‘Barrier breaker’: Duke’s Marissa Young becomes first Black head coach in WCWS history

Duke head coach Marissa Young’s resume includes a lot of firsts.

First Blue Devil softball coach. The program’s first ACC Coach of the Year. The leader over the program’s first conference title, regionals, super regional and Women’s College World Series appearances.

This week, she’s adding another first.

The first Black coach at the WCWS.

“It means a lot,” Young said on Wednesday. “I didn’t have that as something to see growing up.”

When Young took the job at Duke, she knew there was the opportunity to do things that hadn’t been done in the sport.

Young credits her players for believing in her, the program’s core values and committing to their goals.

“I love looking at our team, all the diversity, everything we stand for. It’s really, really special,” Young said. “I hope that it continues to open up doors for others, both in the professional setting but also players that want to play at this level.”

Duke athletic director Nina King called Young’s accomplishment impactful for the program and others who look up to her.

“If you can see her, you can be her, which is really amazing,” King said. “Marissa, who she is as a person first and foremost is absolutely incredible. She has absolutely earned the right to be here and make history. I’m so thrilled for her.”

Young’s accomplishment garnered support on social media from softball fans, former players and coaches.

UCLA Hall of Famer and two-time Olympian Natasha Whatley celebrated her friend’s accomplishment on Twitter, calling it overdue. Whatley won the Women’s College World Series in 2003, during Young’s playing career.

“Our 13-year-old selves are screaming,” Whatley wrote. “Barrier breaker and no better person and leader to break down the door.”

Three-time Olympian and former Texas pitcher Cat Osterman, retired Syracuse player Faith Cain, and Howard University head coach Tori Tyson shared support.

Young led the Blue Devils to their best season in program history, earning the first Women’s College World Series berth after falling short in Super Regionals the last two seasons. They enter the double-elimination tournament with 52 wins, a single-season program record. Claire Davidson and Aminah Vega became the first NFCA First-Team All Americans in program history.

“I know not everyone sees color, but as a woman of color, I do,” Tyson wrote. “I see it, live it and (Marissa Young), I see you. Every woman, mother, wife and minority has a reason to root for this woman. She wears all the hats and (wears) them well.”