OTTUMWA — There was no change of heart. There were no regrets.

One week after initially handing in his resignation, Jeff Kelley and the Indian Hills Community College school board came to an agreement and made it official. Kelley officially resigned as head coach of the Warriors’ softball program, effectively ending one of the school’s great coaching runs in any sport.

“I really did think about changing my mind,” Kelley said. “As the end of the season came around, I kind of had the thoughts develop as to if it was time for me to step aside.

“I told myself a long time ago that when coaching became more work than fun, I’d start considering getting out of it. It didn’t have anything to do with how we were playing or how the girls were responding. It’s just a case where 20 years of coaching kind of caught up to me.”

“It was definitely a surprise to me when he handed in his resignation,” IHCC Athletic Director Terry Carlson. “I’ve seen Jeff a number of times during the season, and I never got the impression he was ready to give it up.”

Kelley’s career officially ends with an .844 winning percentage for his career at IHCC and 681 total intercollegiate softball wins as a head coach. All the wins and all the promise that comes with one of the consistently best junior college programs in the nation, however, were not to swayed Kelley.

In the end, Kelley’s top priority for next year will be his family.

“Being single and coaching is a whole different world than being married and coaching,” Kelley said. “As a single coach, I didn’t have a lot of things going on in my life outside of my job. Once I got married and looking at building a house, starting a family, both my parents live around here and I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with them.”

Whoever comes in to take over IHCC softball will have to meet a pretty high bar set over the past 11 years by Kelley, who took over the program in 1995. When Kelley arrived, he found himself in the same situation as the new head coach of a team who had made it to five straight national tournaments.

Kelley not only met the challenge, but exceeded already high expectations. Indian Hills would go on to qualify for the next 10 national tournaments and under Kelley, the Warriors had seven 60-win seasons including 60+ wins in five of his first six years.

“When I came in, I put a lot more pressure on myself to continue the program’s success,” Kelley said. “I wanted to be sure the program was in better shape than when I left it.”

“Jeff was always looking for the best for this program,” Carlson said. “He’d been at Indian Hills as a student, he’d been around the ropes. I always enjoyed watching him practice and teaching his kids how to play the game.

“It’s great to have former student come back to Indian Hills. There’s just something about coming back to this school.”

Expectations aside, the next head coach of Indian Hills softball is hoped to be found by the beginning of August, when students and facility begin their preparation for a brand new school year. Carlson — who has already hired new coaches in volleyball, basketball and golf — will begin the busy process of finding a new softball coach right away.

“It depends on what kind of pool we get, but we have to get that coach in by August,” Carlson said. “It’s one of these things we have to do, but we have a lot of things to do in the next few weeks.”

“All the things are in place for a smooth transition for the next coach, and hopefully the program will continue to succeed,” Kelley said. “The advice I would give would be not to worry about everyone else’s expectations. You don’t have to worry about those other expectations.”

It is fitting that Kelley will remain at Indian Hills as a teacher, as his softball teams were known just as much for academic success as they were for their winning ways on the field. Six straight teams and over 40 individuals were named to Academic All-American Teams in Kelley’s decade of dominance.

“The large number of athletic and academic All-Americans we’ve had are the top two things I’m most proud of,” Kelley said. “We’ve had a lot of success with predominately Iowa kids. I’m so proud to have so much success with so many home-grown girls.”

A high standard of athletic and academic success is what has come to be expected from Indian Hills softball over the past 11 years. That’s a legacy that Kelley can look back on proudly as he hands off the reigns as the leader of the Warrior softball program.

“I’ll still have a vested interest in the program and I’ll be supporting them as much as I can,” Kelley said. “It’s like I always tell my graduating players, ‘Once a Warrior, always a Warrior.’ I’ll always be a Warrior.”

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