BALTIMORE - UMBC Director of Athletics Tim Hall announced today the hiring of Heather Gelbard as the Retrievers' new head softball coach.
Gelbard becomes the Retrievers' sixth head coach since UMBC began competing in softball in 1991. She replaces Joe French, who retired in May after guiding the Retrievers for 15 seasons and compiling a record of 435-397-1 (.523 winning percentage) at UMBC and a mark of 649-506-1 (56.2%) in 23 seasons of collegiate coaching.
"Heather demonstrated a true passion for student-athlete welfare both on and off the field and her commitment to UMBC Athletics' core values make her a great fit," Hall said. "Her distinguished college playing career and her work with a highly successful mid-major program like FAU are wonderful attributes and we are confident she can bring those qualities to lead our program."
"I'd like to thank our Athletic Director Tim Hall, Senior Women's Administrator Jessica Hammond-Graf and softball administrator Kala Andrews," Gelbard said. "I also want to thank Joe French for all he has done for the program, and for leaving it in good shape. I am very humbled and grateful to be the next softball coach at UMBC. I'm very excited to get my feet on the ground and take the team in the right direction."
Gelbard comes to Hilltop Circle after spending the previous seven seasons as an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic University. This spring, she helped lead the Owls to a 51-9 record, including a 22-2 mark in Conference USA play plus their second consecutive NCAA tournament berth. Gelbard served several roles with the team, including that of recruiting coordinator. She also worked with hitters, compiled scouting reports, and coached first base. FAU posted its highest team batting average in team history (.301).
In addition, the 2016 Owls set a new record for the highest fielding percentage (.977) in program history, which placed sixth in the nation. The pitching staff also had the third and seventh lowest ERAs in the nation this season and in 2015.
Gelbard hopes to bring that same kind of success to UMBC.
"I'm a coach that believes that pitching and defense come first," Gelbard said. "One of my first tasks will be to hire a pitching coach. If we can keep the opponent run totals down, and with the bats UMBC has on the roster, we should be able to score runs, We should be competitive in every game."
During her tenure at FAU, she coached 20 All-Conference players, four All-South Region players, as well as an All-American, a CoSIDA Academic All-American, and an NCAA Woman of the Year nominee.
Gelbard earned Academic All-American and All-ACC honors -- and many other awards -- as a four-year starter at North Carolina State and remains in the top 10 in 15 different career offensive categories.
She graduated summa cum laude from N.C. State in 2007 with a degree in psychology and earned a master of science in movement science – sports psychology from Barry University in 2009 -- and gives a lot of credit for her coaching success to those who've guided her so far.
"I'm where I am now only from having great mentors in [FAU Head Coach] Joan Joyce and [former N.C. State Head Coach] Lisa Navas," Gelbard said. "They put me in the position to be where I am today."