In a special exclusive to Black & Gold Banneret, recently-departed head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie shared her thank-yous to the UCF community in a letter that she was gracious enough to allow us to publish.
Gillispie just recently left UCF to become the head coach at Iowa after 18 years in Orlando. She founded the program in 2000 and is the only head coach UCF Softball has ever had.
Read the letter below.
Dear UCF Family,
18 years is a long time to stay at one place. But it’s amazing how quickly my 18 years at UCF have gone by. When we began the UCF Softball program in 2000, we had no players and no field. Four conference titles, seven NCAA appearances, and nearly two decades later, UCF is a nationally competitive program that belongs on the same field as any other power program in the sport.
As I begin an exciting new chapter in my home state of Iowa, there are so many people I wish to thank in Orlando.
First, thank you to my athletic directors at UCF since 2000 - Steve Sloan, Steve Orsini, Keith Tribble, Todd Stansbury and Danny White - for your unwavering support of our sport, from those humble beginnings through to now.
Thank you to Dr. Hitt for taking a chance on softball at UCF all those years ago. I hope we made you proud.
Thank you to all of our fans near and far, who gave your heart and soul, and even time and money, to our program. I hope we gave you some great memories along the way.
Thank you to our sport administrators, academic support, compliance staff and everyone in the support staff at UCF Athletics. You are the unsung heroes - the Knights in shining armor - of college sports.
Thank you to the marketing and communications staff, gameday operations, facilities staff and ground crew, because the magical experience that is college softball doesn’t happen without you.
Thank you to the athletic trainers, equipment staff, student managers, and directors of operations we’ve had through the years. The long hours, hard work and sacrifices you all made for our program built it into what it is today.
Thank you to all of my fellow coaches at UCF throughout the years. We’ve shared a dedication to a noble cause: helping young men and women achieve their goals and grow up to be leaders. I’ve enjoyed every moment as your colleague.
Thank you to all of my assistant coaches throughout the years for your tireless dedication to our players that built UCF Softball into the vision we all believed it could be. I could not have done it without you.
Thank you to the parents of all of our players through the years for entrusting me with your most precious gifts, your daughters. I will never be able to repay you for your support, dedication and trust.
And finally, thank you to every one of the dozens of players, past and present, who took a chance on me to be your coach. Of all the great memories I have had at UCF, my most cherished ones are not the victories or the championships. They are the moments we spent together with each other. The long bus rides. The flights to far-flung corners of the country. The team meals. The hotel rooms. Yes, even the practices. It’s those times when it was just us that I will remember. We laughed together, we cried together, and we shared our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our bitterest failures and our greatest successes both on and off the field together. And most of all, we grew together. The bond we share is unbreakable.
Most of you have graduated, and the rest will sooner than you think. Many of you have built successful careers and beautiful families. Seeing all of you grow into strong, capable, fearless women is the greatest reward a coach can have. Whether you were at UCF for one month or five years, remember that I am proud to have served as your coach, and I love every one of you.
I now take on a new challenge in a familiar place, close to my family and the place where I grew up. But while I may be returning to one home, I’m leaving behind another at UCF. Just remember that the best is yet to come, and when it does come, I’ll be rooting for you.
Seasons begin and end. Wins and losses come and go. But the memories last a lifetime, and it’s the people who make those memories. My hope is that I’ll make some great new memories as a Hawkeye, but no matter what happens in the coming years, my memories of my time at UCF will always be with me.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Once a Knight, always a Knight.
God bless always,
Coach Renee Luers-Gillispie