New Homestead girls softball coach Deb Segebrecht finds it both exhilarating and odd, that more than 35 years after she and newly retired coach Dave Keel started learning the game together in the program's early days, that she has come back to take it over from him.

"How was I to know," she said in amazement, "that when I was playing for him when I was 16, that he'd still be here when I was 52?"

She was an 11-time letter winner at Homestead in the late 1970s and early 1980s in golf, basketball and softball ("I was just a couple of meets away from another letter in golf," she said) and she played shortstop for Keel as he got his feet wet picking up a sport he had to learn fast.

As everyone knows, he did so quite well, being recently inducted into the Wisconsin Fastpitch Coaches' Association Hall of Fame.

Segebrecht, whose name back then was Doedens, as in the storied and far-flung Doedens athletic clan that has spread its fame and talent throughout Ozaukee and Washington Counties, also learned fast.

But she took quite a circuitous route to get back to this point.

After graduation from Homestead, she graduated from a junior college in North Dakota with an associate's degree in physical education and recreation. She then went on a volunteer mission in Florida to help with handicapped children and adults.

It was supposed to be a two-month stay, she said, but then two months became six months and then four years as she stayed there from 1984-88.

"I fell in love with the people and the place," she said.

She came back to the Mequon area after that and got a job at her alma mater, where she is now working as a para-professional in the special education department.

Since the late 1980s, she's worn a variety of hats, working as a freshman basketball coach for the Cedarburg girls for a time, and also serving as an assistant girls basketball coach at Homestead for strong teams coached by Jim Smasal and long-time softball assistant Marlaina Feller.

Segebrecht worked as an assistant with Keel and the softball program from about 1989-94. Her teaching and coaching career then took what she called was "a little sabbatical" in the 1990s when she got married and had two children (a freshman in high school and a seventh-grader).

She eventually came back to it all as her kids got older (she has been coaching her eldest for a time now), also helping out in the Mequon-Thiensville Basketball Association Saturday Slammers program. Most recently, she has been helping out Corey Wolf as an assistant for the girls basketball team.

Keel kept his retirement from softball (he'll still be patrolling the football sidelines this fall) fairly quiet and the search for a new softball coach started in mid-winter, right in the midst of a busy hoops season for Segebrecht.

"So, during the basketball season I was approached and asked if I was interested in the softball position," she said. "I was a little cautious because I really enjoy coaching my daughter's team, so I stepped back a little and talked with my kids and my husband about it. We talked about travel arrangements for the kids, things like that, but in the end, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

"I was excited to take it."

So now she's at the helm of a very young team, headed up by junior two-year letter winning pitcher Sam Schindler. Furthermore, due to the maddening, wet weather and a jumbled spring break schedule, the Highlanders had only played one game heading into this week.

Still, Segebrecht is encouraged

"I am excited to have the opportunity to work with a great group of young ladies," she said. "We have a great mix of returning letter winners and underclassmen that are going to be taking the field. The girls have been working hard as we get used to each other. It has been a fun and productive first couple of weeks and we are looking forward to a great season."

Segebrecht said the transition from Keel to her is going fairly smoothly.

"I've only heard, 'Well we used to do it this way,' once or twice," she said.

"It'll get more interesting when we start playing games in earnest because these kids are really hanging in there. They like each other and do fun stuff together off the field."

Meanwhile, the old football and softball coaching Hall of Famer Keel is keeping his distance, visiting family this spring and letting Segebrecht get her feet wet just like he did all those years ago.

But Segebrecht says he keeps his cell phone handy just in case.

"He's always been just a text away," she said, "and he's been very, very helpful."

Now all Segebrecht is hoping for now, is a series of warm days and a few nice victories to help her young team gain some confidence.
"I have had a great time playing the game and am hoping to pass that along to these young ladies," she said. "We are going to have some fun."