Q&A: Softball coach Marla Looper

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | MAY 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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After 11 years as an assistant coach at Texas, Marla Looper took over as Iowa's head softball coach this season, leading the team to a 27-24 record (9-11 Big Ten). She replaced retired Hall-of-Fame coach Gayle Blevins after her 22 seasons as the Hawkeyes' head coach.

The Daily Iowan caught up with Looper recently about her first season in Iowa City — from a hot start to an upset win over No. 1 Michigan on April 23 to the seven-game losing streak that followed.

DI: How was the transition from longtime assistant to head coach?

Looper: The biggest adjustment wasn't in coaching the game or teaching, but just kind of putting all the pieces together. It happened so late in the year, putting the staff together. It took a while to meet the players, and I think that was the biggest challenge. What kind of personnel do we have, and how do we make the most of it?

DI: What was it like replacing Gayle Blevins?

Looper: You know, Coach Blevins is a legend in the softball world. I'm very appreciative to be in this position. And the thing is I'm not here to fill her shoes or replace her. Technically, I took the position and title, but Gayle Blevins is Gayle Blevins, and nobody will ever replace her.

What she's done with this program and the foundation she's built is how we can be successful. We're going to use that as a steppingstone.

DI: Would you call this a successful season?

Looper: I would say yes. That's a tough question, because at the start of the season if you told me this is how it would be, I'd say 'Yeah, that's a great success.' But after going through the middle of the season and doing things so well, my expectations rose. All of ours did. So after the second game against Michigan [Iowa lost 3-2, blowing a seventh-inning lead and a potential sweep of the No. 1 Wolverines] it was kind of like, 'Oh, man, we could've been even further.' But I'm proud of the girls and how they came out this year. We've got to wait a week and find out if we put ourselves in position for postseason.

DI: Can that upset over Michigan serve as a sort of signature win, and what does it do for the program?

Looper: That's a tough question, because I think that's where the norm should be. I don't want to rest on, 'Oh, we beat 'em once.' We should've beat them twice. I wouldn't say it if I didn't believe we could do it.

It's huge in the realm of what we did this year in the past, but in the future, that's what I expect. I expect us to be the team people are trying to knock off.

DI: How tough was the seven-game losing streak that came afterward?

Looper: It was tough. When you start faltering a little bit, it snowballs, and we struggled to stop the snowball. They kept working hard and trying, but I think we were trying too hard instead of just letting it happen. At the beginning of the season, it was just happening for us. We started to force things to happen, and things didn't go our way. It's tough to get through that.

DI: What did you do this year in terms of laying a foundation for the future?

Looper: I think this year was vital. We might not have been able to put everything into action softball-wise, but we put into action the philosophy behind the program and where it's going. Being aggressive, being assertive, not backing down from anyone. It doesn't matter who's on the other side. That's the direction we want to go, and this year has helped us catapult that a little bit.

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