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On Target

Knierim Leaves Mark on Game, Former Players

Former Meramec softball coach Celeste Knierim, right, and former assistant Vicki Schneider attended St. Louis Community College's 50th Anniversary Homecoming event at Busch Stadium in May.
Former Meramec softball coach Celeste Knierim, right, and former assistant Vicki Schneider attended St. Louis Community College's 50th Anniversary Homecoming event at Busch Stadium in May.

In 31 years of coaching primarily softball at St. Louis Community College-Meramec, Celeste Knierim attained a level of success few can hope to match.

Knierim amassed a career record of 1,041-544, making her the all-time winningest softball coach in the history of National Junior College Athletic Association at the time of her retirement. She led Meramec to 16 appearances in the NJCAA Softball Tournament, placing in the top five 11 times and finishing second three times. Her teams also captured 25 conference titles. She’s a member of several halls of fame, including those of the NJCAA and National Fastpitch Coaches Association. 

None of that takes the top place on her list of fondest coaching memories.

“Almost all of the players come back and say they wish Meramec would have been a four-year school,” she said. “I don’t think many four-year college coaches really give any of the community college coaches enough credit for developing players.”

Forty-five Meramec players were named to the NJCAA All-America teams, while 39 were voted NFCA All-Americans. There were 125 all-conference and 119 all-region selections as well.

“Each team had its own personality, and we had some really good groups of players,” said Vicki Schneider, Knierim’s longtime assistant who also played for Knierim at Meramec. “For me, playing for the national title the last year we coached together, and seeing Celeste get the 1,000th win were really great.”

Knierim has made a lasting impression on many of her former players.

“Celeste was the most amazing coach I ever played for,” said Holly Mitchell Dreher, who played on two World Series squads. “I’m now an elementary school teacher, and the thing I took most from my experiences playing was mental toughness. Celeste would always tell us that no matter what happens, you are tough and you just go with the flow. She was the one who made us strong.”

Rachel Adams played on Knierim’s final squad at Meramec, also continues to put into practice things she learned at Meramec.

“Celeste and softball overall have taught me to balance life,” said Adams, a computer teacher in the Windsor School District. “You have to balance your priorities, and also prioritize the things that mean the most to you.”

Knierim continues to teach softball, conduct clinics, coach teams on tours internationally and administer tournaments in the St. Louis area. This noted clinician continues to place greater significance on fundamentals and strategy – factors that were cornerstones to her coaching success and helped put the Meramec program on the map. She doesn’t really see that much in today’s game, which emphasizes power and speed.

“It’s frustrating to watch, especially in high school, because players are not being taught key fundamentals,” she noted. “It was an incredible era (at Meramec), and I don’t think it will ever be like that again.”