Each February, colleges and universities across the nation honor female sports pioneers with the “Nationals Girls and Women in Sports Day”.
For the past six years, North Central College has honored women athletes with the “Cleo Tanner Award.” For 42 years Tanner served North Central as the Physical Education Director for women and became the first women’s head tennis coach in 1931.
This year’s recipient of the award was North Central College’s Assistant Coach Marcy Kritikos.
“I am humbled and I feel so gracious to have been given this award,” said Marcy Kritikos. “I am usually the one giving awards, not ever receiving them.”
Marcy Kritikos is a legend in the softball community. While playing for North Central, she earned All-CCIW honors from 1989-92 and all NCAA III All-Region honor in 1990. Kritikos holds many top records in pitching and hitting in the cardinal books.
Like many young female softball players these days they start playing the sport young, but that wasn’t the case with Kritikos.
“When I was growing up I didn’t have softball, so I was playing boys ‘baseball’ till I was 13,” said Kritikos. “There were some boy’s baseball teams that didn’t want to play against me because I was a girl. I can tell you that when they did, I threw a 1-hitter against them and won.”
Kritikos didn’t have any coaches or any instructors teaching her the right hitting or pitching mechanics.
“I watched baseball with my dad,” said Kritikos. “We would sit on the couch together and watch game after game. I would try to imitate certain baseball players from the Chicago White Sox.”
At that time, Kritikos was seen picking up a baseball bat rather than a Barbie doll.
“Girls who played ball were considered tomboys,” said Kritikos. “If you didn’t play athletics you were a girly girl. To me I didn’t care what they called me, I just loved the game. I just wanted to play. That’s all I’ve known, is just playing the game.”
From days hitting the ball in the neighborhood to days playing at Shanower Field at North Central College, Kritikos has taken the lessons she has learned and now teaches the game that has shaped her life.
Kritikos is the owner and head instructor at GenuWIN Sports Training Inc. in Romeoville, Illinois. She has been a private pitching and hitting instructor for 13 years. Her and her staffs teach more than 7,500 private lessons along with clinics for softball and baseball a year.
“It’s not work to me,” said Kritikos.” “I love what I do and I feel blessed. Some people like to be behind a desk all day; I like to be in a cage all day long.”
Her positive attitude has touched the hearts of almost everyone she coaches.
“Coach Marcy has inspired me to follow my dream of becoming a coach,” said GenuWIN Sports Client Kaitlyn Skarecky.
“I wouldn’t be the player that I am today without Coach Marcy,” said North Central College Softball Player Justine Walker. “She has helped me with every aspect of the game. I feel like she believes in me and I’m not just another girl she coaches.”
“Whenever I’m in practice and she’s instructing I feel like our team has such an advantage,”said North Central College Softball Player Mary Caron. “She loves the game and you can see that when she’s coaching, and that feeling is contagious among the whole team.”
“I’ve never seen anyone with so much passion for the game,” said North Central College Softball Alum 05’ Dana Litchfield. “It doesn’t matter if the girls she’s teaching or coaching are five, 10 or 25, she wants to make them better players and strong independent young women.”
That feeling of being self-empowered is what Kritikos wants to be able to share with all of her players.
“I think too often women think they can’t attain things,” said Kritikos. “They wait for some guy to come out and take care of them, and I think if they just put in some time they can do it themselves. I believe in breeding strong and independent women, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
Kritikos helped shape the face of athletics for young women, and she sees that there is still a lot to of work to do in the future with recognizing women sports.
“I don’t know if women’s athletics will ever get the notoriety that men’s sports do and that’s disappointing,” said Kritikos. “There are so many tremendous women athletes that work day in and day out, and they should get the same respect a guy would get.”
No matter what the future of women’s sports holds, one thing is true for Kritikos: She will still keep the love of the game with her.
“I hope the message that I can send is that something my mom always says, ‘be passionate in what you do and make a difference,” said Kritikos. “I hope that every single day I make a difference to these young kids.”
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