"I love my job, I love the kids, the school and everything. I just think it's time for me to step away and be a mommy."
And with that, Cooper City softball coach Kerry Kelly has called it quits, finishing her run with a 181-49 record and an eight-year tenure that included four district championships and two trips to State.
Kelly took over the traditionally strong program in 2001, never missing the playoffs in any of her eight seasons. She reached the regional quarterfinals in her first year, then followed with her first trip to Tampa in 2002 and her second consecutive district title in 2003. The Cowboys again went to State in 2005 -- losing, as they did in 2002, by just one run in the semifinals -- and reached the regional final last year before bowing out in (what else?) a one-run game to eventual 6A runner-up Palm Beach Gardens.
That ended a 20-9 season for Kelly, who will remain on staff at Cooper City High as a physical education teacher.
"Kerry's been a successful team player," athletic director Paul Megna said Friday. "She's done a wonderful job with the girls over the years.
"We're always thought of as one of the best teams in the state every year, and that's a tribute to the coach."
Megna said his search for a replacement -- which is contingent on finding a teaching position for the incoming coach -- could take a while.
Meanwhile, in a conversation Friday afternoon, Kelly emphasized that this doesn't mean her softball coaching career is over. The New Jersey native just needs "to take the summer off and see what's next," wanting to devote her attention to her 3-year-old son who is picking up sports just now.
She spoke lovingly of her time at Cooper City, calling herself "blessed" by the support of the school and the amount of talent she was able to coach. She also said she spoke at length with administrators and her team before coming to this decision.
And, as mentioned before, it's far from a final one.
"I'm already starting to miss it," Kelly said with a laugh.
Chances are, that feeling will be mutual come spring 2009.
--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)