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Now in her 35th year as head softball coach for the Missouri State University Bears, Holly Hesse can reflect on the hundreds of women she has guided.
“My leadership position as a head coach at MSU has afforded me the opportunity to help over 600 women access higher education and learn life skills such as teamwork, hard work, leadership, mental toughness, communication, conflict resolution and accountability,” she says.
The winningest softball coach in MSU history, and the second-winningest coach in Missouri Valley Conference history, Hesse created a coaching philosophy that she calls “The Diamond of Success” – also the title of one of her two books on the subject.
In the book, Hesse talks about the importance of a mission-driven life. She also shares her own five-part code of ethics: “Be loving. Be kind. Be honest. Do what is right. Do your best.”
For her athletes, Hesse’s philosophy stresses what she calls a “Triple A” set of priorities, with academics at the top of the list, followed by attitude and ability. She notes successful programs are about development of the student, while maintaining the honesty and integrity of the program though a focus on academic success, improvement and record, and conference finish.
“At the heart of ‘The Diamond’ are player-coach relationships that are based on love, kindness, trust and respect,” she says.
With her mindful approach to her work, Hesse has achieved a 100% graduation rate over 34 years, and MSU softball leads all MVC schools with seven tournament champions and 75 wins. Her program has been recognized four times as a National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Top 10 All-Academic Team.
Her players also have risen to levels of distinction, with 39 first-team all-conference players receiving 56 first-team all-conference honors. She’s had 26 players earn NFCA All-Midwest Region honors and 10 players inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Hesse is in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, and she is in the top 25 of all active NCAA Division I coaches in career victories. She is also a founding faculty member of the NCAA Women Coaches Academy, created to enhance the skills and perspectives of women coaches.
Hesse says she actively promotes the sport of softball, women’s sports in general and the coaching profession, both within the MSU athletic department and on a national level.
With 41 years of coaching under her belt, Hesse is looking to the future.
“I will continue to coach MSU softball for the next two years and plan to lead the successful transition to a new head coach at that time,” she says.
The nonprofit moves into its new campus.