Next softball season is almost a year away, but former Leavenworth High School Athletic Director Shawn Terry said the Pioneers’ hiring of a new coach is already looking like a steal.

It wasn’t until Terry phoned a few of Kelly Bowie’s references that he realized his decision was a no-brainer.

“She’s very structured and has in mind what she wants to accomplish and get done,” said Terry, the school's athletic director in the 2013-14 school year. “She coached around in the Portland(, Ore.) area, I talked to a couple of schools that she worked with and they said they would hire her on the spot if they had the opportunity.”

Bowie’s resume indeed stands out.

She started varsity all four of her years at Wilson High School in Portland, then played a season of community college ball before playing four years at middle infield for Concordia University in Portland.

Following a successful college career that included an all-conference and all-region award, Bowie took her talents overseas to play professionally for the Sundsvall Mosquitoes in Sundsvall, Sweden.

“It was the greatest experience ever,” Bowie said. “I have to admit, the softball wasn’t the best. But just experiencing meeting all kinds of people, then experiencing the whole new culture was awesome. On top of it, playing a sport that I love was even better.”

As a player, Bowie played positions all over the field, sticking primarily with second base and shortstop.

She said her extended playing career and time as a multi-positional player gives her a better understanding of the game than most, and allows her to closely relate with players and elevate their games.

“I can teach anybody how to play the game,” Bowie said. “Anybody can play (softball) in college, you just have to work hard to play it. I teach a lot of stuff about being driven and how to work hard and stay focused. But then I also know the game like the back of my hand.”

Bowie will bring that knowledge to a struggling Leavenworth squad that tallied just one win this season.

Senior outfielder Darienne Watkins said it’s a welcome change for a senior class that has now seen three head coaches in four years. She said Bowie’s playing career gives her more credibility with the players as a coach and an answer to this season’s woes.

“It just really helps that we know that the information she gives us and the help she gives us is actually coming from experience,” Watkins said. “Rather than just saying it, she’s been through it. So she knows what to say and how to put it in perspective.”

Bowie has met with the players one time during a team meeting where she laid out the Pioneers’ summer plans and briefly introduced herself to her new team.

On top of working with the current squad, Bowie has already planned and announced a youth softball camp scheduled.

She said one of her primary goals with the camp is to re-introduce the game in a different way to young girls who might not have had the best experience with softball the first time around.

“I want to develop the youth,” Bowie said. “I’m wanting to work with the present, but I want to work with the future as well. … (I want) to teach girls that softball is a great sport to play because I don’t know if a lot of kids know about it or if they do, it hasn’t been fun in the past.”

Her emphasis on the youth, she said, is what drew her to the Pioneers program in the first place. Before being hired in Leavenworth, Bowie was the junior varsity softball coach at Shawnee Mission West. She said that while it was appealing to take complete control of a program, another draw was Leavenworth’s approach to ensuring students’ future success.

“I really like the feel of Leavenworth,” Bowie said. “They seem to want to push their kids to better things. I feel like they care more about their students, they want them to be successful after high school. … That was huge for me.”

The softball team will have workouts Monday through Thursday for the rest of the summer, as well as an open field practice Mondays and Thursdays.