Soccer Coaching Change Hits Jenkins
Tue. October 16, 2012 at 11:00 p.m. | By Solange Reyner
By SOLANGE REYNER
LAKELAND | George Jenkins has opted to not renew the contract of Shawn Fitzgerald, the boys' soccer coach last year who helped the team get to the Class 4A regional semifinals
Instead, the school has hired former player Benjamin Bussell.
The move was made quickly and just five days before soccer tryouts started. Bussell, 23, was cleared by the Polk County School Board as the new coach on Tuesday afternoon.
"We wanted to go in a different direction," said Jestin Bailey, the athletic director at Jenkins.
"We wanted to bring new life into the program. We evaluate all coaches at the end of the year and we look at more than success."
Bussell graduated from George Jenkins in 2007 where he played soccer, and later competed at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville at the NAIA level. He was also a graduate assistant coach at Trevecca last year.
Fitzgerald, who got the news late last week, said he will coach as an assistant at Bartow.
He was the head coach for one year at Jenkins, where he led the team to a 23-3-2 finish and the district title. The Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs after the school discovered it had used an ineligible player in the regional quarterfinal game.
Fitzgerald was surprised about the decision but wished the program the best.
"I care about the players and I hope that Benji does a great job. I wish him success," Fitzgerald said.
Bussell interviewed for the job Thursday night at 9 p.m. He got a call Friday morning that he had been selected.
On Tuesday at practice he was still getting settled in, asking players on the sideline to help him identify others scrimmaging on the field.
His dad, Tim Bussell, a longtime assistant coach at Florida Southern, will help him take over at Jenkins.
"I always look to my dad's advice," said Benjamin Bussell, who was also an assistant at Lighthouse Christian School, a private school in Nashville, for one season. "Whatever my ideas are I run them by him and he gives me insight from all of his years of experience."