Softball coach knows success and leading Lions to wins

Head softball coach Ashley Cozart signals there are two outs to her players in game against Maryville University Feb. 8. Cozart is in her second season at UNA and has led the Lions to a top 25 ranking this season.

Success and failure, wins and losses — everything begins and ends with the head coach.

At the end of the day, those four elements are what coaches are ultimately judged on. Fortunately for the UNA softball program, Ashley Cozart has seen a lot more of the success and wins.

In her second season as head coach at UNA, Cozart has won over 50 games, coached five All-Gulf South Conference players and three All-South Region selections. And this season guided her team to a top 25 ranking.

Before coming to UNA, Cozart coached in high school and at Lindsey Wilson College, a NAIA school in Columbia, Kentucky, and saw much success there. During Cozart’s four years at Lindsey Wilson, the three-time Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year compiled a 191-45 (.809) record, including a 50-win season in 2013, and won four Mid-South Conference regular season and tournament titles.

Despite her success at the NAIA level, transitioning to UNA was still a big step for Cozart.

“I kind of went from fitting in at Lindsey Wilson to being a fish in a big pond here, so I have had to transition,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s a complete restructure, but I’m having to make (the program) my own, and I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Cozart said she is thankful for the support she has gotten from her co-workers.

“UNA has been very supportive of me. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support from them,” she said. “My boss, Mark (Linder), has completely let me take over the program and been very supportive.”

Cozart’s small “restructure” includes creating a family-like atmosphere, which she said she has done.

“I preach family and (the players) always know they can come talk to me and my door is always open for them,” she said. “Even if it’s not about softball, I want to be a mentor to them.”

The players said they take to Cozart’s open-door policy and family atmosphere.

“She includes us in several of the decisions she makes and I really like that she does that because it shows she values and trusts our opinions,” said sophomore outfielder Amy Carden. “On or off the field, she always has our backs, and to see that in a coach, as a player, makes me have a lot of respect for her.”

Cozart is one of the youngest coaches at UNA and is not far removed from her playing days. The Trevecca Nazarene Hall of Famer said she believes her career as an athlete helps her relate to the players she coaches now.

“I feel like I can relate to the girls and I know what they’re going through,” she said. “I feel like when I was playing I loved when coaches build you up and give you confidence and I think that’s kind of what I thrive on.”

Cozart’s ability to relate to her team has gained her the respect of her girls, they said.

“She tells us many times that she and all of our other coaches have been where we’re at now so I really like how she understands what it feels like to be in our shoes,” Carden said. “She can tell when the team overall has a lot going on with school work and she is really good about working with us and creating an equal balance.”