How Amanda Curran became ultimate hype woman for Tennessee softball and why she embraced it

Cora Hall
Knoxville News Sentinel

If there’s something to celebrate for Tennessee softball, whether it’s a home run or a big strikeout to end the inning, you can always count  on Amanda Curran being  the first player off her feet and out of the dugout. 

The junior pinch-hitter is the hype woman and the ultimate teammate for the Lady Vols – and her energy is infectious. She’s an unsung hero when it comes fostering team culture and being a leader in the dugout. Tennessee coach Karen Weekly has a lot of admiration for players like Curran, who wholeheartedly embrace smaller roles. 

“I think it's very hard to do what Amanda Curran has done,” Weekly said. “Internally she is genuinely happy for everyone around her and that really speaks way more to the kind of person she is, not just the athlete.” 

There’s a wall in the softball clubhouse that has a mural of core values. Weekly sat next to one that said, “servant warrior,” a quality she said Curran embodies. 

KNOXVILLE, TN - March 08, 2022 - Amanda Curran #22 of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers during the game between the Austin Peay Governors and the Tennessee Lady Volunteers at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville, TN.

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“They put the team before any individual needs. They celebrate and appreciate their role and every role on the team,” Weekly read off the wall. “Because we have people like that on our bench, it's hard for anybody to cop an attitude … When they set that example, nobody else is going to do anything that flies in the face of that.” 

It took time for Curran to grow into that player – but she stayed and took the time to find her role and embrace it.

“In the day and age of the transfer portal, it's rare and refreshing,” Weekly said with a smile.  

Junior outfielder Kiki Milloy said Curran has been integral in building and maintaining the team culture.  

“She's definitely a leader in what she does, because she's the one that builds the culture of, we're gonna have great energy,” Milloy said. “We're gonna cheer on each other's successes, we're not going to tear each other down or be jealous or selfish when it comes to things like that.” 

How Curran's perspective changed

Curran finally felt like she was hitting her stride as a sophomore. She had started as a designated player in a handful of games and was ready to contribute even more. But a torn ACL in March sidelined her for the rest of the season. 

“Honestly, it felt like this was the moment,” Curran said. “This was the time where I was like, ‘OK, this is how I'm going to become a leader on the team.’ ” 

Curran had that mentality because of the struggles she had as a freshman. She started her career worrying about proving herself after being overwhelmed by the Lady Vols' talent. It was the hardest season of her life. 

But a conversation with her dad – who had been her coach up until 12U – when she was home because of the COVID-19 pandemic changed Curran's perspective. The two went on a walk one day, and it was a conversation that lifted a huge weight off her shoulders. 

“Hey, you’re playing it for yourself,” Curran recalled what her dad  said. “You’re not playing for me. You’ve gotten to the highest level that you can get to in college, so you’re doing it for yourself.” 

TennesseeÕs Amanda Curran warms up during the Lady Vols vs Virginia Tech softball game at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee on April 20, 2022.

With the external pressure taken away, Curran was able to  relax and accept her role at Tennessee. Her parents were proud of her and just wanted her to have fun with it – so she did.  

After Curran suffered her knee injury, she made the decision to be the biggest hype woman for the Lady Vols.  

“It kind of gave me some peace ... I can put all of my energy into my teammates when they needed me,” Curran said. “That's something that stayed true to my core, I just want the best for my teammates … making sure other people feel that their worth is being shown, making sure people feel confident themselves.  

“That injury definitely shaped me into the person I am, not just the player – I’ve just been a lot more appreciative of the game, appreciative of relationships.” 

Honing her craft as pinch hitter

Curran’s dedication to being the spark plug is only one part of her role with the Lady Vols. The other is being a pinch-hitter who often gets her at-bats late in the game, and it took a while to learn. 

She feels like she’s matured enough for that role and assistant coach Chris Malveaux has helped her immensely with game plans. Curran's always on the charts, getting a feel for the pitcher from the dugout. 

Tennessee's Amanda Curran during an NCAA college softball game on Sunday, March 13, 2022 in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

“Not only is she expected to bring the energy, but she's also expected to watch the game, be in everyone's at-bat like it's her own,” Milloy said. “She is fully invested in the game, 100% all the time. You're never gonna catch a moment where she's not paying attention and I think that shows in her at-bats.” 

During her first two seasons, Curran put pressure on herself – she had to get a hit, or she might not get another at-bat. But her perspective has shifted now, and she’s realized how many ways she can impact the game, whether it’s drawing walks or seeing a lot of pitches.

Curran was rewarded in Tennessee’s home opener with her first career home run, a three-run, walk-off shot against Tennessee Tech. It was the moment Curran dreamed of for three seasons. 

“The way she pours into all of us constantly in practice, in games, for her to be able to do that, is just awesome,” outfielder Amanda Ayala said of the homer. “It makes us feel so happy for her, it’s smiles all around, honestly. It’s well-deserved and it’s awesome that it was her.”