Corinne Ozanne desires to help people after graduating
Jessica Sheldon | Staff Photographer
Don Meister needed to raise the elevation of his swimming pool and he needed someone to help. So, the travel softball coach went to one of his most dependable players, Corinne Ozanne, and asked for assistance.
Ozanne worked for three days straight, moving more than 30 tons of construction stone singlehandedly as Meister worked from a bulldozer. Ozanne said the rocks where sharp, and it was one of the hottest weeks of the summer.
At the end of the third day, Ozanne refused to accept any payment.
All she wanted to do was help.
“From a young age, I liked helping people, and I liked springing my knowledge upon them,” Ozanne said. “… I was always helping my little sister with things, helping my brother.”
She said that she would help her sister with personal things, getting her out of tough situations, or drama with friends. Her brother, on the other hand, looked up to Ozanne in sports, so she would always be outside playing catch with him or helping him athletically.
Ozanne has made a name for herself as Syracuse’s (27-25, 9-14 Atlantic Coast) all-time leader in career home runs with 50. But she’s also developed a reputation as a mentor. After she graduates from Syracuse, Ozanne plans on becoming either a teacher or a softball coach, so she can help others learn from what she’s been through.
She works at the Syracuse University Early Education and Child Care Center during the week, and is set to earn her degree in early childhood development. The two buildings that house the center are just a short walk beyond the outfield fences at SU Softball Stadium.
“She’s great with kids,” said Sydney O’Hara, one of Ozanne’s teammates and fellow early childhood development major. “She’ll come home from the preschool she works at and tell the stories, she’ll be like, ‘I had this kid on my lap, and they wanted a hug, and then I had syrup all over my face.’ She loves it.”
Megan Dellegrotti, a health and physical education teacher at Ozanne’s high school, saw her excitement in regard to teaching, too. Dellegrotti answered questions Ozanne had about teaching on a daily basis.
Courtesy of Syracuse Athletic Communications
“How do you deal with that?”
“How do you deal with your kids?”
“How do you do that?”
Dellegrotti fielded all of her questions, and Ozanne said she would listen to every answer. She respected Dellegrotti as a mentor because with Dellegrotti as her teacher and basketball coach, the two had developed a close bond over the years.
“I just tried to be honest and explain to her that everything you do takes patience,” Dellegrotti said, “and you have to think about your experiences and handle each situation differently.”
But Ozanne isn’t sure if she’s going to pursue teaching full time. She’s also considering coaching, a different kind of education.
Meister said he talked to Ozanne a few weeks ago and told her she’d be an asset to any coaching staff. He said any summer ball team in the country would take her in a heartbeat and she would be successful on the collegiate level, too.
Last summer, Ozanne returned from Syracuse to help Meister coach one of his 18U softball teams in a tournament in New Jersey. The team was on an eight-game losing streak heading into the tournament, but with Ozanne coaching, the team won six straight.
Ozanne helped the girls avoid things that other coaches might not have seen, she said — a byproduct of her experience as a player. She said she also has a closer bond with female athletes than a male coach does, so with her in charge instead of Meister, she was able to get on a different level with the girls.
“She turned that team around. When she left, they asked if she could stay. She’s a leader,” Meister said. “… She turns people into winners. People want to be Corinne.”
Ozanne’s unselfish attitude and willing to help others has been echoed at Syracuse as well.
O’Hara remembers a time when she went 0-for-4 at the plate during her freshman season. Used to being a star player in high school, O’Hara was feeling down, but Ozanne brought her back up.
“I want to give the kids the experience that I maybe didn’t have,” Ozanne said. “In the sense of having a coaching staff that didn’t want to just coach you, but also help you with your life goals and life decisions and everything else.”
And as much as Ozanne wants to be a mentor for younger players, she also wants to hold them accountable. Meister said he’s never seen a player hold people accountable like Ozanne did while playing for his team, the Jersey Inferno.
Against a “really big California team,” in a travel softball tournament many summers ago, the Inferno was struggling. Down four late in the game, Meister didn’t think his squad would come back, and Ozanne could see him losing hope. She went into the field the next inning and made a few plays in the hole between third base and shortstop to keep the team alive.
She ran into the dugout and said, “That’s for you big guy.” Meister was stunned. In that moment, he knew she would make a great coach.
“She knows when to give you that look, she’s given me that look,” Meister said. “She holds everybody accountable. We never said to her, ‘You’re the captain’, she just took over.”
“Every coach in America” needs a Corinne Ozanne, Meister said. He said that people like her keep programs grounded and pass on a winning instinct that’s contagious.
In Ozanne’s first three years at Syracuse, the Orange posted a combined record of 67-80. In her senior season, SU has its first winning record since 2012. Syracuse head coach Mike Bosch said Ozanne is one of the biggest reasons for the turnaround.
Meister has considered opening a training facility with Ozanne, even looking into leasing a 23,000 square-foot building recently. He told Ozanne that with her talent as an athlete, and her experience as a player, she would make a goldmine out of it.
Still, the senior isn’t ready to make a commitment to any one career-path now. Coming out of college is too early to open up a facility, she said, because of the cost and time associated with opening one. It would take her five years to make any money, she added.
Ozanne plans to take the summer to weigh her options whether it’s going into teaching, coaching or opening up her own facility somewhere down the line. No matter what she chooses, Ozanne says her experiences as a player will help her continue to be the mentor that she already has become.
“With my experience with ups and downs in my career,” Ozanne said, “… I think that I’d be able to lead kids in the right direction.”
Published on May 9, 2016 at 6:42 pm
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