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Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Storied bowling coach retires after 14 seasons

Storied bowling coach retires after 14 seasons

After 14 years of coaching the women’s bowling team for UW-Whitewater, veteran head coach Leann Sullivan has announced her retirement. Sullivan led many impressive Warhawk teams and is a three-time NCTA Division III Coach of the Year, which includes this past season that will ultimately be her final for the program. 

“The time went really, really fast. I feel like it hasn’t been that long just because I enjoyed the competition. I enjoyed being around the student-athletes and seeing them go on to bigger and better things,” said Sullivan. 

As head coach, Sullivan led the Warhawks to their first-ever berth into the NCAA championship in 2013 and followed that up with two more appearances in 2014 and 2015 finishing third in both years. However, the impact that Sullivan had on the program goes beyond the many successful seasons the Warhawks had under her guidance. For Sullivan, the most rewarding part of her time as head coach was impacting the student-athletes that she coached. 

“None of my success would be possible if it wasn’t for all the student-athletes. All of their dedication and sacrifice and even all of their families. Without the support of their families who allow them to go to UW-Whitewater, try out for the bowling team, and be on the bowling team. None of that would be possible without the support of their families,” said Sullivan. 

Sullivan worked with a plethora of talented bowlers during her tenure. Eight of the bowlers she coached were NCTA Division III bowlers and Rookies of the Year which includes Rachel Nelson (Bowler-2024), Kelly Whipple (Bowler-2023, Rookie-2022), Skye Farr (Rookie-2023), Caitlin Mertins (Bowler-2022), Amanda Van Duyn (Rookie-2013, Bowler-2016) and Katie Zwiefelhofer (Bowler-2014). More statistics about Sullivan’s coaching career can be found here

Sullivan found herself around bowling for most of her life. Not only did she start from a young age and eventually play in high school but she also played for the Warhawks when she attended the university as a student graduating in 2010. 

“My mom was a really avid bowler and she insisted on getting me in junior leagues,” Sullivan said. “I took a little bit of a break between middle school because I was doing basketball but then my sister got back into bowling and was on the high school bowling team. She ended up taking fourth in the state of Wisconsin her senior year and I was like I wanna beat her.”

As a senior in high school, she finished third in the state of Wisconsin, achieving her goal of finishing higher than her sister had previously. 

“Senior year I finished third in the state of Wisconsin, so I beat her. So, I accomplished my goal, but it all started with junior leagues and mom bowling and having that influence,” said Sullivan. “ I come from a really small town, Campbellsport, Wisconsin.”

Sullivan continued her bowling career from 2006-2010, this time for the Whitewater Warhawks where she became a four-year letter winner and was the captain for the 2010 team that earned a berth in the USBC national tournament. Sullivan was eventually offered the head coaching gig for the Warhawks taking over in the 2011-2012 season.

 In between her college graduation and becoming the head coach, Sullivan worked at a bowling alley in her hometown and coached a high school boys’ bowling team. 

“When I was on the team I never really thought about [coaching],” Sullivan said. “My coach Amber Lemke, I thought she was going to be here for a while but she moved on to Stephen F Austin State University in Texas basically one year after I graduated. She was looking for people to take over and thought that I was someone who would be good.”

Three NCTA Coach of the Year later, multiple NCAA championships appearances and lots of individually accomplished bowlers later and Sullivan has left a legacy for the Warhawks. 

“What Leann was able to do at UW-Whitewater with the women’s bowling team was nothing short of amazing,” Athletic Director Ryan Callahan said. “Her passion, knowledge and overall love for Warhawk women’s bowling is going to be tough to replace. The Warhawk community is grateful for her hard work within athletics, and we’re all grateful that she is staying on campus to continue to impact the student experience at UWW.”

Sullivan will continue to work for the University continuing her role as overseeing Warhawk Alley, something she was balancing along with coaching the women’s bowling team. 

“Traveling all the time, and being gone is hard. It was kind of a culmination of things. I’m good, I’m at peace [and] I’m happy with the success that I brought to Whitewater,” Sullivan said. 

The head coach position for the bowling team remains open with no decision made yet for the 2024-2025 season. 

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About the Contributor
Matt Ellis
Matt Ellis, Women's Sports journalist

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