With an intense passion for the game, continuing her softball career into the realm of coaching was an easy decision for Julie LeMaire, head coach of NSU’s softball team.
LeMaire began playing softball at a young age and continued playing through high school and college. LeMaire received a scholarship to Quincy University, where she played softball all four years. After ending her career as a collegiate softball player, LeMaire began the transition to the coaching side of softball, in order to give back to the sport that she loves.
LeMaire said, “I found out that I loved coaching and loved the game and wanted to stick in it and give back a little bit more than I was able to give as a player. That’s when I got a GA position and just moved throughout the steps to becoming a coach.”
Although she was initially hesitant to begin the journey to coaching, LeMaire credits it as one of her best decisions.
“When I was at Quincy, I was recruited by a lady who only lasted one year with us, and then she transferred back closer to home in North Dakota, and started coaching there,” said LeMaire. “Basically, I just kept in contact with her throughout my career, and she offered me a graduate position. I was a little hesitant to take it in North Dakota, but I did, and it was the best decision that I made. It was a great opportunity for me, and I’ve just stayed in coaching ever since then.”
Coming off of a four year stint as the head softball coach at Emporia University in Hays, Kansas, LeMaire will begin her first season coaching the Sharks this spring. LeMaire was initially drawn to NSU due to the great potential the softball program has.
“[NSU] had a good history with softball, and I think I always recognized that NSU has the potential to be very good,” said LeMaire. “The university has really grown over time, and it’s always been something that I thought if it were to open back up, it’s something I would look into and see what exactly it was and what it had to offer. And coming back here I learned it’s a beautiful campus; it’s a great place to recruit to and play softball.”
As a former assistant coach at Lynn University, LeMaire is excited to return to the Sunshine State Conference and help expand NSU’s softball program.
She said, “NSU has always been somewhere I though could be very good in softball, and just having been in the conference and knowing how the conference is within athletics and softball, it was definitely intriguing to come back and basically be a part of the new direction for NSU softball. I decided that this was the place that I wanted to try to be a part of turning the success back around and getting it going on the upward.”
Although most coaches set season expectations in terms of wins and losses, LeMaire’s main expectation is to help NSU’s current players reach their full potential and stay healthy enough to improve over the course of a full season.
LeMaire said, “Expectation wise, it’s just to get the most out of the current players who we have. We have a very low roster; we have 13 currently on squad, so being able to keep them healthy is going to be important. And just evaluating the kind of players that we have and the direction that we want to move with Nova softball. I’m someone that tries to find the best in all of the athletes that we have, and being able to get them to compete at their highest level is very important to us.”
LeMaire doesn’t have exact expectations for the team; she wants to create a new culture going forward.
“The expectation, I’m not going to put a number on it or anything, or say we’re going to do this, but I think really being able to get our kids to buy into a new foundation, a new culture that we want to start in the future years. To be able to get them to go as hard as they can every single day and get better as athletes every day, and be able to get them to perform at their highest standard are what our expectations are of the girls.”
But LeMaire knows that meeting her expectations for the team will not be a simple task. She acknowledges that coaching is a difficult career, and that many aspects of the job are a challenge.
She said, “The hardest part of being a coach is being able to manage everything and making sure that you’re giving your athletes the proper attention that they need.”
LeMaire also acknowledges that, although it’s challenging, helping her athletes succeed is one of the main objectives of her job, and it also one of the most rewarding.
“As a coach, you have to do the daily stuff in the office, and you’re constantly recruiting for the next team and the next group to come in, and you’re trying to put your players in the best situation to be successful for future years by putting good players around them, but yet you also want to put a lot of focus on making them the best players they can be in that moment too,” said LeMaire.
Through helping athletes succeed, LeMaire has been able to form personal relationships with the girls she coaches. LeMaire credits these relationships to be her proudest achievement as coach.
She said, “I could say we went 20-0 or undefeated in the conference play during my first year at Emporia four years ago. Or that we’ve won a regular season Championship and a Conference Championship, but when I get texts from those kids that I’ve coached along the way, during my last eight years as a head coach, and see that they’ve become a fan of me no matter where I’m at, even if it’s the place they were at or not, it’s probably by far my most proud moment. They impact you so much, and you want to make sure that you impact them as well.”