When Canada’s national women’s softball team next steps onto the field at Softball City for the Canada Cup, there will be a new head coach calling the shots.
But the new bench boss should be familiar to Semiahmoo Peninsula softball fans – she’s former catcher Kaleigh Rafter.
Rafter, who retired from playing after helping Canada to a bronze medal at last summer’s Tokyo Summer Olympics, was named the new head coach of the team by Softball Canada Thursday.
“We are very excited to see Kaleigh take on the responsibilities of head coach of our women’s national team program,” said Softball Canada President Scott Neiles.
“Her passion and commitment to the women’s national team has been exceptional and we are very confident in the abilities and energy she will bring to lead this program in a very positive direction.
“We feel her experience as a player and as a coach will be a tremendous asset to our team going forward.”
Rafter – who had played for the national team since 2007 – replaced longtime head coach Mark Smith, who retired following the Olympic bronze-medal win after a dozen years at the helm of the program.
“I am humbled at the trust Softball Canada has put in me… I love the sport of softball and I am committed to growing the game across all age groups in Canada,” Rafter said in a news release.
“This program has risen to new heights… (and) I want to thank all those who came before me that helped build the program, especially coach Mark Smith, who led us for the last 12 years. It is my mission to make all of you proud.”
The national team – which this past summer included former White Rock Renegade stars such as Danielle Lawrie, Sara Groenewegen, Larissa Franklin and Lauren Regula – currently has three tournaments on its 2022 calendar: the Canada Cup, which is set for South Surrey from June 20-26; the World Cup in Birmingham, Ala. from July 9-13; and the WBSC Americas Pan American Championship, which has a yet-to-be-determined date and location.
“Congrats @kaleighrafter5… so so cool & so proud of you! Maybe I’ll come out of retirement for 2028,” Lawrie wrote on Instagram shortly after Rafter’s appointment was announced.
Softball’s next chance to be in the Olympics is 2028 when the Games are hosted in Los Angeles. Softball and baseball were both taken off the menu for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which are to be held in Paris.
Groenewegen and Franklin also took to social media to congratulate their teammate-turned-coach.
“Big things ahead for Softball Canada. She does it all folks!” wrote Groenewegen.
Franklin, meanwhile, wrote that she “cannot think of a better human or softball guru to lead us.”