Article Written By Collin Rutkowski. Photo Accredited to Collin Rutkowski.
From the dugout to the classroom, Paula U’Ren has been at St. Cloud State for over twenty-four years and continues to have an impact on campus.
U’Ren coached the St. Cloud State softball team from 1997 to 2021. She led the Huskies to three NCAA North Central Regional Championships and finished third in the NCAA Div II national tournament in 2004 leading the team to their best finish in program history. She finished her coaching career with a record of 725-485.
Having been at the program since the turn of the century, it was not an easy decision for her to step away from coaching. However, coaching is a year-round commitment and she wanted to spend more time with her family.
U’Ren said, “I have my own family, my two daughters were getting older, and I felt like it was a good time to step away. The program was in really good hands with some great seniors. The program was moving in the right direction in terms of regional competition, national caliber skill level…. It was my turn to coach my kids.”
Having stepped away to spend more time with her biological family, she had to say goodbye to her family on the SCSU team after an emotional 2021 season.
U’Ren said, “It was really really hard. We just came off a pretty emotional year. We ended our season, and everyone goes home, and there’s never a good time to say that we’re done. I just wrote them a heartfelt letter and sent it out to them. I don’t know the best time to say that you’re stepping away.”
Once the goodbyes were in order, U’Ren quickly looked to stay involved with St. Cloud. She then joined the Kinesiology department as a chairperson under Sports Management, Recreation and Exercise Science.
“The motor was going 90 miles per hour coaching. There really wasn’t any off minutes. The cool thing about coaching is you’re always moving, you’re available twenty-four-seven… That first year [teaching] I definitely had to learn to slow down a bit. I’m still trying to learn that it’s a different lifestyle and I think that schedule [coaching] is still imbedded in me,” U’Ren said about the transition from coaching to faculty.
When looking back on her coaching career, she brought up the similarities between coaching and teaching. The only difference was the setting in which it was done. The main difference now is the subject. She was helping her players grow as people and players, but now it is more academically focused in Sports Management and Sports Science.
U’Ren said, “I’ve always thought that coaching was being a professor in that field, I got to be able to teach life lessons through the game of softball. We did practice on the field, but we also talked about how to be a good person and how to grow as an individual in your community… All of those things translate over. Now I just teach a different subject.”
The softball season is only two months away now and that internal clock is still in her head from her time as head coach, but she remembers that decision has allowed her to spend more time with her family.
U’Ren said, “It was a big change at first because the days at home were so limited in the past and we all had to make that life shuffle. Now my kids are asking me to coach their teams and to travel.”