BRADENTON -- It wasn't an easy decision, but it was one that made sense for Mandy Schuerman.
The former Valrico Bloomingdale High head coach was named the new State College of Florida softball coach in early September and began her new position Sept. 8.
Schuerman, who replaces SCF alum Meredith Headings as head coach of the Manatees, had to weigh the option of sticking it out at Bloomingdale, where a team that won the Class 8A state title last season was returning several key players, against the opportunity to become the head coach of a junior college softball program.
"It was a very difficult decision for me to leave the team at Bloomingdale," Schuerman said. "We had most of the girls coming back, which made it really hard for the decision process for myself. But SCF just seems ... to be a
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better fit for what I want to do. I love the game of softball, so it just seemed like a better fit and it's working out that way."
Schuerman's coaching pedigree, which includes a stint as an assistant at Florida International as well as being named the Florida Dairy Farmers Softball Coach of the Year last season at Bloomingdale, is something that piqued the interest of SCF athletic director Matt Ennis.
"We have a very thorough process for hiring, so she went through a great deal of different interviews with the search committee, (SCF Vice President) Dr. (Donald) Bowman, and actually the students had a chance to ask her some questions which was unique, and after the process she was by far our best candidate," Ennis said. "I think her diverse background really helps with that."
The Manatees finished 27-23, 10-6 in the Suncoast Conference, last season. Headings, a member of the school's athletic hall of fame for her exploits as a player, resigned after seven seasons, finishing 243-139 and winning three conference championships and leading SCF to the national tournament in 2012.
As part of becoming the head coach, Schuerman will become an academic advisor at the college. While she's still getting her feet wet in her new job, Schuerman is making the transition to junior college softball as seamless as she can so that her players don't miss a beat.
In fact, the team has already started fall practice, which is helping the shift to Schuerman's coaching style and philosophy.
That philosophy relies on borrowing from the different relationships Schuerman has developed over the years as both a player and coach in softball.
For instance, the coaching staff at the University of Florida, where Schuerman starred as a player, and her time at FIU under former head coach Jake Schumann have proven invaluable.
"I'm a stealer; I take ideas from so many coaches that I look up to," Schuerman said. "... Different drill ideas, drills that work, different hitting styles, different defensive stuff. ... I'm not going to change who I am. It's going to be very similar (to how she coached at Bloomingdale)."
Meanwhile, Schuerman has kept Michelle Puls on staff as an assistant to keep continuity from the Headings era into her tenure as head coach.
Schuerman's choice to keep Puls, who was named interim head coach while the Manatees searched for a replacement, was a no-brainer.
"She's phenomenal," said Schuerman of Puls. "Just from her knowledge base and her willingness to be around the girls, and such a good person in and out, I couldn't let her go away. She's too valuable to not have on staff."
Schuerman said she hopes to bring in David Jackson, an assistant with her at Bloomingdale, because the pair worked well together in reaching the pinnacle of high school softball in Florida last spring with their 28-3 squad.
And something that Schuerman wants to accomplish at SCF is reaching and possibly surpassing the success that the tradition-rich baseball program has enjoyed.
"I think they set the bar high, and I think that's a good goal to look forward to," Schuerman said. "We're going to take it one inning at a time and try to win one inning at a time. And all of that stuff seems to fall into place. That's kind of my motto, try to win every inning and everything else will take care of itself."