Leigh Podlesny begins her second season at the helm of the Middle Tennessee softball program after being named the head coach in August of 2004.
An extremely decorated Division I assistant and pitching coach, Podlesny spent seven seasons with DePaul University. During that time, the program had achieved unheralded success and was an annual powerhouse in Division I softball. During her tenure, DePaul softball players were voted Louisville Slugger All-Americans 11 times with the pitching staff garnering seven of those All-American honors.
In 1998 she helped the Blue Demons to the Final Four of the Women's College World Series and in 2000 the team returned once again to defy tradition and reach the College World Series. Podlesny has mentored nine GTE Academic All-Americans while coaching at DePaul, combining a history of excellence both on and off the field.
In her seven years as an assistant at DePaul, the Blue Demons made seven NCAA Tournament appearances, four NCAA Regional Championship games, and were ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 each of the years she worked with the team. In 1999, the DePaul coaching staff was honored with the NFCA Coaching Staff of the Year award.
"My favorite aspect of DePaul was that we were able to do what no one thought was possible," Podlesny said. "We took a group of relatively unknown players and regularly defeated the top teams in the nation."
Over 20 top 25 teams were defeated by DePaul during Podlesny's seven-year stint with the Blue Demons. She believes strongly in positive reinforcement and motivation and that the relentless pursuit of excellence can pay off. Podlesny is looking to bring that same belief system to Middle Tennessee softball.
Podlesny comes to Middle Tennessee after a year long stint as the Head Coach of the Division I Terravogel softball team in the Netherlands. She led the team to a European Championship in 2003; their first in eight seasons.
Living abroad had been a lifelong dream of Podlesny's and when the opportunity arose, she couldn't pass up the chance. Not wanting to regret not following her dream, Podlesny decided to take the position leaving behind her home, family and friends.
"In the end, I learned many valuable lessons that I benefit from daily and are now able to share with my team," Podlesny said. "It is the craziest thing I have ever done but at the same time it was also the smartest decision I ever made." Podlesny hopes the personal experiences she and assistant Jodi Chmielewski have had abroad will bring a global perspective to the program. She added it is impossible to return to the US softball scene unchanged by working closely with players of another culture. Exposing the Middle Tennessee players to new ways of thinking prepares them to handle challenges on and off the field. At the heart of Middle Tennessee softball is teaching; teaching to be good citizens, to pursue happiness, and to be champions on and off the field.
She strives to show how enjoyable playing softball can be at the collegiate level if the players have the right mindset and approach to the game. To make this approach possible, the coaches also mentor the team and demonstrate how to remain resilient and positive when faced with adversity.
At the core of Podlesny's coaching philosophy is showing respect and demonstrating value to each individual within the program. By doing so, players are more readily able to commit to group goals and stay focused on excellence in the face of adversity.
Podlesny graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Communications in 1993. Podlesny prides herself as a professional student and has completed a vast array of graduate coursework in human services and counseling, and studied massage therapy, photography, interior design and cooking in her free time.
Podlesny married Dr. Erik Iversen this past year in two ceremonies. One in Florence, Italy and the other in Chicago, Illinois. The couple resides in Columbia,Tennessee and enjoy traveling the world when time allows.