Do you ever wonder who makes the signs you see hanging up for Colby sports games? Or where the fog and spotlight come from when the men’s hockey team skates out during games? Well, the person behind all of this is one of the strongest, most hard working women at Colby: Associate Athletic Director Jessica Cherry.
Cherry grew up in New York city playing five sports: soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball, and tennis. She attended Skidmore College with dreams to play soccer. But during her very first day of preseason, she tore a ligament in her leg. Her life in athletics did not end, however. If anything, it was just beginning.
Cherry majored in Phys. Ed with a concentration in sports medicine. She worked in the training room in college where she was responsible for all the teams’ sports medicine needs. Upon graduating college, she took a few years off before going to Tennessee Tech to serve as a grad assistant trainer for their football and basketball teams. Cherry described her work there as extremely intense, and she discovered that being an athletic trainer was no longer her dream. “I fell out of love with it,” Cherry said. “There weren’t very many black women in the field. What I thought was for me, wasn’t.” So Cherry returned home to work for her parents’ business.
Not long after beginning work for her parents, Cherry knew she had to get back into athletics and found various jobs in the field. She was put in charge of Parks and Recreation in Queens, New York. There, she worked hard to create different programs for kids: she started girl’s sports camps, and became a women’s basketball coach. From Queens, she went to York College where she was the assistant coach for the men’s basketball team, making her the only female in the country to coach for a men’s team. She continued to work there for 18 years.
“York College stopped growing,” Cherry said. “I hadn’t. I wanted to challenge myself.” Cherry knew she needed a change, and when she found a job opening at Colby, she applied and found her way up to Waterville. Here, she works closely with the captains and all the athletes to better the program. “Don’t stop wanting to do more,” she says, as she discusses how close she has gotten to all of the captains in the year she has been here. In the time she has been here, she has taught the Colby community so much, and says she too has learned a great deal. She is constantly in awe at the passion of the coaches, and that only pushes her to do more.
Cherry does an incredible job trying to bridge the athletes with the non-athletes of the community through the iPlay program. Cherry has worked hard to create different games and sports that every community member is welcome to try, including, most recently, a game of canoe battleship. When asked about this event, she became excited and it was clear it was something she was thrilled to discuss. She says that she wants to keep expanding iPlay, and wants to make sure that the non-athletes of Colby know that the athletic center along with everyone in it aren’t just here for athletes.
Cherry’s dedication and passion for Colby athletics is admirable. To prove her commitment to every sport, Cherry endeavored to go to at least one sports game per team. To this end, last saturday when Colby alpine and Colby hockey each had competitions, Cherry hit the road at 6 am and drove two hours to Sunday River. After watching all of the men’s alpine, and a few of the women, she drove two hours back in time for the men’s quarterfinal hockey game, proving her dedication to all Colby teams.
When asked her if there was one moment when she knew Colby was the right place for her, she thought of a recent occasion. It was at the men’s quarterfinal hockey game. Upon the request of the team captains, she made the game a white-out in addition to having posters made and rallying fans. Throughout the game, students, athletes, parents, and fans came up to her to congratulate and thank her for her work. Cherry finished up her story by saying that it was then that she knew, “This is where I’m supposed to be.”
“President Greene will be holding up some national championship trophies very soon,” Cherry says. Colby is truly lucky to have such a driven and inspiring woman as part of our community.