Tracy Leinen wasn’t one of the athletic directors required to help run the 2018 5A state softball tournament.
But Boise High’s longtime AD drove the three-plus hours to Chubbuck’s Capell Park anyway to cheer on the Braves as they made a run to the program’s first state championship in May.
“She really believed in those kids and wanted to be there to support them and make sure they had everything they needed,” Boise School District Superintendent Don Coberly said. “And what do you know? They go on and win an unexpected state title. She wanted to be there to support those girls, and I thought that was pretty cool.”
Leinen recently announced her plans to retire ahead of the 2018-19 school year, leaving the 5A and 4A Southern Idaho Conference without its longest-tenured athletic director and only current female representative. Brian Barber will replace her at the helm of the Braves’ athletic programs, the school announced Friday.
Her departure creates a void felt by colleagues and students.
“Tracy’s ability to build relationships was really special,” Coberly said. “A lot of people got to know her really well because she was very accessible. You could stop by and chat or whatever. I think with kids especially, she was really good at building those relationships, and that allowed her to get things done in the program, whether she was having to discipline a student or just congratulate them on something that they’d achieved.”
Leinen was hired as a physical education teacher and coach at Boise at the start of the 1986-87 school year. The Iowa native worked her way from an assistant to head varsity roles in basketball, volleyball and softball.
Once she was promoted from the assistant athletic director to the school’s head AD in 1998, she’d be in the office by 7:30 a.m. each morning and wouldn’t leave until the lights were shut off in the gym at the end of the night. Throughout her 32-year career, Leinen says she can count on one hand the number of games she has missed.
“For me it was all about Boise High School,” Leinen said. “I’ll be a Brave to the grave, I can tell you that right now. My life and soul has been in this school.”
While winning wasn’t what drove Leinen to work tirelessly behind the scenes as the backbone of the Braves’ athletic department, there has been no shortage of celebratory moments.
Since 2000, the Braves have hung 47 state championship banners and accumulated 37 academic state titles.
“She would be there whether the team won five games or 30 games,” Coberly said. “She was their biggest cheerleader.”
Leinen’s background as college athlete in basketball and softball at Northwest Missouri State University helped her develop the drive and confidence necessary to succeed as an athletic administrator. Even an initial rejection didn’t deter her in pursuit of the career of her dreams.
“I wanted something. I went after it. I was disappointed two years before that when I applied for the (athletic director) job (at Boise High) and didn’t get it,” Leinen said. “But I never gave up. I just kept fighting and working hard. And when you work hard, success is going to happen. You’re going to get your dream.”
Just as mentors like former Northwest Missouri State women’s athletic director Sherri Reeves and former local athletic directors Jack Acree and Marquis Ross helped her along the way, Leinen has been a mentor to other administrators in Idaho and beyond.
“Tracy was one of the people who helped me out when I was just starting out as an AD,” IHSAA Executive Director Ty Jones said. “She has always done things the right way and has always been willing to help out whenever she has been asked to do so. Tracy has been a fantastic role model for what an athletic administrator should be, and she will be greatly missed.”
In addition to her busy job as an AD, Leinen also served on the Idaho High School Activities Association board and is the current executive director of the Idaho Athletic Administrators Association.
“There is no replacing Tracy Leinen. She is a legacy and has a done incredible things for the students and community of Boise High School,” Boise Principal Robb Thompson said. “It is hard to imagine starting a school year, a football season, anything having to do with Boise High, without Tracy Leinen as a part of it.”
Leinen doesn’t expect to leave the Braves cold turkey. When she isn’t fishing and exploring the mountains around her cabin in Cascade, she’ll probably be in the stands cheering on her school — just like she has for the past 32 years.
“I love sports, I love kids and I love supporting them,” Leinen said.