallest thing in the world, but it means a lot to them.”
- Hand-delivered season tickets: “We go one Sunday after practice and hand-deliver season ticket packages to [purchasers’] door. If they are not home, we leave them a note.”
- Handshakes: “During pre-game warmups, I have a group of players go up to the crowd and walk through the stands to shake people’s hands and thank them for coming. Our crowd loves it! They get to say hi. If someone believes they know a player, they will come back.”
- Camps and clinics: “We host camps and clinics all the time. I think it is really important to have younger kids become fans. When they come to camp, they get to know the players and that is a huge bond. Then someone has to bring them to games, so mom and dad come with them.”
Murphy’s 10 things you should know about Alabama softball but probably don’t:
- The number one thing that you probably don’t know about Alabama softball is it’s the winningest team in the country.
- As of last year, Alabama has had an All-American pitcher for 13 consecutive years.
- Alabama has had three members of Team USA win a championship.
- In 2017, Alabama softball had a total team GPA of 3.67 making it one of the highest team GPAs of over 300 Divison 1 softball teams.
- Over the past 10 years, Alabama softball has led the SEC in Academic All-Americans with a total of 18.
- Alabama has been to nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments, which is the fourth longest streak in the country.
- Alabama softball has the led the nation in attendance for 13 straight years.
- Alabama leads the SEC with 11 Women’s College World Series appearances.
- Alabama is the only school that has played in all 13 NCAA Super Regional Tournaments.
- Last season, Alabama softball sold more season tickets than four Division 1 football programs.