ONTARIO -- Marcia Baer was successfully coaching female athletes at Ontario before the Ohio High School Athletic Association even recognized their sports.
Her three decades of coaching excellence will be honored on Sept. 13 when the Ontario Local School District officially designates the middle school gym as the "Coach Marcia Baer Gymnasium."
An open house on the Ontario Middle School commons is planned from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and an honor presentation will be held at 6:40 p.m. at Copeland Field before the Warriors play Black River in football.
Baer, who coached multiple sports at Ontario from 1966 to 1996, was taken aback that the school board voted Aug. 13 to re-name the gym in her honor.
Baer said she meets annually with a group of athletes she used to coach. This past summer, they met at Pleasant Hill Lake, and it was there she learned of the upcoming gym dedication.
"I was completely overwhelmed and completely surprised," Baer said. "I still can't believe it. For women in our area, for the great (students I coached), the good athletes -- I don't know what to say.
"I appreciate what they have done, and I know they are the reason I had success. I couldn't have done it without them," she said.
A pioneer in high school girls sports in Ohio, Baer is likely the only one surprised at her honors. OHS Principal Chris Smith said Baer may be the first woman to have her name dedicated to a high school sports facility.
Her coaching career dates back to 1967 when she began serving as an adviser for the school's Girls' Athletic Association volleyball and basketball teams, adding softball, gymnastics, tennis and track along the way.
The OHSAA didn't include girls' sports until 1975 and Baer was ready.
As a varsity volleyball coach, she posted a 256-150 record. As a basketball coach, she was 79-31, including leading the state's top-ranked team in 1977 and posting 57 straight wins from 1975 to 1979. She also coached softball, finishing with a record of 206-153.
Her former players are pleased to see their leader honored.
"Coach Baer was a hard-nosed coach who taught us hard work and how to succeed as a team," said Theresa Arnett, who played volleyball, basketball and softball under coach Baer from 1974 to 1977. "She taught us to understand how to be class acts and to be proud of our team. She taught us to respect ourselves."
"We wanted something permanent for her," Arnett said. "She spent so much time in that Middle School. We thought it would make sense to dedicate that (gym) in her name."
Former athlete Linda Mehaffy also helped get her coach's name dedicated in the gym she once dominated.
"There is no one coach who has given so freely of her time, so much of herself in order to help students and athletes achieve more than they thought possible," Mehaffy said.
Baer will be given an achievement award, naming the Ontario Middle School Gymnasium in her honor and a plaque listing her coaching records will be displayed at the entrance of the Coach Marica Baer Gymnasium.
A scholarship fund has also been established in her name to aid college-bound students who embody the qualities Baer established.