Boxer Softball — and Judy Sherman — Turned a Corner in 1980
In 1980, Judy Sherman was still early in her career as an athletic coach at Pacific University. She was well-liked, but her teams hadn’t won anything much and Forest Grove was still a sleepy stop on the women’s softball circuit.
That 1980 softball season changed everything.
“That was a special group,” Sherman said from her home in Forest Grove. “That team got all of our success started.”
How special were the 1980 softball Boxers, who are being inducted into the Boxer Athletics Hall of Fame this spring? It was a team of women who came out of nowhere to advance to the NAIA national championships and finish fourth of 16 teams from around the country. That showing was so unexpected that Sherman and the players had to scramble after winning the regional championship to raise money for a trip to Grand Rapids, Mich., for the championship.
Coincidentally, it was the season Sherman arrived on the national women’s softball scene. Because the national coaches’ meeting was held at the tournament, Sherman was invited to put her name in for an office in the national organization. She was elected secretary that year, her first step toward two stints as national president, and a launchpad for a national team career that took her to Australia and China, among other places.
Sherman now lives a not-very-retired life on her property in Forest Grove, where she tends her apple and pear trees, grapevines and blueberry bushes. She also runs a dog boarding business, meaning she’s surrounded at all times by fresh fruit and furry frolickers. Meanwhile, she remains in touch with many members of her teams, from exchanging Christmas cards to in-person visits.
For all the honors that have accrued to Sherman since 1980, including her own election to the Pacific Athletic Hall of Fame and her name given to the university softball stadium at Forest Grove’s Lincoln Park, she is quick to give credit to the women who played for her and her rotating cadre of “first-class assistant coaches.”
She is humble to the point of tears at the accolades that have come her way. She says she also learned a great deal from her peers and other successful coaches. When pressed for the qualities that make a successful coach, she said a key part of coaching is being a good listener.
“Sometimes players won’t come out and tell you what’s going on,” she said. “You have to listen, watch for their body language.” When it comes down to it, she said, “you take all sides into consideration, and then make tough decisions.”
And attitude matters.
“I think it helps if you’re a positive person, because that carries over to your team,” she said. “I’ve always tried to be a positive person."