Star Athlete Returns as Assistant Coach

by Tim Miller

When Abby Shelton’s illustrious career for the Cedarville volleyball team came to an end in December of 2016, she never thought she’d be back in the cornfields of Cedarville, Ohio.

However, she has since returned as an assistant coach for her former team.

Shelton finished her career at Cedarville with the sixth most service aces in Lady Jackets history, and is also in the top 10 in program history in kills per set and pass percentage. Cedarville was 89-51 with Shelton on the roster and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time last season with Shelton leading the way.

On top of all that, Shelton earned the G-MAC Female Collegiate Achievement Award for the 2016-17 academic year and was the conference nominee for the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

During the summer, Shelton sifted through job posting after job posting, but nothing felt right.

Meanwhile, Cedarville Lady Jackets head volleyball coach Doug Walters continued to look for options for his coaching staff back in Cedarville, but dead ends and roadblocks stalled the search.

Walters was hesitant to consider bringing Shelton on as an assistant coach since the bulk of the players she’d be coaching would be the same ones she played with a season ago. Walters continued to have Shelton pointed out to him, yet he didn’t consider her for quite some time.

In July, Shelton came extremely close to accepting an offer in North Carolina but decided to turn it down.

Two hours later, Shelton received a call from Walters.

And two days after that, Shelton accepted Walters’ offer to become Cedarville’s graduate assistant for the upcoming season.

“I think it was a God thing because all the other options I was looking at, suddenly the door would close,” Walters said. “Even for her, she was looking for jobs elsewhere and doors kept closing.”

Now, sitting in her office in the Callan Athletic Center for a good chunk of her days, Shelton must balance her time as an assistant coach for the volleyball team while also pursuing a Master of Business Administration at Cedarville.

Shelton said she spends anywhere from 24-40 hours per week working on her Master’s of Business while spending at least six hours a day as a coach.

She overachieved on the volleyball court, so up to 80 hours of combined work is but a minor hurdle for Shelton, right?

While in the office, Shelton’s plate is full every day. Thinking about having to scout, coach, recruit, contact other coaches, set up meetings with players, plan itineraries for road trips and much more exhausts the average human, yet, Walters says, Shelton is able to do all this flawlessly.

“So far it’s been going really well. I’m fully confident that she’ll continue to handle it well,” Walters said.

The concern of Shelton coaching her friends wasn’t something that was only on Walters’ mind, as Shelton admitted it would be a challenge for her as well. Figuring out how Shelton would fit into Cedarville’s coaching staff puzzle has already been a trial.

“I think the biggest challenge right now is finding my place,” Shelton said. “In the midst of a staff who love Jesus and lead really well, trying to find the balance of learning with them while also being with them has been hard.”

Shelton said that not being able to hang out with her former teammates has been tough. Learning the NCAA’s compliance rules and how to transition from teammate and friend to coach and overseer is something Shelton must learn to do every day.

Even with the ups and downs and learning curves, Shelton already values her time back in Cedarville. Watching players that she played with and loves while stepping into lead has been the best part of her job, Shelton said.

Now that she is back in Cedarville, she expects to stay for the next two years. When she finishes her master’s in business, Shelton intends to pursue a Master of Ministry degree next year.

If there’s any lesson to learn here, it’s that plans can spring into a state of upheaval at any time.

Shelton could be here for two years, or she could be here longer than that. Either way, Shelton seems to know why she ended up back in the cornfields. To coach.

“I think that that’s why I’m here,” Shelton said. “I’ve had so many people tell me they think I’d be a great coach. This is a really neat environment to see if I’d really like coaching.”

Regardless of where Shelton ends up, she will soak up these next couple years spending her falls in the Callan Athletic Center, just like she has in each of the past four years.

“Cedarville volleyball is such a special thing,” Shelton said. “Getting to be a part of it as a player and now taking part in it as a coach is just fun to be a part of.”

Tim Miller is a sophomore marketing major and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, sipping Dunkin Donuts coffee and striving to be the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.

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