GATE CITY - It isn't exactly business as usual for the Gate City softball program following the firing of successful coach Hugh Godsey.
But the Lady Blue Devils don't appear to have closed up shop.
The players who turned up at Monday's Scott County School Board meeting in support of Godsey returned to practice Tuesday under newly appointed interim coach Amy Bledsoe.
The entire preseason roster, including all returning starters, were accounted for.
"I'm just really trying to be a good role model for the girls and to keep them positive and encourage them," said Bledsoe, who served as an assistant under Godsey with the girls basketball team this past winter and was tabbed to be an assistant for the varsity softball squad this spring.
"I want to let them know that no matter what the circumstances are, they're a team and they're playing for themselves," Bledsoe said. "It's not about playing for anybody.
"It's all about Gate City softball and just keeping together. Trying to keep these girls together as a team is my main priority."
Bledsoe said she approved of the girls' turnout in support of Godsey at Monday night's school board meeting.
"I feel that's a really good thing," she said. "They tried their best."
Godsey, who led the Lady Blue Devils to Group A state softball championships in 2002 and 2005, was officially relieved of his softball coaching duties Monday night. Godsey confirmed that insubordination was cited as a reason for his dismissal, although he disagreed with that charge.
Godsey led Gate City to a Group A state basketball championship in 2005-06. The Lady Blue Devils made their third consecutive Group A Final Four appearance this past season. The disposition of Godsey's basketball coaching position has yet to be determined.
Bledsoe, a 1999 Gate City graduate, played center field under Godsey when the school was a member of the Group AA Highlands District. Bledsoe, whose maiden name is Tipton, was named Times-News Southwest Virginia Player of the Year after the completion of her senior season.
She went on to play college softball at nationally ranked Montreat College. In 2003, Bledsoe served as softball coach at Rye Cove, leading the Lady Eagles to their first Region D tournament appearance.
"I always wanted to come back to Gate City," Bledsoe said, "but I never wanted to come back and follow under these circumstances."
Bledsoe spent the previous two academic years teaching special education classes at Dobyns-Bennett. She currently teaches fifth- and sixth-grade special education classes at Shoemaker Elementary School.
Bledsoe's younger sister, Kala Tipton, was a junior standout on Gate City's 2005 state championship softball squad and was a VHSCA all-state second team selection playing for the Lady Blue Devils last spring.
"I've been around (this year's players) because my family has a lot to do with the program. I know what the girls are capable of," Bledsoe said.
Valerie Rhoton is continuing as the junior varsity softball coach at Gate City. A full-time assistant coach has yet to be named to Bledsoe's staff, although her father Scott Tipton currently is helping out as a volunteer coach. John Kilgore also is serving in a volunteer capacity.
"I feel like I can really help the girls because I was taught by coach Godsey," Bledsoe said.
"I hope to keep the same fundamentals and same game plan. I don't see any reason not to. He did a great job fundamentally and really taught these girls how to play ball."