By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
Less than a month after Paul Jobson decided to step down as head coach of Baylor soccer, Baylor Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mack Rhoades was able to hire the program’s next leader in Michelle Lenard, former coach at Dallas Baptist University. Lenard is stepping in and taking over a program previously led by the school’s all-time leader in wins, and had been involved with the team since 2008.
Rhoades said the pursuit to find the right candidate was extensive due to the glamour and stature of the job. He said the key component in what he and his staff used to make decisions was through God, as they took their faith and used it for the best interest of the program.
“As always, when we embark upon a head coaching search, first and foremost, we really give it up to God and ask that he lead us to that right person,” Rhoades said. “All searches are journeys, and this was one and we are certainly blessed and grateful for the outcome.”
Lenard used a similar approach in how she pondered over the decision to try to be Baylor’s new coach. She said through God she was able to find her path for not only herself, but her family. After the first few interactions, she knew she had made the right choice, Lenard said.
“In this moment in my life as I try to decide what was next and what was best, I really asked God to give clear direction,” Lenard said in her introductory press conference on Dec. 13, 2021. “[I asked] is this the right step for myself and my family? And [after] interacting with everyone on the search committee and with Mack [Rhoades] and with their clarity on the mission of Baylor Athletics, it became really obvious to me that this was the absolute right decision for my family.”
Lenard knew she was taking over a program that found lots of success under Jobson, and believes this group can compete for and win a national championship. She said with an institution like Baylor and with the pedigree the athletics program has, it’s something she believes can be achieved.
“Coach Jobson and his staff have shown that [success is] very possible here and laid an unbelievable foundation with the success that they’ve currently had,” Lenard said. “But now it’s time to take the program to the next level, and I’m grateful to be the one to get to do that. We want to compete for a national championship and that is not easy to do, but there are a lot of coaches in this program that have shown you can do that here at Baylor. We hope to be the next team at Baylor to win a national championship and bring recognition to such a wonderful university.”
Rhoades also mentioned just how Lenard stood out among other candidates and said she was something unusual that you don’t normally see in a traditional search for a coach. He said him and his staff look for several characteristics in people, and that she possessed each attribute they looked for.
“We’ve been part of searches where maybe you’re not able to check off every one of those boxes,” Rhoades said. “I can say that this time we were able to check all of those.”
For Rhoades, Lenard’s passion to lead athletes and young adults through their collegiate career was another big bonus. He said the goal was to find someone who could set student athletes on the right path, even outside of soccer.
We want somebody that’s a leader of young people, somebody that’s going to just develop them, [someone] that understands that everything counts, everything matters,” Rhoades said. “They’re not going to just be great soccer players, they’re going to be great people. We’re going to challenge and demand and push and pull so that when they leave Baylor, they’re absolutely leaders in our society.”
The decision to leave DBU, the institution Lenard was a part of for 14 years, wasn’t easy. This choice means she is invested in Baylor for the long run and wants to be a part of the program for a long time, she said.
“I’ve been in my previous institution for 14 years,” Lenard said. “In order to get up and make such a significant move and move my family, I knew I wanted to go somewhere else for 14 or more years. This has been the perfect decision for our family. It’s been a hard one because I was so emotionally invested at DBU. But I’m here now and this is my team now and I hope to be here for a very long time.”
For the 2022 fall season, fans can expect a new-look team that continues to build off what Jobson left in place. Lenard said she wants the team to focus on controlling possession of the ball, while also maintaining an aggressive attack. She also said this team has zero major flaws and it is a squad that is poised for success. Lenard said bringing back multiple current players, mixed with newcomers will give Baylor soccer the needed personnel to compete for a national title right away.
The team is coming off an 8-5-6 season where they went into the Big 12 tournament as a three-seed. Lenard will have a full offseason to get acclimated with the team, bring in the staff she desires and recruit talent. Be on the lookout for the revamped Bears when they kick things off in the fall of 2022.