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Coach Jeff Breeden Talks Career, Program Development

Story by: GoBlueRaiders.com

MTSU Head Coach Jeff Breeden(photo by GoBlueRaiders.com)

Middle Tennessee softball Head Coach Jeff Breeden brought his winning pedigree to Murfreesboro and rebuilt a still young Blue Raider program back into a conference champion.

After 22 seasons of coaching high school softball with a career winning percentage of .803, Breeden was hired by Athletic Director Chris Massaro in July 2012. A seven-win season in 2013 turned into a 2018 Conference USA championship and MT’s second NCAA Tournament appearance. Since Breeden and his Blue Raiders hoisted the C-USA trophy two years ago, they’ve seen continued success both on and off the field.

In addition to the improved product on the field, the park itself has improved. Breeden, who supervised reconstruction to Coffee County Central High School and Riverdale High School softball fields, has recently helped with the ongoing updates to Blue Raider Softball Field.

Breeden recently sat down with GoBlueRaiders.com to talk about his career and program developments.

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How did you become a softball coach?

My mom played softball, so I was around softball all of my young life. Growing up, I thought I’d be a football coach, and I have been a football coach. I had an opportunity at one of my first teaching jobs to start working as the assistant girl’s basketball coach. I liked working with that group because those girls give it everything they’ve got. There was a job available, and I took it, and we had a lot of success. It was kind of like being in the right place at the right time. I had some other background in it, as well. I umpired a lot when I was in college, so the sport was just a good fit for me.

Going all the way back to your Coffee County days, what did you learn by building that program up from nearly nothing?

That program had been in existence for one year when I took it over, so it really was like building from the ground up. Coffee County is a little different because they’ve got two high schools in the county, so everybody gets fired up and into it. We had great support there from the time we started, and we had some great athletes. We went to the state tournament a few times and built a facility there that still gets packed all the time. That was a really good stop for me there that springboarded me into coming to Riverdale, where we had a great run there. We had great athletes and community support there as well. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for good principals everywhere I’ve been in teaching and now working for Chris [Massaro] here at MT.

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What was the transition like from coaching high school softball to coaching college softball?

The speed of the game is faster. Every little detail, if you make a mistake, is magnified. In the high school game, your infielders have to be good, but your outfielders can make a mistake every now and then. In college, everyone is a good hitter. Your pitchers have to be on every pitch, and you can’t take a break. The big difference is in the outfield play. Your outfielders and their transition with the ball from the outfield to the infield has to be better than it was at an earlier age, or your weaknesses will get exposed.

Slowly but surely, you built the Blue Raider program from seven wins in your first year to a Conference USA Championship in 2018. What made that rebuild happen?

At the end of every year, we asked ‘How can we make recruiting better? How can we get better players? What kind of team do we want to be built around? What do we have to do to make these pieces work?’ At the end of every year, we evaluated every aspect of our program, from coaching to recruiting to strength and conditioning to academics to what we were doing in the community. Finally after several years of working at it, we got the right people. Those seniors that won the championship for us were the right people. We all got to believing in one another, and they turned this thing around, and we haven’t looked back since then. The key to it is getting the right personnel and everybody believing in what you’re doing.

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You supervised the reconstruction of the softball fields at Coffee County and Riverdale, and you’ve been a major part of the recent changes at Blue Raider Softball Field. How important is it to have top notch facilities in order to run a successful program?

Our school sells itself to recruits. It’s a beautiful campus, and Murfreesboro is a great place to live. Our proximity to Nashville does that. The fact that we are a Nike school and buy directly from Nike is huge. Everybody wants to know, ‘Am I going to wear the swoosh?’ The next piece is facilities. What we did last year with the video board and padded walls has gone a long way. We’ve got the best grass and dirt in the league without question. Our guys do a great job of managing our turf, and we’re proud of that. When we start in August this year with a new entryway and the other upgrades, it should just make our fan experience much better than it has been. It’s going to be something that everyone will be proud of.

Since your staff signed C-USA’s best 2020 recruiting class, what do you see in the program’s future?

We’re headed on the up-and-up. Time will tell. Once you get those kids here, you’ve got to make them better each year. You can’t let them stay stagnant. We’ve got to develop them and make them better players when they leave than when they came in. If we can do that, we’ll be fine. We’re going to have another great recruiting class right behind the ’20 class. I feel really great about where we are.

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