ARMS Software Coach of the Month
The ARMS Software Coach of the Month is awarded to a coach who has been successful on or off the field, and exemplifies the characteristics of a strong female role model: resilient, innovative, passionate, authentic, selfless and inspiring.
June 2018 – Corliss Fingers
Director of Strength and Conditioning, Bethune-Cookman University
Bethune-Cookman University Director of Strength and Conditioning Corliss Fingers is our June ARMS Software Coach of the Month! Fingers is one of the only female head strength & conditioning coaches in Division I.
In her three years at Bethune-Cookman, Fingers has greatly impacted the Wildcats. She took over working with their FCS football team that was 4-7 in just her second season and helped them win their conference championship.
Prior to arriving at Bethune-Cookman, Fingers coached at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Maryland, and Southern University.
As one of the only females in the lead role in strength and conditioning, Fingers faces a number of challenges every day. Along with finding locker room space to change in, one of the biggest obstacles is “getting young men to buy into my program right away due to the fact they feel you have to have played football in college in order to understand the demand of the sport.”
Having a strong support network around her helps Fingers be her best at work and live out her dreams. Her husband is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at B-CU and her son is spoiled by everyone in the Athletic Department.
She encourages other women to follow in her footsteps leading by example. “Showing them you can be married, have a family, have a life, and still have fun at work all while being successful.”
Fingers has been influenced greatly by another woman who led by example – her mother, Lennix Ann Wilson. Their barrier-breaking paths are very similar.
Wilson was the only female in her class at Harris Barber College when everyone told her she should go to beauty school instead. She was the only female barber in Orange County in North Carolina.
“Growing up in a house where a women worked in a traditionally male occupation helped me to see no barriers,” Fingers said.
Fingers’ advice for up-and-coming strength and conditioning coaches is to get out of your comfort zone, be willing to learn new things, and grow and evolve in many areas. She also believes coaches should hold firm to their “why.”
Fingers is an NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #43 graduate (2017) and Judy Sweet Award winner.
Congratulations, Coach Corliss Fingers!
May 2018 – Michelle Piantadosi-Lima
Head Volleyball Coach/Senior Woman Administrator, Eckerd College
Eckerd College Head Volleyball Coach Michelle Piantadosi-Lima is our May ARMS Software Coach of the Month! Piantadosi-Lima’s beach volleyball team recently finished the season by advancing to the AVCA Small College Championship and finishing at 17-6, setting a record for the most wins in the program’s four-year history.
Piantadosi-Lima balances coaching both indoor and beach volleyball, and is proud of being the first NCAA Division II program to add a beach volleyball program.
“I knew we would have to push hard to get out in front of other programs,” said Piantadosi-Lima. “We have had to go back to the drawing board and rethink how we do things in order to balance the large number of players that play both sports, but overall the players who helped build the program over the last four years have done an incredible job. One of our former beach players is currently representing her country of Slovenia in the world tour and we have a few others that will continue on and play after they graduate.”
After a successful playing career at Tennessee, Piantadosi-Lima competed professionally in Salzburg, Austria and San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has also played beach volleyball professionally, competing in several AVP tournaments across the country.
Before Eckerd, Piantadosi-Lima coached at East Tennessee State University and Nova Southeastern, where she was recognized by the AVCA as ‘one of the 30 best coaches in the country under the age of 30.’ One of the proudest moments of her career came at Nova Southeastern where she led the team to the Elite 8 after stepping in for her ill head coach during a tough 5-set Sweet 16 match.
Piantadosi-Lima has been shaped by many women, including her mother, grandmother and “countless coaches who have seen something in me worth believing in.”
In a career where she is constantly serving others, Piantadosi-Lima said she is still learning how to take care of herself first in order to be a better coach. Her advice for up-and-coming coaches reflects that important work:
“Remember to enjoy the journey. Work hard but know that your tank is not endless. Fill your soul up with things you enjoy and make sure to spend time with the people you love the most. I believe the key to doing this job for a long time is protecting time for yourself every day so that you can recharge, reflect and dream big.”
Piantadosi-Lima, an NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #30 graduate (2013), also serves as Eckerd’s Senior Woman Administrator. In this role, she is a member of the athletics department senior management team and oversees student-athlete well-being and development and serves as the department’s Title IX.
Congratulations, Coach Michelle Piantadosi-Lima!
The University of Illinois Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Head Coach Stephanie Wheeler is our April ARMS Software Coach of the Month! Wheeler was recently named as a 2018 National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Hall of Fame inductee.
“To me, being inducted into the Hall of Fame means that I’ve been fortunate to have incredible family members, friends, mentors, student-athletes, teammates, and coaches around me who believed in me, set high expectations for me, pushed me, picked me up, and celebrated with me when things went well,” said Wheeler. “However, within that moment of reflection on the amazing opportunities that I’ve had, it also allows me to look to the future, as I know there is so much more that I can do in my sport and for the women and girls who want to play or coach wheelchair basketball (or any sport for that matter).”
Coach Wheeler has found success at the highest level as both a player and a coach. She is a U.S. Paralympic gold medalist as a player (2004, 2008), and also as a head coach (2016). She is on track to earn her PhD in philosophy from the University of Illinois, where she is currently the head coach of the women’s wheelchair basketball team.
Despite her many successes on the court, Wheeler is most proud of the character of the student-athletes who graduate from her program.
“My hope is that while they were at Illinois, they learned they bring value, that they have an incredible opportunity to change perceptions, and that they have a responsibility to give back to our sport and community,” said Wheeler.
Growing up, Wheeler didn’t have many role models of strong disabled women. Seeing basketball legends Sylvia Hatchell and Pat Summitt coaching opened her eyes to the possibility of being a woman with a career in sports. Watching Summitt, she realized that having care and compassion for your student-athletes, and being demanding and holding them to incredibly high standards aren’t mutually exclusive. Celia Slater and Holly Hesse have also played large roles in Wheeler’s career and as a person.
The first woman with a disability Wheeler saw was Deb Sunderman, a legend in women’s wheelchair basketball. She was the first female head coach that Wheeler encountered on the national team, and it was in her that Wheeler saw what she could be someday.
Coach Wheeler is now that person who others look up to. Her advice to up and coming coaches:
“The advice that I have…is to be intentional about the network/circle of influence that you create. I remember feeling isolated and alone as a young coach, and then I found the Alliance. Not only did I meet amazing coaches from every sport across the country, but it also gave me the courage to reach out to the women coaches on my campus at Illinois (as we aren’t a part of our athletic department). Having a network of amazing women to call on when I felt isolated or needed advice has been the most important thing that I have done as a coach.”
Wheeler has previously served on the Alliance’s Coaches Council. She is also a graduate of the NCAA Women Coaches Academy (2012 Class #28) and the 2017 inaugural class of Academy 2.0.
Congratulations, Coach Stephanie Wheeler!
March 2018 – Lori Kerans
Former Head Coach, and now the Director of Alumni Engagement, Millikin University Basketball
Millikin’s former Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lori Kerans is our March ARMS Software Coach of the Month! Kerans wrapped up her 32nd season at the helm of the Big Blue with a win over North Park University and announced her retirement from coaching.
Kerans ends her coaching career with a record of 556-276, 11 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Titles and one NCAA Division III National Championship. She will continue to serve her alma mater as the Director of Alumni Engagement.
Throughout her entire career, Kerans is most proud of creating a culture of family, inclusion, and graduates at Millikin.
The Treasurer for the Alliance of Women Coaches’ Board of Directors was shaped by “the pioneering women who were visionary enough to see opportunities where none existed for women, and who were/are strong enough to make those possibilities a REALITY! For each and everyone of us, we have those women in our lives….grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, coaches, teachers, mentors, friends.”
The legendary coach has some great advice for up-and-coming women coaches:
- Coach for relationships and development, not for trophies and banners
- Remember to say “I love you”, “I’m proud of you”, and “I’m sorry”
- Find a “place” that connects with you philosophically and give of your whole self to those people
- Take care of yourself (spiritually, physically, emotionally).
Only a couple of weeks out of coaching, Kerans isn’t sure what she’ll miss the most yet, but she believes it will be two things: “1) Practice; I love to teach and be a part of developing skills and teams; (2) celebrating with a student-athlete as she graduates!”
Congratulations, Coach Lori Kerans, on an amazing career!
Fresno State’s Swimming & Diving Head Coach Jeanne Fleck is our February ARMS Software Coach of the Month! Fleck is in her tenth season at Fresno State, where her team just wrapped up their regular season by defeating their Mountain West rival for a second time this year. Her team also once again earned Scholar All-America honors from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).
Fleck, who started the NCAA Division I program from scratch, will now lead the Dogs into the Mountain West Championship in San Antonio, Texas.
Not only does Fleck have an impact on her student-athletes, but she has also volunteered her time to give back to the profession and help women stay in coaching. Fleck is participating in the Alliance of Women Coaches Mentor Program this year as a Gold mentor, working with two mentees.
Jess Mosbaugh (assistant swim coach at Pepperdine), one of the coaches that Fleck is mentoring, had this to say about the veteran coach:
“Jeanne has been a tremendous encouragement for a young collegiate coach in the start of her career. She is patient, understanding, well-spoken and knowledgeable about athletic departments and coaching staffs, as well as the ins and outs of team dynamics. She has helped me in the process of fine-tuning my voice as a coach by having open dialogues that have challenged my viewpoints of coaching. Jeanne has been an amazing connection to have and I am thankful that the Alliance has allowed me the privilege of pairing me up with Jeanne as my mentor.”
Fleck has some wisdom to share with up-and-coming coaches as well. “Please do not be intimidated by jobs or your value as a coach. One thing I learned writing for my Master’s degree is women do not always apply for jobs unless they meet all the qualifications. I say ‘Go for it’ if you have one that you are interested in! You never know until you try!”
Fleck herself had two strong women in her life who greatly influenced her. Her grandmother was “strong and loving all at the same time” and earned her Master’s degree in 1923, a feat that was rare at that time. Kathy Wickstram-Gahen was also a mentor for Fleck and, “…showed me how important it is for women to be mentally coached as well as physically.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that what she is most proud of in her career is “the impact that I have had on the young people I coach and what they go on and do with their lives.”
Congratulations Jeanne Fleck and thank you for your commitment to women coaches!
Los Angeles Sparks Assistant Coach Bobbie Kelsey is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for January! In her first year with the WNBA team, Kelsey led the Sparks to the WNBA Finals and an exciting series against the Minnesota Lynx.
The Alliance of Women Coaches’ NCAA Women Coaches Academy faculty member recently shared her experiences with Class #43 and Academy 2.0 at the NCAA WCA. From her time as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, to her work as an assistant coach, to a year with the Boys and Girls Club, Coach Kelsey has proven an inspiration and a force to be reckoned with on and off the court.
After starring as a player at Stanford University, Coach Kelsey returned to her alma mater 11 years later to work under legend Tara VanDerveer.
“I am most proud of the fact that I could return to Stanford, my alma mater, to help the program return to national prominence by going to four consecutive Final Fours after a 10 year absence,” Coach Kelsey said. “It was a great feeling knowing I could contribute something back to a program that had done so much for me personally as a former team member. Nothing has been more satisfying.”
Coach Kelsey was influenced by another strong woman, her grandmother, Elizabeth C. Fields.
“[She] greatly shaped who I am today because of her courage and perseverance in the face of great odds during her 92 years on earth,” Coach Kelsey said. “She passed away this past January 17th so it has been a hard adjustment knowing I cannot call her or get advice. However, she took risks and avoided the pitfalls of being a young mother can present by never giving up especially on her quest to be educated. She attended night school to receive her high school diploma then graduated with my mother from college. She was relentless which makes me who I am today. I give her all the credit for showing the way to success.”
Now on her own successful path, Coach Kelsey is generous with her time in talking to up-and-coming coaches, and has some great advice for them:
“I would encourage all women coaches to use their voice. To never shrink back in order to accommodate the insecurities of others who cannot handle their strength. It is never the right thing to be quite especially when you have something impactful to share. Also, make sure your story is crafted in a way that shows your authentic self. Who better to tell it than you. No one else can convey what you yourself know best. Use your voice! Loud and proud!”
Congratulations, Coach Bobbie Kelsey!
Coach Tara Zollinger (NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #35) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for December! In her first year as a head coach, Zollinger led the Shippensburg University field hockey team to an NCAA Division II Championship.
The win makes Zollinger the first person to win an NCAA Division II National Championship in her first year as a collegiate head coach.
Zollinger is no stranger to championships. Prior to taking the helm at Shippensburg, Zollinger spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Syracuse University where she helped her team to a Division I title in 2015. As a player, she won two championships at the University of Maryland.
“When you win as a player, everything feels like it is happening so fast in super speed!” said Zollinger. “You rush the field, you’re screaming with your teammates, there is so much emotion and so much going on. As a coach when the final whistle blows and you see your athletes rush the field everything slows down. Seeing the emotion on the athletes faces, seeing them cry and cheer and laugh all at the same time, it is so rewarding.”
During her time at Syracuse, Zollinger worked under two-time NFHCA Division I National Coach of the Year, Ange Bradley. Bradley has had, and continues to have, a huge influence on Zollinger.
“She took me under her wing as a very young coach and committed to developing and mentoring me,” said Zollinger. “She has challenged me but always believed in my abilities and helped me gain confidence as a coach. I have learned a lot about the game and the coaching profession through my experiences at Syracuse. Ange inspires me to always strive for excellence and never settle for mediocrity.”
Zollinger encourages young coaches to self evaluate to learn, and then develop, their authentic leadership style.
“Be sure to stay true to your values and have a clear picture of your coaching mission,” said Zollinger. “Make sure you use your resources, take advantage of every opportunity and observe/shadow other coaches. Have a ‘do your best mentality’ where you wake up with ambition and go to bed with satisfaction.”
Congratulations, Coach Tara Zollinger!
Coach Becky Burleigh (NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #24) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for November! Burleigh recently hit 400 wins when her Gators earned a 2-1 win over Missouri. This also marked UF women’s soccer’s 400th win, as Burleigh has led the program since it began in 1995.
Burleigh hits the impressive milestone in an already decorated career, which includes an NCAA Championship, two NCAA College Cup appearances, 14 Southeastern Conference titles and 20 NCAA Championships berths. She has also been named National (1998) and SEC Coach of the Year (2012, ‘10, ‘08, ‘00 & ’96).
Despite the many accolades, the NCAA Women Coaches Academy faculty member is most proud of maintaining a healthy culture of player and personal development while sustaining a high level of on the field success.
Burleigh had female role models from early on in her career. Her first two coaches in youth soccer were women, including her high school coach, so, she learned early that women could coach, unlike most of her peers who had only male coaches.
Her advice to other coaches? “Be a life-long learner. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to other coaches, in and out of your sport. Ask a lot of questions.”
Congratulations Coach Burleigh!
Coach Debbie Kiick (2016 NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #39) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for October! Kiick surpassed 400 career wins at Millikin with two victories during the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Invitational September 8-9. She is currently in her 17th season directing the Big Blue volleyball program, and her career mark stands at 401-207 (.660).
Some of Kiick’s proudest moments include breaking a 50-match conference winning streak of a conference rival, and coming from behind in the 5th set (down 14-8 in a set to 15) and coming back to win the match and advance to the sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Additionally, Kiick prides herself on her desire to continue growing as a coach after 37 years in the profession, being someone her peers can count on when they need something, and that her athletes graduate, get quality jobs and go on to have successful careers.
A number of women have greatly influenced Kiick. One in particular is Margie Wright, former Head Softball Coach at Fresno State and Illinois State. Wright’s encouraging words early in Kiick’s career ignited her incredibly successful career. Kiick also credits her peer Lori Kerans – Kiick’s “go to” – as a great role model. Additionally, Millikin’s Katie Tenboer and Whitney Sowers have given her valuable insight on team development.
Coach Debbie Kiick’s advice to up-and-coming coaches:
- Gathering information from people you respect is a great way to improve your program. What you learn can help you by:
- Understanding that you are on the right track, build your confidence, and that things will work out
- Understanding that there is a different way for you to consider; it’s ok to stick with what you believe, but ask, listen, and consider pros and cons before you make a final decision.
- Develop leaders within your program to put out the small fires so you can focus on the larger issues. It helps you and it helps develop more female leaders.
- Be sure to make time for your family and the special events that are important to your family. It’s easy to get consumed with only work… but if you want to stay in the profession for the long haul, you need to be sure to enjoy the other aspects of your life that are important!
- And last but not least…. Don’t lecture your team for a long time after a loss! They are just as frustrated and disappointed as you are. 2 minutes is plenty after a match…. Instead sleep on it, come up with your plan, and address it when they are fresher and more ready to listen.
We couldn’t be more proud of Coach Kiick as she hit this milestone and continues to lead the young women at Millikin. Congratulations, Debbie!
Coach Shonda Stanton (NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #36) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for September! Stanton was just named the new head softball coach at Indiana University after serving as head coach at Marshall for 18 seasons.
Stanton was also recently featured on the ‘On Deck with NFCA’ podcast. Listen to the episode here.
At Marshall, she became the winningest coach in program history with 560 victories and has posted 12 seasons with 30 or more wins. Despite those great stats, Stanton is most proud of developing people.
“My greatest accomplishments all center around building young people into strong, confident women,” said Stanton. “I am most proud of the relationships cultivated having mentored over a 100 student-athletes during my tenure at Marshall.”
As she takes over the Hoosier program, Stanton is excited to work with the players and compete in the Big Ten against phenomenal coaches and athletes.
“The opportunity to create a sustainable culture at a University where the brand is synonymous with a tradition of excellence is exhilarating.”
What advice does Stanton have for up-and-coming women coaches? She has a lot of words of wisdom:
“Bloom where you are planted! Get involved in organizations like the Alliance and your sport association. Instead of getting lost in plans or preparation, w.i.n. the day by focusing on what is important now. Connect with others and be intentional about it from picking up the phone for a brief chat to attending professional workshops. Be grateful and encourage others. You are a priority and need to schedule time for you, so you can bring your best and bring it often. Know your values and develop a small, strong inner circle of people that can help guide, encourage and challenge you. Stay in love with the game; I get to lace up my sneakers every day and play outside in the dirt -total fun zone. Think about what you get to do? I love this quote: ‘A strong woman knows she has strength for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong.’ Go coach your team and enjoy the journey!”
We are excited for Shonda in her new role at Indiana, and we can’t wait to see what an incredible legacy she will build there. Congratulations, Shonda!
Coach Colleen Murphy (NCAA WCA Class #38) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for August! Colleen was recently promoted to head coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy after serving for five years there as an assistant and associate coach. The first female swimming coach to win an NCAA national championship, Colleen has continued her success at the prestigious military academy. In her first five years there, the Falcon women have broken every school record on the books. Colleen has had an exciting journey through coaching, earning three national titles at Truman State and NCAA Division II Coach of the Year honors. She took some time off from the profession, and then returned to the high school level as the head coach at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, AZ. After being out of college coaching for 7 years, Colleen said it’s been a long path getting to where she is now, but it’s a perfect fit for her.
Colleen’s time away from college coaching opened her eyes that it was time to start giving back more. While there are a lot of developmental women coaches in swimming, they are few and far between at the collegiate and elite levels. With great women mentors in her early coaching years, and a coach who took a chance on her to bring her back to college coaching, Colleen sees helping out other women coaches as a part of her new role. She has seen countless women leave the field because they thought they couldn’t have it all. “I have two kids, a family, a husband and I’m the primary breadwinner. It is possible to have it all and to be good at it all. I really want to help other women in the field to know that they can do it.”
We are excited for Colleen to take on this new challenge, and are incredibly proud of her work to support her fellow women coaches.
Coach Jennifer Ridgely (NCAA WCA Class #39) is our first ARMS Software Coach of the Month! In her 11th season at Delaware State, Jennifer was voted Coach of the Year for her university and her conference. Entering the conference championship seeded 4th, her team won and earned an automatic bid to the national championship. On top of their athletic success, her team also won the NCEA (National Collegiate Equestrian Association) Team Sportsmanship award.
Jennifer led her team to these successes, all while undergoing 16 rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy and multiple rounds of radiation for breast cancer. “A breast cancer diagnosis is certainly a scary thing to hear but I just took it in stride as I would a meet the team lost and went to work on what appointments needed to be made and used the same work ethic and determination with my team and it worked,” said Jennifer. “I was successful beating cancer and the team was successful winning meets! I believe everything is a life lesson and this year certainly had its highs and lows, but I kept moving forward and kept my eye on the prize! Cancer free and a winning team! Not to mention taking my wig off and swinging it around was very motivational for the team!”
We couldn’t be more proud of all of her successes and the role model she continues to be for her athletes.