Over the years, women coaching men has become less rare. If you’re from Ewing, it’s becoming downright commonplace.
The shining example is Shelly Dearden, the Ewing High School graduate who has guided the Blue Devils’ boys’ basketball team to incredible success over the past decade. Now, another EHS product is taking her turn coaching boys at the high school level.
Former Devils and Rider University softball player Ally Coryell served as the first base coach for Hopewell Post 339’s American Legion baseball team this summer. Coryell was brought on board by her dad, Mike, who took over the Hopewell job this year.
“We saw the success Shelly Dearden has had,” Hopewell general manager Mike Olshin joked,
“So we wanted our own version of Shelly.”
And Coryell quickly earned the respect that Dearden has received from her players.
“I think she fit in right away,” said Hopewell pitcher Ben Schragger, who was recently offered to the opportunity to try to walk on to Rice University’s team this fall. “Every game we get some looks, like ‘Is that a player, is that a coach? What’s she doing out there?’ At the same time we support it and there’s nothing wrong with it and we love it. It really gives us an identity as Post 339.”
Coryell is no stranger to baseball. She played hardball for the Ewing Little League up through the Majors before playing softball at Fisher, Ewing High School and Rider.
She said that Blue Devils coach Dan Bernoski was probably an influence on her wanting to be a coach, even if she didn’t realize it at the time.
“I’m sure he was but I never thought about it back then,” she said. “But he obviously helped me understand the game a lot.”
Be it softball or baseball, the game was in her blood early in life.
“She just lived at Moody Park, absolutely,” Mike Coryell said. “I’ve been coaching for 19 years, she was always around the field, knew all the kids, knew all the parents, knew all the parents cars out in the street. She got a chance to play Little League and did well against the boys.”
While in high school and college, she also helped out her dad when she could, when he coached various teams in Ewing Babe Ruth along with the Pennington School.
“She’s been around the guys forever,” Mike Coryell said. “She comes down to Florida with us with the Pennington team. It wasn’t that hard for me to say ‘Hey, why not a girl here?’”
Mike Coryell had no concerns about how his daughter would fare. As for how a different group of male players outside of Ewing would perceive her, he didn’t give it much thought.
“I know I wasn’t overly concerned,” he said. “You always wonder what the parents might be saying or what the other team may say. But she’s out there throwing batting practice so it doesn’t take too long for you to say ‘She knows what she’s doing out there.’”
As for the players, there was never a problem.
“It’s really a credit to the guys,” Mike Coryell said. “You can hear her out there, she barks orders. I need that, I need some help. The guys respect it and that’s a credit to them. And I think in this day and age if someone knows what they’re talking about, I don’t care who’s saying it.”
Ally thought since she asserted herself during batting practice, the players would grasp what she was all about and not just shake their heads in dismay at being coached by a girl.
“I didn’t think I would have to prove myself because I figured if they saw I could actually throw the ball and that I knew some things about the game, they’d be like ‘All right, she knows what she’s talking about,’” Coryell said. “They could either listen to me or ignore me, either way I’m still gonna be around, still talking, still coaching trying to help them out.”
In fact, she wasn’t worried about earning their respect at all.
“I guess I was used to everyone in Ewing knowing that I knew the game, that I could play the game,” she said. “So I figured they’d know here. It’s going well, they’re listening to me, they’re respecting me and there’s nothing more I can ask.”
Schragger feels that because of Coryell’s background in softball—in which there is constant cheering from the dugouts up through all levels—she brought an added spirit to Post 339’s dugout.
“It’s a lot different,” he said. “She brings a lot of energy, she does a good job bringing the energy. She’s loud, she keeps us energized. She does a good job. At first base she’s like any other coach. On the bench she’s really pumping us up and gives a little different twist to the team.”
Coryell feels that is almost a necessary part of being a coach.
“I’ve always done that, I’m just loud and I like people to be involved in the game and some coaches aren’t like that,” she said. “I think that’s important because if you’re not into the game, the players aren’t into the game. If you’re quiet, they’re going to be quiet and they’re not going to give the support that goes a long way for their team.”
She just completed her first year of teaching English at Trenton Catholic Academy, where she also helped out with the softball team. But her goal is to coach baseball.
“She loves baseball,” Mike Coryell said. “It’s a different game than softball and I think the challenge of it really intrigues her.”
Asked what it is about baseball that she find so appealing, Coryell said “I’ve been around it a lot more so I know the game better. I played softball but I definitely know baseball better. The guys are definitely more fun to be around because they enjoy the game more.”