By Josh Beavers
Shelby Leach has coached at both the high school and collegiate level, and now she brings that experience to Webster Parish after being named head coach of the Minden High Lady Tiders softball team.
“I am so grateful to Coach [Dean] Francis and Mrs. [Rebecca] Wilson for this opportunity,” Leach told the Journal in a one-on-one interview Wednesday. “I am looking forward to this year with the Lady Tiders, and I am so excited to work with my staff — Joy Thomas, Christina Chester, and Jimmy Ashby.”
Dean Francis, Minden High athletic director, said, “I am excited to have Coach Shelby Leach come in and lead the Lady Tiders softball team. She brings incredible passion and knowledge to the team.”
Minden Principal Rebecca Wilson echoed that statement.
“This is an absolute dream come true,” Wilson told the Journal during a scholarship signing on campus Wednesday morning. “We are so excited to welcome Coach Leach to the MHS Lady Tiders softball program. We are happy with the direction of our program and what’s coming for our students.”
Leach said her first step will be to jump in with the girls and see what they have to offer.
“Most of them are used to playing at a high level of competition because of school ball and travel ball,” she said. “I don’t think there will be much that needs to change… just adjusted and tweaked a bit. As a staff, we have sat down to talk about what is most important for this team. For our staff, it is just having these girls and their families buy into our team becoming a family. We talk every time we’re together about being a family. The girls are buying into everything we have put in front of them.”
Leach graduated from Weston High School where she was a five year letter winner in softball and a four-time all-district player. In her senior year, she was all-district Co-MVP. Following high school, she attended Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) and then Southern Arkansas University (SAU).
After playing collegiately, she became a coach at BPCC. “It was a weird transition going from player to coach,” she remembered. “I learned so much in those two years at BPCC.”
After two years coaching at BPCC, she moved into an administerial role in the athletic department where she oversaw budgeting, eligibility, and academics.
She moved back into coaching four years ago, taking up the helm of the Loyola Lady Flyers softball team.
“When I first started, I had 6 players,” she said. “When I left for Christmas break that year, we weren’t sure if I would have enough kids to even play in the spring. We have built this program back up over the last four years. Last year, I had 15 players on the team.”
She said Loyola is known for three things: academics, soccer, and having Snoopy as its mascot.
“Softball is not one of those things,” she said with a laugh. “We went from winning one game my second year to being second in our district last year. We played really well some days and really bad other days, but overall Loyola was an amazing experience. I had to learn how to be the best coach I could be and really make things more understandable for girls who had never played ball before. I’ll forever be thankful for Loyola.”
At Minden, her goal is for the players to be successful on and off the field.
“From what I’ve been told, our girls have a team GPA around a 3.6,” she said. “That’s amazing. If we can be as successful on the field as we are in the classroom, then I have no doubt that we will make it deep into the playoffs every year. We have so much talent on the team right now and just as much coming in from Webster. I’m just excited to see what these kids can do when our staff is able to work with them.”
It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Loyola, she said, but she sees the potential in Minden and wants to take her love of coaching and make an impact on the players, school, and community.
“I love this game. I started playing ball when I was three and never stopped until I graduated college,” she said. “I just want to pour my love of the game into everyone that plays for me. I am so passionate about being the best player that an individual can be and outworking everyone around us. I will forever be thankful for Loyola for taking a chance on me. But now, I am excited to say Roll Tide…”