June 21, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
– Georgia Tech’s new softball coach didn’t know right away that she wanted to be a softball coach, but Shelly Hoerner figured out soon after entering college that majoring in marine biology wasn’t going to cut it.
When the opportunity arrived to coach Tech, Hoerner knew instantly that she wanted to be a Yellow Jacket. Coaching in the big-time, where Tech, er, swims, was a no-brainer.
She’s now chasing bigger fish beyond her former pond at the College of Charleston.
“When I set foot on campus, the people were wonderful. The vision that the administration has for the athletic department was fantastic,” Hoerner said Friday after being hired by Tech to succeed Sharon Perkins.
“I love to win. I love to have great kids. It’s not just about winning, but the overall picture, and it’s really important to have good kids in the program.”
As you might expect, Hoerner has an impressive coaching background that has included 458 wins in 14 years as a head coach at Valdosta State, Barry University and CoC.
She does not, however, come from a typical place. Hoerner is from North Tonawanda, N.Y., which is not a softball hotbed.
Her hometown, in fact, had something to do with that first major.
Seeking sun, she left behind her high school backgrounds in soccer, basketball and track and took her softball skills to Barry, a Division II school in Miami Shores.
The weather was great in Florida, but before long Hoerner – who was Shelly Lis at the time – realized that she wanted to be more like her parents. They were both teachers (retired now). So she changed her major to physical education.
After two years playing catcher at Division II Barry for coach Lisa Navas, Lis-Hoerner transferred to Canisius, in Buffalo, near her hometown.
“I didn’t really think about coaching,” she said. “I just wanted to teach. When I got to Canisius and started working in the athletic department, that’s when coach Navas called.”
She had success as a player, and after graduation, Navas called her back to Barry to break into coaching. She’d caught the coaching bug at Canisius so that was an easy decision.
“I was working in the athletic department and doing work study . . . loved the scene,” she said. “My coach at Barry called and said, ‘Come be my GA [graduate assistant].’ “
Somewhere along the line, teaching became less appealing than coaching. “I had student taught, and I really didn’t want to coach high school,” she said.
And here she is, on The Flats.
Former Tech and CoC basketball coach Bobby Cremins gave Hoerner some friendly advice once she became a candidate at Tech. “He was obviously a good person to talk to about Georgia Tech,” Hoerner said. “He had nothing but great things to say about the Institute, and the people, the alumni.”
There will not be much change to Hoerner’s immediate schedule. She still plans to keep her travel plans for later this week, when she will recruit a softball tournament in Colorado. Her husband Jeff, who has been a soccer coach of reknown, will stay busy.
And Hoerner will get busy hiring a staff.
She’ll be involved, somewhat, in calling pitches, but look for help in that area.
“I will hire a pitching coach. I was a catcher, and I called pitches. It’s one of my strengths,” she said. “I love the pitching and catching part of the game . . . but I’ll hire a pitching coach for mechanical reasons.”