When it comes to women’s softball, few teams have made a name for themselves quite like the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. They’ve become something of a household name not only among students and faculty at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but followers across the South and throughout the United States. During the Ragin’ Cajuns’ reign on the field, one name has become synonymous with the team itself: Michael Lotief.
Taking a Look at the Stats
During the thirteen-year course of Michael Lotief’s career as co-head coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns, working in tandem with his wife, Stefni, the team amassed over 500 wins. More than 800 wins were racked up throughout his affiliation with the team. Lofief is also quite proud of the fact that their team members excelled off the field as well, extending their top-notch abilities to the classroom. In fact, many received national honors for their academic efforts.
In terms of percentages, Lotief was the most successful coach out there during his active years with the team, building a record of .800. He and Stefni wholeheartedly believe the only way to ensure female college athletes are able to thrive both on and off the field is to create a healthy learning environment for them. They, along with their fellow staff members, invested considerable time and energy in generating such an environment for their student players.
While those in charge of the team held their players to the highest possible standards, they also adhered to strict principles themselves. They strove to provide their athletes immediate feedback and instructions to help them continually improve and reach for new heights. All the while, they made sure their advice was given in a safe, supportive manner. They deemed their unique learning environment the Circle of Safety where both demands of the team and reinforcement were top priorities.
Few people would argue the effectiveness of this approach. During his years with the Ragin’ Cajuns, he had a hand in cultivating more than 25 All American players and bringing the team into the country’s top ten for several years across numerous categories, including home runs, runs scored per game and team batting average to name a few.
Lotief’s reputation for strength and perseverance began long before joining with the University of Louisiana to help propel their women’s softball team to the top of the charts. More than 30 years ago, as a student at ULL himself, he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
Though he won the battle with cancer, he has been experiencing throat and nasal issues ever since. In 2015, severe throat infections, pneumonia and medical procedures to combat these conditions took him off the field for a stint. Numerous news articles point to his presence at games, cheering on his team, despite health problems and barely being able to speak in some cases.
Lotief was awarded the Donna Newberry Perseverance Award by the Softball Coaches Association in 2016. His acceptance speech remains available for viewing on Kelly Vincent’s YouTube channel. It’s marked Donna Newberry/Coach Michael Lotief for those interested.
In December of 2018, Lotief was the focus of sports telecaster, Holly Rowe’s national presentation on cancer and perseverance. The ESPN veteran featured a picture of Lotief captioned, “When things get hard, just keep going.”
Behind the Scenes
While Coach Lotief is most well known in the public eye for his time with the Ragin’ Cajuns, he’s also a husband and father. In past interviews, he mentioned the challenges of continually being there for his team without overlooking the needs of his family. As is the case with all parents with careers, finding a balance wasn’t exactly easy.
During their younger years, though, his children were able to travel with him and his wife while they were on the road with their team. Coaching the Ragin’ Cajuns essentially became an event in which Michael and Stefni were fortunate enough to be able to include their children. Their daughter, Chelsea, went on to play for the team for a number of years.
Even after ending his time on the field with the team, Lotief was still part of the program. He spent quite a bit of time analyzing footage, developing plays and offering the benefit of his wisdom and experience for the good of the team.
In 2013, ULL Athletic Director, Scott Farmer noted, “On behalf of everyone connected with Louisiana athletics, I would like to thank Michael for all of his efforts over the last 12 years. He has dedicated his life to Ragin’ Cajuns softball and its student-athletes, and the program has benefited greatly from his efforts.”
Coaching from a Different Angle
Lotief’s coaching experience has taken a new direction in recent years. He has amassed a sizable following via his Twitter account, @CoachMikeLotief. Softball and baseball coaches and parents of athletes alike are drawn to his site for his out-of-the-box approach to the game.
Countless teams and individual players have benefited from his hitting ideas, approaches to practice and use of analytics in creating elite hitters. He has become known as a leader in the latest technological applications in Major League Baseball as well.
Over the years, Michael Lotief has exhibited a love of the game and his team as well as an affinity for competition. He made finding winning solutions his mission in spite of challenges both on and off the field. Many of the cutting-edge developments in MLB are old news to him at this point because he was using them before they ever truly came to light.
Recently, Lotief affirmed he’s truly been blessed by the game. Though he’s no longer with the Ragin’ Cajuns, he has stated his heart will always be there on the field with the team, cheering them on as they continue to excel.