TAMPA, Fla. - Ken Eriksen was in Athens, Greece the last time Team USA won the gold in softball.
That was 2004. Fast forward 15 years and Eriksen has been named the head coach of Team USA for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
It almost didn't happen though, after softball was removed from the Olympics after the 2008 Summer Games. It was reinstated a few years ago.
"That was exhilarating," said Eriksen. "To me, I'm getting goosebumps right now, probably a little emotional... We were dead in the water as a sport."
Eriksen, who recently completed his 23rd season as the University of South Florida's head softball coach, has compiled a 52-4 record in major international competitions while at the helm of Team USA. It's the second-most wins in program history.
"It's not really going to be about me if we win gold. It's going to be about the players," he said.
The work begins almost immediately for Eriksen in his new position. Team USA will play in the Japan Cup, Pan American Games, and International Cup; all will be used in the evaluation process to determine which 15 women will represent the United States in Tokyo for the Olympics.
They'll hold tryouts, too, and later, exhibition games, which could be played in the Bay Area, possibly in Tampa at USF. Earlier this year, USF hosted the Japanese national team in an exhibition game.
"It's a huge win for us, and I think for the young women that play softball that are coming up that aspire to be Bulls in the future, that aspire to be Olympic team members in the future," said Michael Kelly, USF's VP of Athletics. "This is just another great exposure opportunity for them to see the sport being played at the best level."
Make no mistake, Eriksen says he doesn't call this a dream come true to coach at the highest level of international play.
"No, it's not," he said. "It's not one of those things that you just say, 'That's going to define me.' It's more been like a mission."