BENTON – After 17-year coach and Benton Lady Panthers volleyball program starter Brandy Chumley stepped down to take the seventh-grade coaching duties, the Lady Panthers will have a familiar face at the helm with longtime Benton Junior High ninth grade volleyball Coach Michelle Shoppach accepting the varsity position on Wednesday.
Shoppach takes over for Chumley, who went 284-116 with a state title at Benton, after spending 11 seasons as the junior high coach.
“Kind of some big shoes to follow, right,” Shoppach asked rhetorically. “She’s been Coach of the Year, state championship, conference champion, so I better get my A-game going in order to follow her. I’m excited to be the coach. This is my hometown so it’s definitely on my bucket list. It’s nice to be able to mark something off your bucket list.
“I’m excited to work with the kids that are there and that I’ve coached before. I’m glad to get to work with Coach (Rachel) Dodson, my assistant coach because it’s somebody I already know, somebody that does a good job, somebody that has graduated from here and has won a state championship.”
Shoppach explained that Coach Heidi Cox, also the varsity softball coach, will remain the eighth-grade volleyball coach and that she will hire a ninth-grade coach to take her old position. Not only will Shoppach be changing coaching duties, but she will change teaching duties as well.
“My teaching assignment will change from career development to health and PE, so I’ll be working with the other Coach Chumley (Benton girls basketball Coach Jerry),” Shoppach said. “We already have a very good relationship, so that’s nice. It’s like getting to change jobs, but not having to change houses.”
Feeding the the varsity program with her players for the past 11 years, Shoppach will be reciprocated.
“I just established a very good foundation for them,” Shoppach said. “With skills, work habits, expectations, and I expect them to the do the same as I transition into the head coach. I don’t see that being any different. They pretty much know me and I know them to a large extent.”
That foundation has led to three straight Central Arkansas Junior High Conference titles, with a fourth likely according to Shoppach.
“We’ve had many more wins than losses,” she said. “We’ve won the conference three years in a row and I don’t see the ninth grade giving that up easily, fighting for that fourth year in a row. And that’s going against some pretty good competition. I’m very pleased with what we’ve done at the junior high.”
As for her new varsity duties, Shoppach will stick with the Lady Panther formula that has worked throughout the years, with just a little tweaking.
“I’ll do 90 percent of things the way Coach Chumley did them,” she said. “I’ll do 10 percent a different way. She and I are on the same page 90 percent of the time. Coaching style is tweaked a little bit compared to hers. I’ll run my defense a little bit different. I’ll run the offense a little bit different. I’ll do a couple different things on the bench. It’s just tweaking. Not any big stuff. Stuff she and I have talked about for 11 years.”
Benton Junior High is definitely not Shoppach’s only other stop as her volleyball experience goes across states and levels, spending 30 years coaching and teaching kindergarten through college. After graduating from Benton and then the University of Central Arkansas, she had her first head-coaching job at Fairfield High School as the head volleyball and tennis coach.
Form Fairfield, Shoppach moved to Mt. Pleasant, Texas, to become the head volleyball and basketball and then moved to the college ranks as the head volleyball coach at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. She went to the University of Arkansas to get her doctorate in recreation administration, returned to the coaching ranks in Garland, Texas, and then again the head volleyball at Richardson, Texas, before returning home to Benton to take over the junior high program.
And again, Shoppach will be very familiar with a lot of experience returning to the varsity.
“There will be seven seniors back,” she said. “Coach Chumley wanted to be there for those seven seniors. She was looking forward to it, but how often does an opportunity open up for coaches? Sometimes you let it pass you by and the opportunity doesn’t come back for 10 years. She felt like she needed to take that opportunity, even though she wanted to be there with these seven seniors.
“I think I’ve coached all seven seniors during club volleyball season (Saline County Chaos) so I have a rapport with them on the court, not just as the junior high coach. I feel like that’s going to pay dividends. We’ve got seven kids that will step in and they understand that their playing time will not be given to them. It will have to be earned on a daily basis. They know the juniors, sophomores and freshmen will have opportunities for playing time also. I will not be shy about moving kids in and out if I’m not pleased with what’s going on.”