By Ashley Conrad, Bethany College
LINDSBORG, KAN. -- Head Coach Janice Esses of the Bethany College (Kan.) Swedes softball team won her 300th game on May 3. The 5-2 win came in the first round of the KCAC Championship tournament against the University of Saint Mary Spires and marked the Swedes' 29th victory of the season.
Esses, a 2001 alum of Bethany College, took over the reins in the spring of 2002. While playing at the college, Esses earned First Team All-KCAC honors in 2000 and 2001 and was named the Team MVP. Along with awards she earned as a player, Esses has an extensive highlight reel of her coaching career.
In the twelve years as an NAIA coach, she has had eight seasons with 20-plus wins. She has coached the Swedes to three KCAC Conference Championships and two KCAC Tournament Championships. Esses has led the team to four NAIA Regional appearances and one NAIA National Championship appearance, the first in school history. Bethany currently holds the NAIA National Tournament record for most stolen bases in a game (10).
Brittany Lewis, senior from Glendale, Ariz., describes the first national championship berth as her favorite memory of Esses.
"There's so many memorable moments to only choose one but I would say being a part of her first team ever to make it to nationals was the most memorable. Seeing how proud she was of us at that moment we won the tournament to qualify for nationals was an indescribable feeling."
Personally, Esses and her players have been honored with numerous awards. Esses herself was named KCAC Coach of the Year in 2011 and 2012, and the 2011 KCAC Champions of Character Coach of the Year.
Under her direction, Esses has coached two NAIA National Player or Pitcher of the Week, five NAIA All-Region players, 94 KCAC All-Conference players, one KCAC player and Newcomer of the Year and two KCAC Pitchers of the Year.
Not only has Esses seen success on the field, she stresses the importance of academics to her players. Esses has coached 34 NAIA All-Scholar Athletes, three CoSIDA Academic All-District players and had the most All-Scholar athletes in the NAIA during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
If her record didn't already exemplify Esses' success, coworkers and players can only beam about her. Interim Athletic Director Scott McClure feels Esses symbolizes what Swedes' athletics is all about.
"She consistently works hard and does things the right way; and represents everything that's good about Bethany College and Swede athletics. Our athletic department is a better team because of Coach Esses."
Lewis also describes Esses as a person whom she will never forget.
"She is the kind of coach that will have an effect on your life forever. She shows her dedication by the countless amount of hours she puts into our program. Her intense but caring personality shines through as she pushes her players hard to become better every day but also proves that she is someone that we know will always be there through anything we may throw at her."
To date, Esses has a cumulative record of 302-247 (.550). She will be traveling with the team to their second NAIA National Tournament when they placed second in the 2013 KCAC Championship Tournament and KCAC Conference Championships.
The Bethany College Swedes compete in 18 intercollegiate sports in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Bethany participates in the NAIA Champions of Character program, which encourages integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership in student-athletes, coaches, and youth in the community. Since 1902, Bethany has won 152 conference championships. Learn more about the Bethany College Swede’s athletic programs at www.bethanyswedes.com.