The Ottumwa Courier


February 17, 2013

Kelley becomes IHCC’s first half-of-fame softball coach

OTTUMWA — It had to be a little bit odd for Jeff Kelley this past summer.

On one hand, Kelley was proud as his Iowa City West softball squad became one of the first teams to win a Class 5A State Softball Tournament game when the Women of Troy beat the Ottumwa Bulldogs 5-0 this past August in Fort Dodge.

On the other hand, it’s one of the first times Kelley has been happy to see a softball squad from Ottumwa lose. After all, most of Kelley’s coaching life consisted on turning the junior college squad that calls the City of Bridges home into a consistent winner.

“When I got the draw and saw we’d be coaching against (Ottumwa head softball coach) Frank (Huston), I thought it was funny how things worked out,” Kelley said. “I consider Frank to be a great friend. I guess if you coach long enough, strange things like that can happen.”

For Kelley, losing seemed strange during his 11 years as head coach at Indian Hills Community College. After all, it only happened 106 times in 749 games coached.

And for well over a decade, a spring without a trip to the NJCAA Division I National Softball tournament not just strange for Warriors fans. It was unheard of.

With 10 regional titles and 10 trips in 11 seasons to the national tournament, Kelley guided the Warrior softball program to an amazing level of play. That made Kelley a no-brainer to be the first softball coach inducted into the Indian Hills Athletic Hall of Fame.

Being just the second coach overall to be inducted, however, seemed stunning to Kelley.

“I was pretty surprised, pleasantly of course,” Kelley said. “In the entire history of Indian Hills, seeing someone like (former IHCC baseball coach) Pat (Daugherty) be the first coach inducted was a rightful honor. I’m surprised I’m the second coach.

“Seeing some of the things that Terry Carroll did with basketball and Brad Stracke with golf where both of those men had championship teams — I was definitely happy, but kind of surprised.”

The Warriors placed in the top seven of the national tournament four times over Kelley’s 11 seasons, with the best run coming in 2004 when the Warriors made it all the way to the final day of the tourney before finishing fourth.

Over the years, Kelley’s Warrior softball squads had plenty of success leading up to postseason play. IHCC averaged 58 wins a season under Kelley, giving the Centerville native an .859 winning percentage, and won a school record 66 games in 2001.

“A lot of the credit goes to the coaches I worked with and, especially, to those kids,” Kelley said. “I challenged all my players to become better athletes and be great teammates. It was all about building up those opportunities to experience something like the national tournament together.”

For Kelley, the pressure to consistently meet that high level of success year after year was something he walked into when he was named head coach prior to the 1996 season. The Warriors had already started an impressive string of 15 consecutive national tournament appearances by making it to their first five.

“The most pressure I ever had during my time as head coach was that first year, just because I was trying to keep the tradition going,” Kelley said. “That success is what allowed us to keep recruiting that kind of talent. When you’ve had the taste of making it to the national tournament, you want every girl you bring in to experience that success.”

Perhaps the best tribute to Kelley’s success is how it has brought the level of play among the rival teams that were in the path of the Warriors decade-and-a-half of dominance. The string of successive national tournament appearances ended along with the run of regional titles in 2006, when Iowa Western and Southeastern eliminated IHCC from the regional tournament in Council Bluffs.

The end of the streak also ended Kelley’s run at Indian Hills head softball coach. Kelley soon stepped down as head coach to focus on things away from the diamond.

“I got out of it to be around my family more,” Kelley said. “I was just getting my family started when I decided to step down.”

After two years away from coaching, Kelley was offered a opportunity that he “couldn’t hardly turn down” when he was offered the chance to coach at Iowa City West. In five seasons with the Women of Troy, Kelley has kept on winning with a 154-54 record that included last year’s run to the program’s first-ever state softball tournament.

“I always thought that there might be a chance to get back into coaching,” Kelley said. “You don’t have to recruit. You don’t have as much travel. It was one of those things that really made a lot of sense for me. I can coach and still have plenty of time to be at home.”

This weekend will be very special to Kelley as he returns to see many familiar faces from his time at Indian Hills. What will make the weekend even more special is that Kelley will be inducted in the same IHCC Hall-of-Fame class as one of his former players in Karen Smith-Malloy.

“Karen was a wonderful person,” Kelley said. “All of the things she accomplished as a player and as an athlete were well-earned. That’s one of the things I’m really going to enjoy. I get to spend time with someone who’s as great a person as she was a player. Both Karen and Cindy are two of the most special people I’ve coached. I’ll take a lot of pride knowing that I can stand next to one of the people I’ve had the chance to know.”

One of those accomplishments earned by both Karen and Cindy Smith is an honor that a true testament to kind of young women Kelley brought to IHCC as a coach. Over his 11 years, the last seven were named Academic All-American teams with 54 players selected to either academic or athletic All-American teams during his tenure.

“You look at all of the people that have been so successful at this school and know I’m going to be in there as one of the select few to be a hall-of-fame inductee. It’s really kind of humbling.

“I just sent an email off to Doc (Lyle) Hellyer to thank him for the opportunity he gave me. Not a day goes by I don’t look back fondly on the time I had to be a part of that school.”

Text Only
  • 0419 OTT Sports IHCC baseball photo Falcons remain in first after sweep at Muscatine MUSCATINE — Friday provided the first-place Indian Hills baseball team with two very different games at Muscatine. Fortunately for the Falcons, the results were the same. IHCC remained tied atop the region with Iowa Western after sweeping the first t

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0419 OTT Sports IHCC golf photo Warrior golfers boast big lead at Illinois invite SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — After one round, the Indian Hills men's golf team boasts a 15-stroke lead in the Blue Boy Invitational Friday with a score of 296 strokes. Jakob Garstecki spearheaded the Warriors' success by firing the top score of the day at 72

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0419 OTT Sports softball color photo Warriors suffer sophomore day sweep to Southeastern OTTUMWA — Jim Overturf has been coaching junior college softball for over two decades. In that time, Overturf has seen over two decades worth of days dedicated to celebrating a departing class of sophomore players. In his experience, Overturf has see

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Albia boys have record-setting night at Waukee WAUKEE — Alex Schultz turned in a pair of outstanding performances at what ended up being a record-setting night for the Albia boys track and field team at the Waukee Invitational. Competing as the lone Class 2A school against some elite competition,

    April 18, 2014

  • 0419 OTT Sports Ottuwa Conference photo Ottumwa AD talks about possible conference change OTTUMWA — Tom Kopatich has plenty of experience with the Southeast Conference. Kopatich, the athletic director for Ottumwa High School, coached the Ottumwa football team when the Bulldogs belonged to the conference. So what does he think about a pos

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • On Tap Saturday Boys Soccer Ottumwa at Waterloo West Invitational, 9 a.m. Oskaloosa at Winterset Tournament, 10 a.m. College Golf Indian Hills at Buena Vista Spring Invitational (Storm Lake) College Baseball Indian Hills at Muscatine (DH), Noon College Softball Indi

    April 18, 2014

  • Ottumwa boys track ties for seventh in Urbandale URBANDALE — The Ottumwa boys track and field team tied for seventh place with Des Moines North at the Chuck Silvey Invitational at Urbandale Thursday with 11 points. The Bulldog boys 4x400 team of Roger Cruz, Matt Moreland, Jalen Strunk and Osha Wyl

    April 18, 2014

  • Clarification Clarification: The Ottumwa boys tennis team competes at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Dan Staggs Courts against Ankeny.

    April 18, 2014

  • Southeast Iowa Fishing Report Red Haw Lake Anglers have been catching some largemouth bass along with some bluegills and crappies. Use minnows and a bobber around brush piles. Lake Sugema Very little fishing activity has been occurring but some anglers were able to catch some sma

    April 18, 2014

  • Couple makes face paint for wild turkey hunters RED WING, Minn. (AP) -- You could call it man makeup. It's a water-based skin application made from natural ingredients such as organic rooibos tea and zinc oxide. It's nonallergenic, won't clog your pores, doesn't stain clothes and provides protecti

    April 18, 2014

NCAA Tournament Scoreboard
Sports photo reprints