Leitke retires as WMU softball coach after 22 seasons

Published 3:38 pm Thursday, May 12, 2022

KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University Head Softball Coach Kathy Leitke, the winningest coach in school history, announced her retirement Wednesday.

Leitke, a Dowagiac graduate, retires after 22 years leading the Broncos and over 40 years dedicated to coaching the sport of softball.

“I am very grateful for the 22 years I have had at Western Michigan University,” Leitke said. “I appreciate the opportunity that Kathy Beauregard and Jeff Stone gave me back in the Summer of 2000. Thank you to presidents that I have worked under in my tenure, most recently President Montgomery and Athletic Director Dan Bartholomae. I want to thank Jeff Stone for his leadership and support to me and every athlete that has been on this campus.”

“There have been many special people that I have been blessed to have coach with me over the years — a huge thank you to each of them. I’ve had genuine connections made with so many colleagues across the country and many coaches that have been here at WMU in the last 22 years. Thank you to our grounds crew and SIDs over the years that have made my job easier. I truly care about all the athletes that I have been honored to coach. It’s always been about developing successful people on and off the field and seeing young people grow and mature.”

In 22 seasons leading the Broncos, Leitke won a total of 478 games and was twice named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year (2006, 2011). She led the Broncos to NCAA Regional appearances two times after winning MAC Tournament titles in 2003 and 2011. She’s coached a total of 28 All-MAC First Team selections, including one Player of the Year and Tournament MVP, as well as two Freshman of the Year. Her team also excelled in the classroom, with over 50 Academic All-MAC selections.

“I know I speak for all of Bronco Nation when I say we are incredibly grateful for Kathy’s contributions over 22 years as our Head Softball Coach,” Bartholomae said. “Kathy leaves as our winningest coach, with two MAC championships and over 700 wins. Most importantly, she impacted the lives of hundreds of Bronco student-athletes as a coach, mentor and friend. We all wish her the best.”

Leitke took over for the Broncos in 2001 after arriving from nearby Lake Michigan College, where she coached for nine seasons, including a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship in 1993. Her tenure there also produced six Western Conference titles, five Region XII championships and five national tournament appearances.

Highly respected amongst her peers in the profession, she was tabbed regional coach of the year five times, league coach of the year on four occasions, and NCFA East Region Coach of the Year three times.

“We will immediately begin a national search for our head coaching position and look forward to the future of the Bronco Softball program,” Bartholomae said.