Michelle Rochinski


Michelle Rochinski

Even in the exhilarating aftermath of her team’s undefeated, 41-victory season, Coach Michelle Rochinski is reluctant to boast. Although she seems mellow and reserved, her eyes show the glint of fierce competitiveness. This inner determination has served her well. In just the fourth year of the existence of Montgomery’s Lake Creek High School, Michelle and her talented softball team put their school on the national map. In early June, they won the UIL 5A State Championship, and in July, they were named national champions by virtue of the USA Today High School Sports Award. To Michelle’s knowledge, it is the first time in Montgomery’s history that a team has been so honored.

‘A little bit of everything’

“My brother and I grew up doing sports from day one,” Michelle says. “We did a little bit of everything.” Coached by her dad on youth teams, Michelle excelled; in high school, she played softball, volleyball, and basketball. Early on, she discovered she had a knack for helping others become better players. “Even when I was playing, I always wanted to help younger kids. I was always involved in lessons and camps. That was just my calling,” she says. She also enjoyed volunteering with Special Olympics, which prompted her to minor in special education in college. She realizes she was fortunate to have been well coached at Katy Taylor High School. “My high school coaches were huge mentors to me, and I looked up to them. I still keep in touch with them,” she says. “They taught me a ton: how to be a good teammate, how to take a loss, how to win successfully.”

Michelle won a softball scholarship to the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she played for two years. She missed basketball, however, and transferred to Sam Houston State University, where she walked on to both the softball and the women’s basketball teams. On the basketball court, Michelle earned her reputation not because of her height—five feet, six inches—but because of her speed. She lettered in both basketball and softball before sustaining a knee injury that curtailed her college sports career. She graduated in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.  

Meanwhile, Mike Rochinski played football at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan before coming to SHSU for graduate school. While working at the university’s Johnson Coliseum, where Michelle played basketball, Mike became a fan. He eventually became Michelle’s husband. The couple have two children: Cade (18), and Kalee (17). Cade, a recent graduate of Lake Creek High School, will be playing football at Howard Payne University this fall. Kalee, who plays softball on her mother’s team, has already committed to play at the University of Texas at San Antonio after her graduation from Lake Creek in 2023.

Coach Roch

Michelle began her career in education at Klein High School, where she was an assistant coach for girls’ basketball, volleyball and softball. She was also a co-teacher in special education classes. After just one year, she was made the head coach of the school’s softball team; however, she decided to leave public school coaching the following year to become a personal trainer.

It was a career move that was not to be. While she was busy enrolling in personal training certification courses, golf coaches from Klein and Montgomery high schools met at a tournament. As they talked, Michelle’s name came up. Montgomery’s softball coach had left the district and the school needed a new one without delay. “Rusty Herridge [Montgomery’s then athletic director] called me out of the blue and asked, ‘Would you be interested in looking at Montgomery?’ I came out and interviewed. I actually started that school year two weeks late,” she says. “I really wasn’t even looking.”

Twenty years later, Michelle is still coaching in Montgomery. In addition to being the head softball coach, she has coached volleyball and basketball, and helped start the soccer program at Montgomery High School. For two years, she coached both softball and soccer. “Those sports overlap,” she says, “but they needed help, and I felt like it was my job.” Along the way, she also became an assistant athletic coordinator.

In 2018, Montgomery ISD opened its second high school, Lake Creek. At that point, Michelle was thinking about retiring from coaching and becoming strictly an athletic administrator. Principal Phil Eaton (now retired) and Athletic Director Clint Heard, however, had other ideas. “They asked me, ‘Would you want to go start the softball program over there?’” Suddenly, Michelle was faced with a dilemma. Her own children would attend Lake Creek High School, and her daughter would be on the softball team. “I questioned it for a little while, because I didn’t know if I really wanted to coach Kalee,” she says. “Some people kind of dream about coaching their kids, but at first, I was like, ‘I don’t know. It’s not my job to coach her through high school. It’s time for her to start listening to someone else.’”

Ultimately, Michelle chose to make the transfer to Lake Creek High School. Seniors were allowed to choose which high school they attended, and six out of eight softball players elected to attend Lake Creek. In its inaugural season, the team had a good record. Then things got interesting. The following season, Michelle had high hopes for her team, but after winning 15 games and losing just one, the remainder of the season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The will to win, however, would not go away. In 2021, during Lake Creek High School’s third year, the team had a record of 39 wins and zero losses going into the regional finals. Defeated by Barbers Hill High School (the team that ultimately won the state championship), the Lake Creek Lions were disappointed.

But they were not finished.

Unfinished business

After the blow of elimination before the state championship series, “Unfinished business” became the motto of the Lake Creek softball team. “Starting from the day we walked in for off-season, the girls were ready. I think they prepared last summer after we lost,” Michelle says. “We all believed we had that chance.” As the season progressed, the Lake Creek softball team began to receive national attention. “There are three big ranking systems,” Michelle explains, “based on competition, a point system, and wins and losses. Two out of three ranked us number one.”

At one point, Lake Creek played Katy High School, and word spread in Michelle’s original hometown. “A bunch of my high school coaches were there. A family member said to Michelle, ‘Man, Roch, you might have more fans here than the team!’ They followed us through the playoffs,” Michelle says.

On June 4, the Lake Creek Lions defeated Georgetown High School in Austin and clinched the state championship. Commemorative T-shirts proclaim in large letters: “Business—finished.” The team members recently ordered state championship rings that are barnacled with 41 tiny diamonds to represent their 41 wins. The rings also proclaim “national champions.”

Meanwhile, colleges have noticed Lake Creek: two out of three graduating seniors will be attending college on softball scholarships. Four of the team members who will graduate in 2023 have already committed to colleges. In fact, many of Michelle’s former players have played in college. “I don’t have very many who play varsity ball and don’t play at the next level,” she says. She has had at least one student athlete sign to play in college every year that she has been a head coach—which is 21 out of the 22 years she has been coaching.  

Over the year, Michelle’s coaching style has evolved. “I think I learn something every day,” she says.  She leads by example, working hard, even when it’s not convenient. Sometimes that means driving a bus so a team can compete. “The kids see that,” she says. “I am hard on them, but I care about them. I will do anything for them.” She also stresses the importance of being a team player. “All of us want to be starters. Everybody wants to be the top dog, but I think everybody needs to learn how to sit on the bench. They learn how to be a teammate and do the right thing. Being a good teammate is going to help you do a better job at whatever you decide to do. They are hopefully going to be successful young women in whatever they decide to do.”

Michelle has no regrets about making the intra-district move to Lake Creek. Her record at Lake Creek is 113 wins and 12 losses. And coaching Kalee has worked out. “We have our moments. She doesn’t get by with much, but she takes it like a champ,” Michelle says. “I don’t think I would take it back. God was telling me something. It was something we did do, winning the state championship. We won state together. That put the cherry on top.”

Previous Article
Next Article

Next Up