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Bella Norton To Use Final Season To Prep For Coaching Career

(Photo by Matt Begala/Indiana Athletics)

For the last four years, Indiana's softball team has had a familiar presence behind the plate in Bella Norton. Last season was supposed to be the swan song for Norton, where she would finish her four years and go on to coach on the East Coast. However, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit and prematurely ended the 2020 season, Norton had a choice to make with a fifth year of NCAA softball eligibility on the table.

"My initial reaction was, 'Oh my god, I have a job lined up. I’m planning on moving home. My life has just come to a complete halt,'" Norton told Softball America on a video call.

The decision to return for Norton wasn’t an easy one with so much already planned out for her immediate future.

"It was definitely a lot of mixed emotions just because it put a hold on what I thought was going to happen with life within the next year," Norton added.

When the fifth-year option was announced for impacted student-athletes, Norton had already decided she wanted to come back to Indiana, but the cards had to fall in the right places. The choice was set in stone, however, when the job she had lined up allowed her to return to Indiana for an extra year with that opportunity still waiting for her at home.

"All those cards that played out led me back to Indiana," Norton said. "I’m so grateful for that."

The job Norton has lined up that made the decision difficult in the first place is a dream situation for the catcher. One of her former hitting coaches, Eric Crozier, is giving her the opportunity to coach softball out of a facility in Virginia that puts on clinics and camps along the East Coast.

Norton developed her passion for coaching with some thanks to former UCLA catcher Jen Schroeder and her Jen Schro Catching camps. They exchanged phone numbers the first time she went to the camp during her sophomore year of high school and their connection has grown exponentially from there.

"Jen does a phenomenal job," stated Norton, who now helps Schroeder instruct during her camps. "She’s so inspiring with (teaching) these girls, and the girls there themselves are inspiring. I’m so lucky I’ve gotten to be a part of it for the last four years."

The other opportunity that sparked Norton's passion for coaching was when she had a spot coaching a 14U travel ball squad. During the summer of her sophomore year of college, she coached the squad and then immediately went to help Schroeder with her camp.

"After that summer I was like, 'I’m gonna coach, that’s it,'" said Norton, who changed her major from sports media to counseling and counseling education.

The goal with her new opportunity after this season is to help develop a softball culture on the East Coast that is similar to the culture that exists out west.

"I can’t wait to take (knowledge) back and grow the East Coast because the East Coast is not like the West Coast in terms of softball," Norton said. "I’m ready to roll."

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