Softball coach returns to Texas

BY JACK ROSSI | MARCH 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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Marla Looper is heading home.

After a successful off week, the head coach will take her softball team to Texas — where she spent 11 years as an assistant coach.

Her stint at Texas, from 1999-2010, included many different responsibilities.

For her first six years in Austin, Looper served as the Longhorns’ pitching coach, and she also assisted the team both offensively and defensively as well as leading daily workouts.

During her tenure in the South, Looper made lasting relationships, and going back to compete in Texas is always a treat for her.

“I’m really excited; I spent 11 years there, and it was my major steppingstone to get here,” she said. “I think it’s nice to go back home and play in front of fans that I enjoyed playing in front of before. Even though they’re wearing Texas orange, I know they are going to be rooting for the Hawkeyes a bit.”

Even with coaching in her DNA, she wanted to go a different direction from the rest of her family growing up.

But after college, Looper became the pitching and catching coach at Iowa State.

“I didn’t really want to [coach] when I was growing up,” Looper said. “My whole family are teachers and coaches, and I wanted to veer from that. Well, reality was that’s what I was meant to be. My first job out of college, my college coach said, ‘Marla, just go do it and try it out’; it was in Ames, and I said I’ll do it until I don’t enjoy it, and I haven’t stopped since.”

While coaching may not have been her first choice, Looper has been successful in her career. The 19-year veteran gained national recognition for being apart of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s Staff of the Year in the 2002-03 season. And when she decided that she needed another challenge, she said bye to the Texas heat and became Iowa’s softball coach in 2011.

“After a while, I needed to continue to grow, and I think after 11 years of being in a program that’s been phenomenal, I needed a different challenge,” Looper said. “That’s when [Iowa’s coaching position] opened up.”

Looper did not want just any job; she wanted to have success in a program with a history of it — and Iowa had that. She had seen what Iowa had accomplished and wanted the program to return to its glory of the late-90s and early 2000s — when Iowa won three Big Ten titles and had four College World Series appearances. But first Looper needed a coaching staff.

Stacy May-Johnson is a former Hawkeye, and she spent five years as a professional player. When Looper needed coaches, May-Johnson, by chance, happened to be a great match.

“A lot of the way coaching positions work is about who you know,” May-Johnson said. “This was a little bit unique in that she had not met me or the other assistant before she hired us. It was really truly about the interview process and her making the decision if we fit in the direction she wanted to go. That is not the norm.”

Four years into the process, the changes are coming to fruition and Iowa is finally forming into Looper’s vision she had when she first left Texas.

“It’s been fun to watch the progression of this program, and it very much has been a progression,” May-Johnson said. “We are not the team from four years ago; we are far better,”

Looper’s dedication to softball has been witnessed throughout the clubhouse.

“I think Coach Looper is very passionate about the team and game in general,” said sophomore Whitney Repole. “She brings a lot of heart, and as our head coach, she’s a powerful figure for the team.”

Iowa will continue to build the program, and Looper will remain as long as her passion will keep her here.

“I love it,” she said. “As soon as I stop loving it then my hobbies will become my passion so right now this is my passion and what I love to do.”

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