For Mission High Lady Eagles softball coach Iris Iglesias, coaching is more than a profession, it’s a way of life. However, after 35 years of coaching – all at Mission High School – Iglesias is planning to retire at the end of this school year.
Not only has Iglesias been the Lady Eagles’ head softball coach since 1995, she actually introduced the sport to Mission High School that very year.
A 2012 inductee into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame, Iglesias has a career softball record of 328-168, with five district championships, nine bi-district championships and three area championships. In 1996, Iglesias led Mission to the regional quarterfinals while her 2000 squad advanced to the state’s Sweet 16.
While this may be her last year as coach, Iglesias is by no means throwing in the towel just yet. After winning district and bi-district championships last year, she’s as committed to winning this year as she’s ever been.
“The success we had last year was with a senior-laden group,” explained Iglesias. “Eight seniors, six of which were starters, are all gone but we do have something to build on this year. We have our pitcher Gabby (Gabriela Castillo) and catcher Sara (Stubbs) back, so they will be our main battery around whom we will build this year’s team.”
The loss of six of last year’s starters has forced Iglesias to close out her career with a youth movement. Her current roster includes more freshmen and sophomores than it does juniors and seniors. As a result, Iglesias is counting on the Lady Eagles’ rich tradition of success on the softball field to help motivate her inexperienced team to play beyond their years.
“We’re doing everything we can to get everybody up to the level of being very competitive,” said Iglesias. “Our tradition is strong here so we rely on that. At the beginning of each season we explain what we’ve accomplished in the past to the girls so we build on that and we try to keep it going.”
As two of her upperclassmen and team captains, Iglesias will be counting on Gabby Castillo and Sara Stubbs to lead the Lady Eagles to another district title. That is a goal that Castillo and Stubbs are both shooting for as well.
“I want to see us get back-to-back championships this year,” said Stubbs. “I also want to see us have a longer run in the playoffs.”
“Same here,” added Castillo. “I want to pull out a district championship again this year too. I also want to see how far we can go into the playoffs. Mostly what I want is for us to make history by going farther into the playoffs than any Mission softball team ever has.”
Knowing that not all athletes have the privilege of playing for a hall of fame coach like Iglesias, Castillo and Stubbs both expressed what it means to them to have that honor.
“She is a great coach,” said Castillo. “She has taught me a lot. I’m glad that she waited until after our senior years to decide to retire.”
“It’s been an honor to be able to play for Coach Iglesias,” added Stubbs. “I know how important she is to the school and that she’s a Hall of Fame coach. It’s just been great to be able to play under her and, like Gabby, I’m glad that I have this opportunity of being part of her last team.”
So far this season, Mission is 3-0 in district play (10-3 overall) with a 19-0 win over Valley View, a 7-3 win over Edcouch Elsa and a 20-0, three inning win over Donna North. Tonight, Coach Iglesias’ Lady Eagles will be hosting Roma with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Mission High Softball Complex.