Building a Culture: The Wendy Hogue Effect
Ask her about it and she will smirk. She will tell you to hush. And if you are close with her, she may even playfully punch you in the arm.
As much as she does not want to discuss it, the Wendy Hogue Effect is a real thing.
"To me," Robles stated, "It is her support she has in the community that carried over from her success at William Carey. People are big fans of Coach Hogue. She does a great job of promoting us to the community, to people at the university, old boosters, new boosters. She makes sure that everyone knows who Southern Miss softball is. To me, that is what the "Wendy Hogue Effect" is. It is getting people in the community to know what Southern Miss softball is all about."
Hogue is not just trying to win. She is building a culture at Southern Miss.
Hogue, who is in her second season with the Golden Eagles, has already seen a dramatic improvement with her team from year one to year two on the playing field.
The Southern Miss softball team, who concluded the 2015 campaign 18-34 overall and 3-21 in Conference USA, was preseason picked to finish 12th out of 12 teams in the league.
The Golden Eagles showed the naysayers wrong, tallying 14 wins in league play and earning a share of the C-USA West Division Title.
"We are just trying to get to the top," Hogue said. "We want to be champions on the field. We want to be champions in the classroom. We want to be champions in the community.
"I think being a champion is a mindset. That is what we are working on here. It is so easy to be average and mediocre, but that is not what Southern Miss and the community deserves. We are working on the champion mindset day in and day out."
That championship mindset helped the Golden Eagles conclude the regular season with a 28-26 overall record, marking the most wins in a season since notching 29 victories in 2006 and 2005. Southern Miss finished C-USA play 14-10 overall, registering the most conference wins in a season since 2004 -- the last time the Golden Eagles won the Conference USA regular season. Southern Miss earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament, which is the highest seed since the regular season title in 2004.
The Southern Miss sweep over UTEP to end the regular season was the second three-game Conference USA sweep for the Golden Eagles this season and the first time since 2004 the Black and Gold recorded multiple C-USA sweeps in a season.
For their efforts on the field this season, Robles and teammate Lauren Holifield were each named to the All-Conference Second Team. Holifield was named the C-USA Newcomer of the Year.
The duo become the first Golden Eagles to be named all-conference since Leslie LeJune (2009-12) was selected to the second team in 2011. It is the first time since 2009 that the Black and Gold placed multiple players on the all-conference team. It is the first postseason conference award of any kind since Morgan McKeever (2013-pres.) earned C-USA All-Freshman accolades in 2013.
Holifield joins Megan Hill (2007-10) as the only players in Southern Miss history to earn Conference USA Newcomer of the Year honors. Hill claimed the award as a freshman in 2007.
But the Wendy Hogue Effect is not what the coach does for the team on the field. It is what she does for the team as a whole.
Hogue spent 10 years prior to being named head coach at Southern miss at her alma mater William Carey. During her time at WCU, Hogue built the Lady Crusaders into a national power.
Under Hogue's direction, the Lady Crusaders made six NAIA National Tournament appearances, including four Elite 8 and two Final Four appearances. In 2014, William Carey finished with a record of 52-12, was the runner-up in the 2014 NAIA Softball World Series and was ranked second in the final NAIA Coaches' Top 25 Poll.
In 10 seasons at the helm of William Carey, Hogue posted three seasons with 50 or more wins and six seasons of 40+ victories. In her final seven years with the Lady Crusaders, Hogue directed the team to six postseason berths, including five consecutive NAIA National Championship appearances.
An impressive resume, which helped her land the job with the Golden Eagles, but wins were not the only reason.
Hogue wants her student-athletes to be winners, not only on the field, but also in the classroom and in the community.
That mindset is something the Petal native has brought with her to Southern Miss.
"The girls have logged over 800 community service hours this year," Hogue said. "We appreciate giving back to the community. We can never out give them and the gifts that they have given to us. The community has been amazing. They are very loyal fans and we certainly appreciate that."
In the classroom, the team has excelled. Each member of the team has been named to the Dean's List or earned their way to the President's list at least once. Danielle Block was named to the 2015 Conference USA All-Academic team in Hogue's first season. This year Block became only the second repeat member of the team for the Golden Eagles and she was joined on the 11-person team by teammate Tori Dew.
Since her arrival, season ticket sales have increased. The Golden Eagles set an attendance record against Mississippi State in her first year in 2015, and broke that record this season against Alabama. The Black and Gold have led Conference USA in attendance each of Hogue's first two seasons.
"We set a record with season ticket sales," Hogue said. "I know we led Conference USA in attendance last year and I have no doubt in my mind that we are going to do that this year. My goal for the Diamond Club coming into this year was 200 members. I think we are at 217. I over use the word amazing, but the community has been so supportive that it amazes me."
With the attendance records, the community support has increased as well. The Diamond Club, which is the softball booster club, has seen record-high membership since Hogue's arrival to campus. With the help of the Diamond Club, Hogue has been able to renovate the team's batting cages, buy new equipment, and renovate the team's locker room and lounge. In addition, the Diamond Club expanded the deck in left field for increased seating.
"The Diamond Club is definitely our 10th man on the field," said Hogue of her booster club. "They step up whether it is food we need after the games, chocolate milk we need through the week after a workout, or just that encouragement after a tough game.
"Having them out there on the deck and in the stands, it takes us to a different level," Hogue added. "We are not just playing for us. There are quite a bit of folks that we are representing when we put that Southern Miss on our chest."
When asked about a message to the fans and supporters, Hogue smiled and simply said...
"Southern Miss... To the Top!"