Just over a year ago, Cory Rainbolt was an instructional assistant at Eastern Hancock Elementary with little more than a dream of one day leading a varsity volleyball squad.
Despite a sterling résumé, she had little coaching experience, and she said she imagined the opportunity was still many years in the distance.
She was wrong.
On Monday, the Eastern Hancock School Board approved Rainbolt as the Royals’ next varsity head coach.
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Rainbolt’s coaching timetable fast-forwarded rapidly one day last year when a man arrived at her classroom out of breath, asking to speak with a Mrs. Rainbow.
She laughed and told the man her name actually was Mrs. Rainbolt, though she understood the confusion. Many of her kindergarten students made the same mistake.
The man introduced himself as Kevin Adams, the Royals’ varsity volleyball coach. He said he was out of breath because he had run down the school’s hallways after learning some surprising news.
There was, he was told by one of his players, a woman in the building who not only had experience coaching volleyball, but in fact, was a collegiate hall-of-famer in the sport.
“I didn’t know her name,” said Eastern Hancock senior Missy Bedell and Adams’ informant. “I just had heard some of the kids call her Mrs. Rainbow. It turns out they just couldn’t pronounce Rainbolt.”
Bedell had unknowingly been working alongside the Greenfield-Central and IUPUI legend as part of one her classes. They only got to talking one day because Bedell was wearing her club volleyball jacket.
As their conversation progressed, and Bedell learned Rainbolt’s background, she became incredulous.
The now 39-year-old’s résumé included 12 varsity letters at Greenfield-Central, where she played volleyball, softball and basketball. In basketball she graduated as the Cougars’ record-holder for career shot blocks, and in volleyball she was named to the academic all-state team in 1994.
At IUPUI, Rainbolt was a four-year letterwinner, a two-time team MVP and at the time of her hall of fame nomination was one of only three players in school history to collect 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. She also graduated as the school’s career leader in digs (1,377) and games played (503).
“I was like, you’re telling me we have someone here who played Division I college ball, and she’s not a part of the program?” Bedell said.
Rainbolt’s lack of involvement lasted about as long as it took Bedell to relay the news to Adams and for the coach to navigate the Eastern Hancock hallways to her classroom.
In little time, she was named Adams’ assistant and the JV head coach.
Now, after just one season with the program, she has ascended to its helm.
“Taking over this soon was the furthest thing from my mind,” Rainbolt said. “I was hoping to be groomed for a few more years … But I’m very excited.”
Upon arrival on the varsity team last season, Adams said, she made an immediate impact.
“Not long after she had walked into the gym on the first day of practice, I knew she would be the future head coach of this program.” Adams said. “Not only was she a star athlete in high school and college, she is a star person.”
Adams thinks Rainbolt will be much more valuable assets to Eastern Hancock than just a volleyball coach. While her knowledge, competitiveness and teaching ability will surely lead the program to plenty of victories, he said, it will be her compassion and leadership that ultimately set her a part.
Adams, who voluntarily stepped away from the program in part to pursue club coaching opportunities, said he could envision no better role model than Rainbolt for a group of teenage girls. She will set an example for the girls, Adams said, as a woman who can successfully navigate the challenging terrain of being a head coach with a full-time job and a family.
As the Royals head coach, Rainbolt’s primary challenge will be turning around a program that lost twice as many games as it won last season (11-22).
“Our first goal is to get back to .500,” Rainbolt said. “That’s the first step.”
It is a tall order considering the graduation of Bedell, a two-time first team All-Hancock County hitter, and fellow seniors Nakalya Shelton and Katelyn Bowman.
They will, however, return eight players with varsity experience.
“We have a good base as a team for the next couple of years,” Rainbolt said. “And we have a great incoming class of freshman, who went 13-3 last year. I think with the experience we gained last year, and with young talent we have coming in, we’re headed in the right direction.”
Who: Cory Rainbolt
New Position: Eastern Hancock High School head volleyball coach.
Job: Eastern Hancock High School athletics assistant
Education: Greenfield-Central High School in 1994, IUPUI Kelley School of Business (1998).
Family: Husband, Jason Rainbolt; child, Cole Rainbolt, 11.
Other coaching position: Eastern Hancock High School JV basketball head coach and varsity assistant.
Athletic accolades: Greenfield-Central Athletic Hall of Fame (2006), IUPUI Athletics Hall of Fame (2005).