By Jerry Duggan
Merideth Feik did not have much of a faith life growing up. One of four siblings, she usually spent her weekends playing sports, watching her siblings play or doing yardwork at her family’s home in the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo. Feik may seem like an unlikely candidate to end up an administrator and coach at a Jesuit high school, but following her heart got her there. She has built the softball program at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., from the ground up.
Feik has had a lifelong passion for sports, particularly the game of softball. After playing throughout her youth, she attended Adams State University in Colorado. While she earned her undergraduate degree in education, at that time her main interest was coaching.
After college, Feik played on several professional teams in women’s softball and baseball, traveling internationally for tournaments. She made a name for herself as a private softball coach, instructing individuals on the fundamentals of the game while also working as a substitute teacher in the public school system of Jefferson County, Colo.
Within a few years, Feik got the opportunity to become an assistant varsity coach at a Denver area public high school. She loved what she did, but determined that, if she ever got the chance to become a head coach, she would do things a little bit differently.
“In my experience there was not enough emphasis on getting to know the players as individuals, as people,” she explained. “It seemed like it was all about winning games.”
As a successful athlete, Feik does not shy away from competition and understands the pleasure of winning. She just approaches it differently from many others, by coaching the “whole athlete.”
“I still am extremely competitive today, and my teams play to win,” she says. “Still, I believe that a team should become a family, and players and coaches should feel connected to each other.”
Determined to start her own program, Feik faced a complication: many schools would not hire her if she simply wanted to coach, and she was not interested in being a full-time teacher/administrator. Enter Regis Jesuit High School, which gave her an opportunity as it was starting its softball program in 2003. They were impressed by her experience as a player and private coach.
Regis Jesuit High School, in Aurora, Colo., is co-institutional, offering a Jesuit education for both boys and girls in single-gender settings.
At the time, Feik knew nothing about the Jesuits and had little faith of her own – something that initially gave her pause before accepting Regis’ offer.
“I was upfront with everyone that I was nervous about the faith aspect of things – I expected it to be quite uncomfortable at times,” she said.
Feik was surprised to find that the atmosphere at Regis was anything but.
“In my first couple years, I was not in the building as a teacher, but faculty and administrators still made an effort to get to know me,” she said. “I was worried that the religion aspect might be overwhelming but instead found that everyone was welcoming and understanding of my background.”
She fondly recalls several members of the school’s Jesuit community, including Fr. Walter Sidney, SJ, who was president of the school at the time, showing up at many of the team’s first games. That support meant everything for Feik, especially because the program was in its infancy.
“When I got here, we had six girls try out the first year,” she recalled.
The program grew slowly but steadily under Feik’s leadership. In 2005, she was hired as a full-time physical education teacher, feeling ready to make a deeper professional commitment to Regis.
While the softball program achieved generally middling results in the win-loss column, a strong culture was being built. Feik coached the team from 2003 to 2009 before focusing on her family for a few years.
“Our numbers were growing, and we were generally a competitive team. Most of all, though, we were a team – we cared about each other, built strong relationships, made sacrifices and worked hard for each other,” she said.
In 2012, Feik returned to the softball coaching staff as an assistant and took on an administrative role on the school’s staff – activities director for the school’s girls division. This role eventually consolidated into a single job for both the boys and girls divisions.
In 2016, she again took over as head coach of the softball program.
This year, Feik was named dean of students for the girls division.
In this new position, Feik prioritizes the same things she does with her softball program – relationships.
“I try to make myself visible to students and parents and to show that I care and am here to help them with whatever they might need,” she said.
Over time, her softball teams began to achieve breakthrough levels of success on the diamond. In 2018, the team advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history and finished eighth in the state of Colorado.
“That was a crazy year, and for those girls to make it so far into the playoffs took tremendous hard work and dedication,” she said.
What Feik’s teams lack – specifically, depth and experienced players – they make up for in heart. Feik uses that hard-working, team-first culture to close the talent gap between her roster and more established programs with a long tradition of winning.
“I always tell my players to never let anyone work harder than you, never take things for granted and never let anyone tell you that something cannot be done,” she said.
While Feik’s tenure at Regis has been full of long hours and at times, difficult days, the miraculous growth of the softball program has made it all worth it.
“It has been a labor of love,” she said.