Title IX at 50: Women’s Soccer Coach Leigh Sears

Editor’s Note: On June 23, 1972, a federal civil rights law was passed that prohibited sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding. Title IX also gave girls and women the equal opportunity to compete in sports across the country.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX’s passing next summer, Hope College Athletics will share the memories and perspectives from Hope College student-athletes, coaches, and alumnae on the 9th of each month during the school year. In our second installment, Hope College women’s soccer student-athletes pay tribute to head coach Leigh Sears, a cancer survivor.

Cancer Survivor

“When I think of Leigh, I see a strong, resilient, and beautiful woman who overcame one of the toughest things anyone could go through. Through her battle with cancer, she continued to put others before herself and pour into our team. She is a continuous inspiration to me, as she fought tirelessly and came out the other side healthy!” — Senior Hannah Mitroff


“I can sincerely say that Leigh is one of the best coaches that I have ever had. She not only pushes you to be the best player on the field but also pushes you to be best that you can be in life. Her compassion and kindness extends to every single person on the team regardless of their role and her dedication and love for Hope women’s soccer is truly one of the main reasons our program is strong as it is.” — Sophomore Jenna Mustapha


“Leigh is a lot of things, an educator being one of them. Education and learning are really important to her. I’ve taken a class with her and it’s fun to see her in that setting and see how she cares for students as well as her athletes. She always tells us school comes first. If we have a class conflict we go to class before going to practice. I think that she prepares us well on the emphasis of how important education is and I am beyond thankful for that.” — Junior Cassidy Broekhuizen  

Role Model

“Leigh is an incredible role model because she has this innate ability to empower everyone around her. She is everything you want in a role model – she’s kind but stern when she needs to be, incredibly strong and courageous throughout every struggle she encounters, and she’s intentional in making the people around her feel loved, cared for, and seen. I am so lucky to have had these last four years to look up to her.” — Senior Sarah Mikesell

Join the Conversation


  1. She is a role model for my grand daughter, Emma Dutmers, her Mom Jen Dutmers, and for me her Nana, Vonnie Ritsema. She doesn’t know me, but my family certainly respects, admires, and loves her. Leigh’s life has inspired all men and women, as they walk through this world of joys and sorrows. We are so fortunate to have her light up our lives.

  2. I had the pleasure of being on the team for four years and having Leigh as my coach. Leigh pushed me to be better and want to be better. I was not always the fastest or most talented player on the field, but I never stopped wanting to prove that I was good enough. I can’t thank Leigh enough for always believing in me and giving me a chance. She is not just my former coach, I consider Leigh a great friend.

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