Three years ago, East Boston’s Serena Gilbride was standing in the middle of the softball diamond on the campus of Worcester State College, wrapping up a 3-0 shutout over Turners Fall that brought Austin Prep its first-ever state softball championship.
Gilbride won 24 games as the Cougars’ formidable ace right-hander during that historic season. You couldn’t have scripted a better finale to her splendid career in the program.
Today Serena Gilbride is beginning her senior year at Boston University pursuing a degree in Public Relations. But she’s also spreading her joy of softball and knowledge of the game to others as the head coach of the Northeast Reign 12-Under team based out of North Reading.
And the gentleman who set the journey in motion that ended with Serena becoming a 24-game winner and a state champion – her father, well-known East Boston dentist, Dr. Robert Gilbride – is serving as the Reign’s assistant coach.
“We were playing really well at the end of our season and made it to the semifinals in one of the tournaments,” said Serena proudly. “So, we definitely finished on a high note.”
Making the Leap from Player to Coach and Instructor
Serena Gilbride, 21, made the transition to coaching after competing on 18-Under softball teams for two summers and then working as an instructor at the Extra Innings facility in Middleton.
As for her new role as head coach of the Reign, Serena said, “I absolutely love coaching. I didn’t know how I would feel about it at first, because it’s so different from playing and not being able to be out there on the field. You sit on the sidelines and lead from there, which was a weird experience for me at first, but I like it a lot. I like it even a bit more than playing, because it’s more of the strategic side of the game and building relationships with the girls, too.”
Serena works with the Reign’s athletes year-round, supervising fall softball practices and games, winter indoor workouts, and spring pre-season practices before the team begins its tournament schedule in May.
Serena said the Reign are in their second season as an AAU program and are adding a new age group for the 2023 season. The director of the Reign organization is Mario Perrone, whose daughter, Julia, played college softball at Stonehill.
Her Future in Coaching
While she’s enjoying her first coaching experience, Serena hasn’t decided about entering the high school coaching ranks after her graduation from Boston University.
“We’ll see where this takes me,” said Serena. “I obviously think I like coaching softball a lot more that I thought I would. But I have other stuff to think about in life. I’m graduating from college and I’m trying to start a career within my field of study. It really just depends on how far I want to take it and immerse myself in the whole world of softball again.”
Her Softball Career Began in Eastie
Dr. Robert Gilbride and Nancy Gilbride were at Worcester State when their daughter pitched Austin Prep to a state title. It was the crowning moment to a softball career that began when Serena was six years old. With her father calling the signals and Serena doing the pitching, the East Boston Waves travel team, consisting of several of Serena’s friends from Eastie, was a perennial powerhouse in the highly competitive Middle Essex League.
“I played for the East Boston Waves with my dad as the coach, since I was eight years old,” recalled Serena. “I also played in tournaments on the weekends for different AAU teams, the Rebels and the Rapid Fire.”
As for her father’s immensely valuable contribution to her career, Serena offered, “I wouldn’t have been the player I was or even the coach I am now, without him. I’m so glad I get to coach together with him now. I can see how our styles of coaching are so similar and obviously I got that from talking with him on the sidelines during my games. I feel like everything I learned was through my father. And all the sacrifices that he made such as making sure that I could take private lessons a couple of times a week or getting up early on Saturdays so that I could go to a game – I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Her brother, Robert, who played baseball at Austin Prep, will begin his studies at Bentley University this fall.
The Gilbride Philosophy
Serena has instilled in her Northeast Reign softball players the philosophy that the more you play, the better it is for your development.
“I feel as a pitcher, the more reps or game-time experiences you can get, the better-prepared you are for high school and college softball,” said Serena.
The keys to her success as a pitcher?
“I think it’s important to find who you are as a pitcher. I relied a lot more on the location of my pitches and hitting my spots, where other pitchers rely more on their speed or off-speed – or on different types of pitches. I think it’s important to find out what your assets are as a pitcher. The mental part of the game is also a big factor for a pitcher.”
From her beginning on East Boston fields to her current role as a softball coach and mentor to girls, Serena Gilbride has emerged as a champion and a role model.