Barb Leopold Celebrates 40 Years of Coaching
NEW ULM, Minn. – Martin Luther College softball coach Barb Leopold is stepping down after 40 years of coaching on the campus of MLC, and many of her former players will be returning to watch her team play this weekend to celebrate the occasion.
Leopold started coaching on campus back in the 1974-75 school year when the school was Dr. Martin Luther College, and first started coaching softball back in 1978, making this her 37th season running the softball program on campus.
During her tenure at the college, Leopold has also served as the head coach for softball, men’s and women’s cross country, and women’s basketball. She has also been an assistant volleyball and women’s basketball coach, and even coached women’s track at Martin Luther Academy, the prep school formerly on campus.
During her time, Leopold has tried to stick to the same philosophy.
“My philosophy is and has been to teach players to love and respect the game, to share my love of the game, enthusiasm, and desire to improve and rise to meet any challenge,” Leopold said. “Also, I wanted them to use their God-given talents to their fullest so that, in all things, we become ambassadors for our Savior in our thoughts, words, and actions.”
Through the years, that philosophy has helped spark many memories for the veteran coach to recall. Regardless of the success she attained in the various sports she coached (she has 419 career wins in softball, and won multiple conference and National Small College Athletic Association titles in cross country), many of those memories involve the inside moments and jokes that only a team and their coach know and remember. Stories of bus trips gone awry, creeks overflowing, players singing on the bus, nicknames (one of her teams had four players named Rachel, so nicknames became essential), and countless other stories.
She is also very proud of the success she has had on the field, remembering fondly last season’s team that was picked to finish seventh in the UMAC in the preseason poll, but reached the championship game of the UMAC tournament. Or the academic success her players enjoyed, having been ranked multiple times in the top 25 amongst all NCAA Division III schools in grade point average (GPA).
After going through all those memories, Leopold admits she’s changed over the years.
“I feel I have mellowed over the years,” she said. “I still get as excited and enthusiastic about the game, but I feel I have learned how to better deal with the players. Let’s just say I am more relaxed.”
Part of the reason she’s been allowed to mellow is that Leopold seldom was afforded the luxury of an assistant coach in some of her earlier years as coach, and she also had to serve as the driver, trainer, and laundry person at times to make sure the needs of the players were met.
Through the years, it was the players who kept Leopold coming back for more, and they are the people she says are responsible for her longevity as a coach.
“They have all been great,” Leopold said. “They were, for the most part, willing to try anything to improve and move to the next level of playing. Every group had their own personality. I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding, as well. Without them, I would not have stayed in coaching throughout the years.”
Many of those players will return this weekend for the softball team’s doubleheader against Crown. More than 40 of Leopold’s former players are expected to see their coach and celebrate 40 years of memories.