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Women’s soccer looks to GA for leadership in midst of transition

Imagine this is your first year as a graduate student working toward your master’s of business administration (MBA) degree. Now, also imagine you are working with the women’s soccer program as their graduate assistant. Just when you have finally figured out how things operate, the head coach resigns, and you are asked to step up as the head coach until a new one is found.

This is exactly what happened to Cheryl Bell, graduate student and current head coach for the women’s soccer program at Bluffton University. Rhonda Smith, former head coach of the program, left at the end of December, and Bell was asked to step in.

While this transition is quite new for both her and the team, Bell has taken it in stride.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting this to happen to me,” said Bell. “However, I think that not only I am handling it well, but the girls are too.”

One of Bell’s concerns when she took the position was that the girls on the team wouldn’t respect her the way they respected Coach Rhonda.

“I was really worried when I first stepped up that they would see me as their friend and not as their coach,” Bell said.

After being in charge for a few weeks, she is pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

“Despite everything, I think the girls are handling the transition well,” Bell said.“They are giving me the same respect they gave to Rhonda.”

Her other concern was how to juggle being a student and a head coach.

“I have to manage the girls here on campus, as well as deal with recruiting,” said Bell.“Recruiting requires me to stay in contact with the recruits, watch them play in games and visit college showcases.”

With some practice, she has been able to balance the demands from being a coach and a student.

Being with the program since the start of the season as the GA, Bell said she wants to continue to see the program continue developing even more despite the obstacles it is facing.

“I still think the program is developing in the right direction,” said Bell.“With the help of our offseason training, I am hoping that we will become more successful than when the program was under Rhonda’s leadership.”

Sometime in the coming months, the program will face another transition as a new head coach takes over.

“My only hope is that the new coach will be willing to come in and help keep the program going in the right direction,” Bell stressed. “It would break my heart to see it take a 180, especially when we are in the midst of a building process.”

After only a few weeks in the position, Bell said that she has learned a lot in the process.

“I didn’t expect for this situation to happen, but it has taught me many things, which will help to prepare me for when I graduate,” Bell said.

One of the best things Bell will take out of this unexpected situation is the experience, she said.

“I never expected to be put in this position, but I am glad that it happened. This has presented me with many opportunities that wouldn’t have happened without it.”

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Danielle Easterday

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