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Margo Culley: Elaine Sortino’s lesser-known coaching feat

To the editor:

Everyone who knew Elaine Sortino can testify to her fierce competitive spirit, which accounted in part for her extraordinary winning record as a softball coach at the University of Massachusetts.

But Elaine had another generous, playful side that everyone should also know about.

In the 1970s and beyond, Elaine gave her time to coach (and play with) a team in an informal league of “adult” women softball players, mostly graduate students at UMass and some junior faculty members.

The team I played on was called “Common Woman” and some others in the league were named “No Nukes of the North” (yes!) and “The Hot Flashes.”

Despite Elaine’s tireless efforts to teach us skills that would help us win, our team motto was “Every ball I miss helps another woman.” Elaine always knew that beyond winning, the sport was about having fun and building community.

Perhaps that explains why so many of the players in that “league” went on to lives of great accomplishment — including a number of college professors, as well as the associate dean of students at UMass (Eileen Stewart) and the academic dean at Hampshire College (Susan Tracy). Perhaps more importantly, many have also remained lifelong friends.

Thank you, Elaine.

Margo Culley

Wendell

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