A pillar of stability in her previous job, Kat Ihlenburg was well-traveled outside of it.
The head of Georgia Gwinnett College's inaugural fastpitch softball program, she purposely stayed for seven seasons at her previous position as a College of Charleston assistant coach, with the plan of gaining the necessary knowledge to run her own program one day.
When she wasn't coaching, she was frequently traveling. The 29-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native has been to 49 of the 50 states and needs only a trip to Alaska before October to complete a personal goal of seeing every state before her 30th birthday.
"That's one thing I'm going to do in 2012, go to Alaska," said Ihlenburg, who tallied 33 different states as a player or coach.
The extensive travels also gave Ihlenburg a good perspective for a job search. She knew what areas she liked, and Gwinnett County fit the bill. It didn't hurt that her husband Mark grew up in Canton and played baseball at both East Cobb and North Georgia. Her father-in-law, John Ihlenburg, also is the new head baseball coach at Reinhardt College up in Waleska.
It was hard for Ihlenburg to say goodbye to the friends she made in Charleston, but the excitement of her first head coaching job, as well as starting a new program, is her new passion.
"I'm a very passionate person," Ihlenburg said. "I love using the word adventure and coming here is an adventure. It's one of the most selfishly wonderful things I've ever done. It's so personally satisfying. ... This is the neatest opportunity that's ever been presented to me."
From an early age, Ihlenburg's life has revolved around softball. She played high-level fastpitch as a youth and later played four seasons at Barry College in Miami Shores, Fla. Her playing career was followed immediately by her first coaching job at Reinhardt (in 2004-05), then she stayed at the College of Charleston from 2005 until this year.
Her recruiting base in both jobs included metro Atlanta, so she already has strong relationships with Georgia travel teams like the East Cobb Bullets, Georgia Fire, Atlanta Vipers, Georgia Impact and others. She recently helped recruit Peachtree Ridge's Chandler Frisbie, a College of Charleston signee.
"I'm confident we will have kids who want to stay within the Gwinnett area for college softball," Ihlenburg said. "I think Georgia Gwinnett is going to grow into a great university. I'm excited about what's coming down the road here."
Softball is one of the first sports unveiled at GGC for the 2012-13 school year along with baseball, men's and women's soccer and men's and women's tennis. GGC announced three head coaches already -- Brad Stromdahl (baseball), Domenic Martelli (women's soccer) and Steve DeCou (men's soccer).
Those coaches have begun work on starting their programs under the leadership of new athletic director Darin Wilson. Now it's Ihlenburg's turn with softball.
"It will be nice to go into a place, not that tradition is the end-all, be-all of a program, but it will be nice to put your own little brand on it," Ihlenburg said. "I'm quite an eclectic person and people who know me, know that. ... Whether it's Sunday-funday where we go to the High Museum, or softball Sunday where we all pull weeds on the field, they're things we're starting. If there's a coach before, you may have players saying, 'That's not how we've done this before.'
"But with a new program, it's 'This is how we're going to do it.' I want to establish those traditions. I don't plan to be here for just one recruiting class. I want to be here a long time and put my stamp on the program."