Softball has taken Tracy Coffman up and down the east coast, from Ohio to Florida to New York. Now softball has helped bring Coffman home.
Coffman was officially introduced as the first softball coach in University of Northwestern Ohio history Tuesday during a press conference on campus. She was joined at the press conference by UNOH president Dr. Jeffrey A. Jarvis and athletic director Chris Adams.
Many people in Lima might remember her better as Tracy Riepenhoff, an All-State pitcher at Lima Central Catholic High School. From there, she went to the University of Toledo, where she was a four-year letterwinner.
"It's very special. My husband and I are both in college athletics, and it's been really a neat thing to come back here," Coffman said. "Very few coaches get to coach in their hometowns. When I left this area of the country with the dream of coaching college athletics, I never imagined I'd be home. It's a dream to be home."
Coffman begins immediately with recruiting efforts and will have student-athletes on campus by the autumn of 2013.
"I am thrilled with the addition of Tracy Coffman to our coaching staff," Dr. Jarvis said. "Her experience and talent as a player and a coach made her the perfect fit as our first women's softball coach and newest member of the Northwestern family."
Adams added, "We were extremely excited when Tracy told us she would accept the job as our new head softball coach at UNOH. She brings a wealth of culture to the job because of her past experiences as a D1 softball player at Toledo, assistant jobs at both Stetson and Central Florida, and as a previous head coach at NCAA D3 Hamilton College in New York. These experiences, combined with her inherent energy made her an exceptional choice to take over a program which will feature a beautiful new facility. We will give her every opportunity possible to build a quality softball program here at the University of Northwestern Ohio."
In her previous coaching stops at Stetson University and the University of Central Florida, Coffman recruited the southeast, and in her last stop at Hamilton University in New York, she mined the northeast for talent. Now she must make the rounds in Ohio and the surrounding states to see what talent is around.
"You recruit, you get good softball players, so that's going to be my main focus over the next few months, getting out and just seeing what this region has to offer," Coffman said. "We're going to bring in great student-athletes who are great on the field and in the classroom.
"There's no easy fix to go about it. You just have to get out there and make connections with coaches and players and teams, really just a lot of windshield time getting on the road. The nice thing about coming back to Ohio is I'm not starting from scratch."
While rebuilding the program at Hamilton, she recruited 12 players over two seasons, so Coffman has practice in large scale recruiting. She also has resources at UNOH to use; the baseball program is in its second year of play and the men's soccer team is currently building towards an August 2012 kickoff date.
"There's not a blueprint when starting a program from scratch," Coffman said. "The good thing I have here is several coaches go before me in the recent years and start new programs, and I'm going to rely heavily on baseball and soccer, who have started in the last couple of years."
Coffman earned Bachelors Degrees in Adolescent Education/Integrated Social Studies and History from Toledo. She received a Masters Degree in Education from Stetson.
Coffman began her collegiate coaching career in 2002 as an assistant at NCAA Division I Stetson. She coordinated the pitching staff, including daily workouts, conditioning, scouting and game management. In 2003, the pitching staff ranked seventh nationally in ERA, and they ranked 11th nationally in ERA in 2004.
In 2005, she moved to Central Florida, where she was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. While working with the pitching staff, they ranked fourth nationally in ERA in 2007 and it was in the top 25 nationally in 2008. The 2008 team won the Conference USA tournament title, advancing to the NCAA tournament, where they beat No. 1 University of Florida before falling to the Gators in the double elimination tournament.
After spending the 2008-09 season back at Stetson as a volunteer pitching coach, Coffman was named the head coach at NCAA Division III Hamilton College in New York. In each year, the team made significant improvements on the field, and Coffman spearheading prospect camps and fundraising efforts.
"The biggest thing I remember saying to one of my coaching mentors is I was overwhelmed how many decisions I had to make as a head coach," Coffman said. "You have to make the decision and you have to stand by the decision. What I learned was to really take my time and be thorough with how we handled everything. … Your team is an extension of yourself."
According to Coffman, she has been given every opportunity by the university to field a competitive team.
"Dr. Jarvis and Chris Adams are very supportive, and they're going to give us what we need to be successful," Coffman said. "At this point, I have the full allotment of what the NAIA allows for softball."
The softball team will begin a limited schedule in autumn 2013 before embarking on a full schedule in the spring of 2014. Coffman will also be instrumental in construction of the new softball field at St. Rita's Health Partners Athletic Complex, situated north of the soccer field and northwest of the baseball field.