UCLA Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez Interview Produced By Gary Leland
Gary Leland: Kelly, thank you for taking the time out to talk with us. Now, first of all, before we do anything, I want to say congratulations on your year this year. I think in that final series, I saw the best softball game I’ve ever seen in my life.
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Oh. It was a magical moment but I think ultimately, my team was in a great place. We had prepared to be able to get to that moment. We were facing a great opponent and the energy, the excitement, the atmosphere, everything made for a wonderful finish. I’m very proud of our girls, very, very proud.
Gary Leland: Now, let me ask you a question about your team in general. Is there anything you did specifically that you can say that helped you get to that moment?
Kelly Inouye-Perez: You know, I really got to the point where I just trusted the players. I trusted my coaches and I trusted my players. That our culture was strong ultimately that every person in this program mattered in the Bruin family. We’re also really focused on being able to compete. Our competitive excellence was a little bit of John Wooden. There were some things that happened during that tournament. He went in the hospital and he was with us. There was a little Bruin magic on that day but our culture was strong. We competed and ultimately with that focus, we were able to get out there and just played great softball. I had a really good time doing it.
Gary Leland: You’re the third Head Coach of the Bruins I’ve interviewed and I can say one thing about you Bruins, you stick together. You are a family. It’s not just you guys play some ball. You guys work as a family. Is there anything special that started that or keeps it going or is it just part of the deal?
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Well, we have couple of things. Our Philosophy is Bruin family first. Family comes first, then school, and then softball. It’s a lifestyle that we practice. Every coach in the Bruin history has played in the uniform, has won a championship and has graduated from the university.
So for us, the history and tradition we take a great deal of pride because we helped create it and be on that like I said, the most important thing is it’s a lifestyle. It’s not a job for us so we love each other beyond just our wins and losses. It helps create a very strong culture within our program.
Gary Leland: A lot of our viewers are players or parents of players that want to go to school. They want to play ball and let’s say they want to play for you. What’s the best way for them to be seen by you? What would you say, “This is probably your best opportunity of me seeing you.”
Kelly Inouye-Perez: I think there’s a lot of opportunity. I travel all over the world. I think every university likes to keep a lot of their local talent home but for us, we’ve recruited players from different countries from Canada to Australia and from coast to coast. So we get out there and we recruit.
For the players, they’ve got to get to some of those showcases to be able to have an opportunity but I think the best opportunity for them to be seen is to create a video tape and then send it across, put their best clips together of what makes them special and send it to the top 20 schools in the country that they are interested in. They can directly get the information to the school and then hopefully get feedback on where they stand in the recruiting process.
Gary Leland: Okay, talking about these tapes since you brought it up and you’ve seen a lot of my bet.
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Yeah.
Gary Leland: I’ve bet you’ve seen as many as anybody. Is there something you see in a tape that you’d say, “I wish they put this in there, that all tapes should have.”
Kelly Inouye-Perez: I think it’s their opportunity to show what makes them great so there are personal information for us. First thing I look at is their GPA so for them to be able to get accepted in the UCLA is the number one thing. So for us, GPA, that’s should be the first thing. What year they graduate, their GPA, some of the accolades that they’ve accomplished but then the rest of it, the softball part is their opportunity to go out and show off what they do best. So show him your great hitting, show him your fielding, show him your throwing, show him your versatility. It have to be shorter.
We don’t want to see a 15-20 minute tape on an individual so anything within that 5-8 minute range showing their best qualities, I think it’s a great opportunity to get exposed because we don’t have control over. I can honestly say, I can’t be in every tournament across the country from year round. It’s not just going to happen. That’s part of recruiting. It’s a little bit of timing, a little bit of luck. Create your own luck.
Gary Leland: So you get a tape, you see it and this kid lives in South Dakota. I’m just using a state and this kid can’t come see you. So is there anything that works? Do you have a chance to see the kid?
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Absolutely! Like I was saying, I travel from coast to coast. So there are tournaments in Florida. There are tournaments in New Jersey. There are tournaments up in the northwest and there are also tournaments right there in Southern California. We go to Oklahoma. I mean yes, we travel all over.
Gary Leland: So the main thing is get in front of you is what you are saying.
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Well, the showcases, the tournaments and the tournaments that are bigger when there’s a lot more opportunity for us to be able to pick a tournament when there’s a lot more and that’s part of recruiting. You want to get on a team that can get to the point where they can get to the end of a tournament that just allows you to get more exposure, more games and ultimately to get to the bigger tournaments and those are identified from coast to coast.
There are tournaments every weekend they can play. A big part of that is you can get on the websites and find out what colleges are attending or you can pick up the phone or email the coaches to find out where they are going to be but ultimately, get out there. I think that’s a travel ball is about. There’s a great opportunity for you to get exposure year round.
Gary Leland: Let’s get to your team now. When you have the team every year, you get new players in, you develop them and make them fit into your system, get them in there. Is there anything that on a normal basis that you found something that players need more work on coming into college? You go, “Yeah, we keep running into this over and over.” Is there anything like that?
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Well, I think colleges is the opportunity to really take every part of their game to the next level but the biggest part of college is being able to manage your time, being able to figure out how to work out, do school, socially have fun, all of these things combined. It’s time management to be able to be graded everything and the big part of that is being able to keep their priority straight.
For us, we help define it for them in our Philosophy. Our family, how we support each other is the most important and then school is the next. That’s the next most important thing and them some falls the fun part. So I strongly suggest that time management, keeping your priority straight and then ultimately that’s what college is about. You’re going to continue to learn more, get better, stronger and then ultimately, the goals that you set and what you actually accomplished is going to determine on your ability to continue to learn and your work ethic, all those things combined add for success both on and off the field.
Gary Leland: During your team practices, is there anything that’s a specific drill or something just like your favorite thing to have those players do? “This is what we like to do and we do it.”
Kelly Inouye-Perez: I just love the sport. I think the basic fundamentals of the sport being able to execute the basic fundamentals of fielding, the basic fundamentals of throwing and the basic fundamentals of hitting, those aren’t fun but it’s the basic fundamentals that allow you to be successful on the big stage.
So ultimately for me, it’s really being able to pay attention to the little details of the game and then when the stage gets bigger then you just play it. So there’s a lot of things and that my job is to make creative and try to figure out new things. There’s all types of things but it’s really getting back to the basic fundamentals of the game so then it becomes really fun later.
Gary Leland:. What do you think of NFCA?
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Oh, we’re fortunate. I think it’s run by people that are invested in looking out for what’s best for the sport. We’re fortunate that we have a forum to be able to express what we believe can help the sport and things that we believe may be hurting the sport and be able to come together as an association throughout all the visions of the sport with one thing in mind – how can we continue to make this better for the future. So I think it’s a wonderful thing.
I’ve been a member for over 20 years and very proud of it, very proud to be a part. I love that there’s a voice in the forum but ultimately, it’s a great opportunity for all of us to get together away from the competitive field and kind of share thoughts and get refreshed and ultimately like I said it’s a lifestyle to be able to coach.
I joined when I started coaching. I started coaching over 22 years ago. So we’ve been able to attend and just be a part and ultimately hope that we can have a voice to be able to make sure that this sport continues to head in the right direction.
Gary Leland: And I ask one last question, How are we going to do this year?
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Well, the one thing that we learned is the most important part of success is being able to focus on today. Coach Wooden told me, the key to success is yesterday is as old as dirt and we have no control over tomorrow so we’ve got to focus on creating a masterpiece today so ultimately, right now my team is in a great place.
Gary Leland: That is some good advice there.
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Absolutely.
Gary Leland: As far as I know the best advice I’ve gotten in all of the interviews I have done. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
Kelly Inouye-Perez: Thank you.