Utley named Buena Vista softball coach

STORM LAKE — Tammy Utley’s interest was piqued when she noticed Buena Vista University needed a new softball coach.

The former Fort Dodge Senior High all-state athlete and Dodger Hall of Famer had plenty of professional reasons to apply. More importantly, Utley found personal motivation in the idea of being close to home again.

Utley was recently named the school’s new softball leader, as the 1995 FDSH graduate returns to the area and takes over the NCAA Div. III program in Storm Lake after a successful stint at Lakeland (Wis.) University.

“The people I met while exploring this opportunity showed a lot of passion and love for BVU, the academic programs and resources, and the athletic department in general,” said Utley, also a former Iowa Hawkeye standout. “The campus at BVU is beautiful. The alumni support is tremendous, and the softball program has a rich tradition, which will make the transition to my new role very intriguing.

“I enjoy being a coach at the Div. III level. It allows student-athletes to be students first, while also doing what they love on the field, court, mat, track or course and (concurrently) having an opportunity to pursue other interests on campus.”

Utley most recently served as Lakeland’s head coach for seven seasons, and had been on the staff there for 10 years overall. The Muskies won a school-record 35 games under Utley’s guidance in 2024, and finished a victory shy of an NCAA Div. III regional tournament appearance.

The appeal of being just 60 miles away from Fort Dodge gave Utley an added incentive during the transition process. Lakeland is located in Plymouth, Wis. – an hour north of Milwaukee and a six-plus hour drive from the area.

“Without taking anything away from the excitement of being at BVU, being closer to family was at the forefront of my decision,” Utley said. “Living and working closer to home will allow me to be more present for my family, and allow my family to be a part of the Beaver softball program as well.”

Utley’s coaching career started after her successful playing career as a Hawkeye. She was a team captain in 1999 as a senior, and was Iowa’s most valuable player after earning third team all-Big Ten honors that spring.

The Hawks made College World Series appearances with Utley on the field in 1996 and 1997. Utley, a former Academic All-American, ranked among the program’s all-time leaders for career home runs.

Utley was a three-sport standout at Fort Dodge and a multi-time all-state catcher for the Dodgers. She was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2012.

“I learned many things from my time as a Dodger and as a Hawkeye,” said Utley, whose brother, Blake, is the FDSH head baseball coach. “First and foremost, I was learning how to be a great teammate. And time management was something I had to figure out while being a three-sport athlete in high school and having a part-time job.

“(Then-Iowa head coach) Gayle Blevins taught me work ethic and communication are an integral part of any team, whether in athletics or business. She also provided us with mental performance techniques that I use with my athletes and will continue to use moving forward. Mental performance was and sometimes is still believed to take away too much time from the physical aspect of the game, but Coach Blevins believed in the power of training the mind even back when I played. I’m a big believer that training the mind is just as important as any of the physical training done through sport.”

Utley has been a coach for 27 total seasons. She began her career as an assistant at Mid-Prairie of Wellman in 1997, and was on the staff at the University of Northern Iowa from 2002-07.

Utley served as head coach at Cedar Falls (2008-10) and Waterloo West (2011-12) before moving to the college ranks in Wisconsin.

“I am so excited to welcome Tammy back to her home state of Iowa to be the next head softball coach here at BVU,” said Amy Maier, the school’s director of athletics. “Tammy’s extensive coaching career, her passion and knowledge of the sport, and leadership qualities made her an extremely desirable candidate.

“I am excited to see her work with and develop our student-athletes, connect with our supportive alumni, and put her stamp on both the softball program and our athletics department as a whole.”

April Arvan, director of athletics at Lakeland University, thanked Utley for her work and loyalty to the Muskie program.

“The imprint Coach Utley has left on our Muskies softball program will remain in our record books and throughout history,” Arvan said. “We are thankful to Coach for a decade of service to our softball program, athletics department and to the institution, and we wish her nothing but the best as she begins this new chapter in her life.”

Utley has already hit the ground running on the recruiting trail for the Beavers, taking advantage of the active high school season. Iowa is the only state in the country that still plays summer softball.

“My style adjusts from year-to-year based on the strengths of the players we have on the roster,” Utley said. “I’ll work to recruit student-athletes to fill any gaps – speed, power, arm strength or anything else – moving forward.

“As a coach, I’ve learned to take the time to not only work on the fundamentals or physical aspects of the game but also making the mental game a priority. I believe mental performance strategies can help athletes tremendously both on the field and in life.”


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