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23-year-old SRHS alumnus returns to alma mater as girls basketball coach

Croll anxious to ‘give back’
Slippery Rock athletic director Brie Simons, left, shares a moment with recently-hired girls basketball coach Stephanie Croll. Croll is a 2017 SRHS graduate. Submitted Photo

SLIPPERY ROCK — Not all that long ago, Stephanie Croll was draining 3-pointers in the Rock Box.

Six years later, she’ll be coaching there.

Croll, 23, recently became one of the youngest varsity basketball head coaches in the state when she was hired as Slippery Rock High School’s girls hoop coach. A 2017 SRHS graduate, Croll averaged 7.8 points per game and sank 38 treys her senior year.

She succeeds Amber Osborn, her high school coach who resigned in March after six seasons. Osborn tallied 106 wins, six District 10 title game appearances and one district title during her tenure.

“Amber has been very supportive,” Croll said. “She’s already given me a few tips and taught me a few tricks that will help me.

“(Former athletic director) Dan Follett told me about the opening and encouraged me to apply before he left. Being so young, this is a great opportunity for me and I’m going to make the most of it.”

A pair of knee surgeries steered Croll toward coaching.

She attended Grove City College and planned to play basketball there. She tore her ACL in April of 2017, which knocked her out of her freshman season with the Wolverines. She returned to practice with the team in March of 2018. Then she tore the same ACL again in August of that year.

“I was medically advised at that point not to play basketball anymore,” Croll said.

Only she wasn’t ready to leave the game.

GCC coach Chelle Fuss offered her a position as a student assistant coach, which she did for the next three years. Croll graduated from GCC in 2021 with a degree in Exercise Science.

“Steph learned a lot about coaching at Grove City,” Osborn said. “Her knowledge of the game is impressive. She’s personable and I know she’ll do a good job at Slippery Rock. She cares deeply about the program.

“She is a young coach and that has its positives and negatives. She will relate well to the kids, but at the same time, they have to see her as their coach and respect her for that.”

Croll has another person in her corner in recently-hired SRHS athletic director Brie Simons.

“I was given a chance by Lakeview to be an athletic director at 23 and now Stephanie is being given a chance to be a head coach by Slippery Rock at 23,” Simons said. “We were introduced at the same board meeting. I love the fact she’s being given this chance.

“It will be fun watching her grow as a coach as she goes along. I’m excited to be working with her.”

Croll recognizes the adjustment she’s in for.

“As a student coach, I made observations and expressed ideas here and there,” she said. “Now I’ll be making all of the big decisions as the head of the team. But I’ve learned under great coaches, played for great coaches, and I feel like I’m ready.”

Croll works as a strength and conditioning coach in Cranberry Township and is self-employed in that same field.

“With my own business, my schedule is flexible enough to work around practices and games,” she said. “And the company I work for has been very cooperative in allowing me to do the same.

“Because I’m so young, I feel like I can build something and stay with it for a number of years. Growing up in this community, everybody was so good to me, did so much for me. Now I want to give that back. I want to pass along my knowledge to the girls coming through the program and help them prepare for their careers.”

Osborn said: “Steph is one of the highest basketball IQ kids I’ve ever coached. She relates well to kids of all ages. She’s going to do just fine.”