Waukon High School alum Holly Hesse to be enshrined among state of Missouri’s sports elite during January 28 Hall of Fame induction

Holly Hesse ... Photo courtesy of Missouri State University.

Coach Holly Hesse ... Photo courtesy of Missouri State University.

Former Waukon High School stand-out softball pitcher Holly Hesse will be entering her 30th year as head coach of the Missouri State University softball program in Springfield, MO with the start of the fast-approaching season. But first, she will be entering the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

Hesse is among this year’s 15 selections of sports prowess in the state of Missouri who will be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield, MO at a January 28 ceremony being held at the University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield, MO. This year’s inductees range anywhere from a long-time television sports director to former St. Louis Cardinals closing pitcher Lee Smith, with representation of a variety of sports realms in between, all who have helped “mold Missouri sports to what it is today,” according to the Hall of Fame’s promotional material.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized for your accomplishments like this,” Hesse said in regard to her induction. “You coach in hopes of making a difference in the lives of student athletes, hopefully both on and off the field, so to be recognized for doing something that you love to do and for something that’s already rewarding enough is just icing on the cake, especially among the likes of my fellow inductees.”

In her 29 seasons as head coach of the softball Bears, Hesse has become the all-time winningest coach in Missouri State University (MSU) softball history and the second-winningest softball coach in Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) history. The record of 749-747-2 that she has compiled thus far includes two regular-season MVC championships, five MVC tournament championships and five NCAA Tournament appearances. The Bears lead all MVC schools with 72 wins in the annual conference tournament, and Hesse is tied with the most MVC Tournament wins as a head coach with her 50 such victories.

Prior to her record-setting coaching tenure, and prior to any softball for Hesse at all at the collegiate level, she proved her knack for the game by racking up a school record 161 pitching victories at Waukon High School. Hesse pitched the softball Indians to back-to-back State Softball Tournament appearances, where the Indians earned their highest finish in program history - runner-up to Urbandale - in 1977 and also finished fourth in 1976 in the all-class format played back then. For her efforts on the prep diamond, she was inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Pitchers’ Hall of Fame in 1979.

Hesse carried over her mound mastery to also become a stand-out pitcher at Creighton University in Omaha, NE, where she became the school’s first 20-game winner and helped the Jays to three consecutive College World Series appearances, including the inaugural NCAA Women’s College World Series in 1982.

Following her graduation from Creighton in 1982, Hesse transitioned from playing the game she loved to teaching it to others, serving as an assistant coach for two seasons each at Iowa State University in Ames and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where she earned her master’s degree in sport management in 1984. Hesse also coached for two seasons at her high school alma mater in Waukon.

Following another two-year assistant coaching stint at her collegiate alma mater, Hesse arrived at Missouri State University in time for the 1989 softball season, beginning her current tenure that has now reached three decades and earned her recognition among the state of Missouri’s sports elite. That recognition for Hesse has been earned beyond just the diamond, however.

Proving her belief in wanting to make a difference in the lives of student-athletes, Hesse’s softball Bears have received recognition from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) four times as a NFCA Division I Top 10 All-Academic Team including 1999, 2000 and most recently in back-to-back years the past two seasons, 2016 and 2017. Hesse’s 2017 squad ranked second in the nation with a 3.648 team grade point average (GPA).

In 2003, Hesse authored a coaching book, which is available online and entitled “The Diamond of Success: A Philosophical Model for Coaching.” Further supporting her well-rounded mission of leadership, the Missouri State University Board of Governors honored Hesse in 2016 with the Staff Excellence in Public Affairs Award for her work and accomplishments in support of the university’s public affairs mission.

Off the field and outside of her softball home of now 30 years, Hesse has also been active in promoting the sport of softball, women’s sports in general and the coaching profession on a much broader scale. Nationally, she is one of the founding faculty members of the NCAA Women Coaches Academy, which was created to enhance the skills and perspectives of women coaches, and to aid in the retention of women coaches in intercollegiate athletics. Hesse served also on the Board of Directors for the Alliance of Women Coaches from 2012-2016. She currently is on the Board of Directors for True North Sports, which provides innovative educational programs for coaches of both genders and all sports.

Hesse said when she finds that it may be time for her to leave the coaching dugout, she knows that she still won’t be far away from the coaching aspect, as she wants to continue to fight the growing trend of fewer female coaches, especially at the collegiate softball level. “I don’t have any plans to step down, but if I ever do it will be because there are other things that I want to do or accomplish in life,” she reasoned. “I know some of that will be to continue to promote women in the coaching realm.”

The daughter of LaVonne Hesse of Waukon and the late Roger Hesse, the long-tenured coach says she will be proud to have her mother and some of her siblings in attendance during her induction ceremony in late January. “That will mean a lot to me to share that moment with family,” Coach Hesse said. “I’m thankful for the support they’ve given me along this journey, and I feel so fortunate to have them be there to share it with me.”

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