In the year 2000 the Solano College softball team finished 19-21 and did not make the playoffs. Faced with the difficult task of finding a new coach for the 2001 season, former Solano College Athletic Director Bob Myers turned to Southern California, hiring Terri Pearson-Bloom.
In 20 years at the helm, it may have been Myers’ greatest decision at Solano.
Fast forward 15 years and nearly 400 wins, and Pearson-Bloom has not only has turned the softball program around, she has produced a team that year after year dominates the standings like Coca-Cola dominates the soda industry.
“Yeah, that was definitely one of the best hires I ever had as the athletic director,” Myers says. “Her resume was pretty good and I liked her background for two main reasons. One, she was a former Division I player. And two, her love for the sport and love for teaching came out in the interview process. She kind of rose to the top after that.”
While Pearson-Bloom says she doesn’t tabulate her wins from year to year, she is happy to be approaching the 400-win milestone. She is currently at 399 after the Falcons’ 8-0 win on Friday over College of the Sequoias. Solano’s next game is Tuesday at home against Delta.
“This just means I’ve been here a long time,” Pearson-Bloom said, with a laugh. “The milestones have been coming quicker lately though. The program has done well, but it’s all due to the athletes. I get the cumulative number, but 400 wins is not something you get all by yourself.”
Falling in Love with Sports
Pearson-Bloom, whose sister Patti Pearson and her brother Tim Pearson both played sports constantly, naturally became involved in athletics early as a kid. Her uncle is Tim Foli, a former San Francisco Giant and an infielder on the 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pearson-Bloom played softball, basketball, volleyball and track in high school at Fallbrook High of San Diego County, but chose college softball at Cal State Northridge.
“I choose softball because I got a scholarship out of it,” Pearson-Bloom remembers, laughing. “Actually, I just loved being outside and enjoying the sunshine. I also think that it’s good for something to keep you busy and be responsible academically. It’s a positive self-esteem tool.”
At Northridge, Pearson-Bloom played left field and batted leadoff for three teams that went to the College World Series. In 1994, Northridge lost in the championship game to Arizona.
“I don’t really relive that time too much, but I reference it as a coach,” Pearson-Bloom said. “I use it to recruit players. You have to understand, we were the No. 1 team in the nation for a little while. I’m so old that it was the first years that ESPN covered the game live for the first time.”
Although she didn’t know it at the time, Pearson-Bloom got some of her best coaching advice from Northridge’s then head coach Gary Torgeson, who won more than 600 games in 13 years as a head coach at the school.
“He was an incredible mentor,” Pearson-Bloom said. “He taught and emphasized self discipline and he was constantly teaching us life skills. He was always saying, ‘Someday, when you have a job you can’t be late, so you can’t be late for practice!’ He helped me install a good work ethic and get my academic priorities straight.”
Coaching Career Begins
In 1995 Pearson-Bloom began coaching at St. Mary’s College in Moraga as an assistant. She coached there a year, but in 1997 her life changed when she was offered an assistant coaching job with the University of Tennessee.
“I was working on going the route of being an athletic director and being in marketing and promoting when Jim Beitia (Tennessee’s then head coach) called to offer me an assistant coaching job,” Pearson-Bloom said. “It was definitely a fork in the road for me because after that I went into the path of coaching. I liked coaching right away because I’m a highly competitive person and I love a challenge. I love working with young, raw athletes that have the drive, but need the guidance.”
After being at Tennessee for two and half years, Pearson-Bloom took over head coaching duties with the Virginia Roadsters of the Women’s Professional Softball League. The Roadsters finished in second place in the 1999-2000 season and she was selected to coach in the All-Star Game.
“At the time the league was amazing,” Pearson-Bloom said. “We were on ESPN2 a lot and we had incredible budgets. It was kind of like running a minor league Triple-A team.”
Unfortunately for Pearson-Bloom, the league didn’t last and she was once again looking for a job. While she was an assistant at Tennessee, the Volunteers had recruited a player, Nadia Cameron, who was from Solano. Little did Pearson-Bloom know at the time, but it was that college that she would eventually make her biggest impact.
Taking Over the Falcons
When it came time for a job search Pearson-Bloom looked for guidance from her former mentor, Torgeson.
Torgeson was then working as the athletic director for Sacramento City College. She didn’t get the job there but Torgeson helped guide her toward Solano.
“Regionally, it was in the same area as Sacramento State and I had learned about Solano from Nadia Cameron,” Pearson-Bloom said. “I wanted to settle down, get married and have kids and Solano seemed like the right place. The good thing about junior college is that you are recruiting mostly regional players, so that is easier on a family because you’re not traveling around as much.”
Pearson-Bloom took over, making an immediate impact in her first season. Led by players such as Erika Youngblood from Vanden High and Dani McGowan and Jessica Young from Hogan High, the team played well enough to earn Pearson-Bloom’s first league championship at Solano.
It would not be her last.
The Falcons missed out on winning the league title by one game in 2005, but has since owned first place — stringing together nine consecutive Bay Valley Conference titles. Vallejo High school graduate Sherry Clark was on the 2006 team that started the run.
“The first couple days of practice with her was intense, but in a good way,” Clark said. “She is a coach that challenges you and pushes you to the extreme. She played the game herself, so at least to me that brings more respect. She is very strong-willed and has a drive to always be better.”
Vallejo High graduate and current Solano assistant coach Penelope Crouse-Feehan was on the Falcons as a player in 2009 and said her view on Pearson-Bloom was much different then.
“As a player I didn’t realize why she was so in the moment all the time,” Crouse-Feehan remembers. “I was always asking myself, ‘Why is she always riding me?’ Now, as a coach, I realize that you have to do it that way to create self-discipline. She is energetic and she has a lot of structure. She helps the team mature off the field as well as on the field and she helped guide us toward a future.”
The 2006 title began Solano’s softball dynasty. Last season the Falcons were a perfect 20-0 in league play and they even had a 32-game winning streak before finishing with a 36-2 record. The wins have been great for Pearson-Bloom, but she insists that although getting her 400 win will be nice, it’s not the job’s biggest perk.
“The junior college level is a huge time in a young adult’s life,” the Falcons head coach said. “As a coach here, we change lives for kids. At the Division I level, it’s a little more about wins and losses, but here, at this level, it’s about stuff that happens off the field just as much as on the field. We’re applying life skills to these athletes so they can go away and go to college someplace else. I still get a kick when kids text me during the day that they got an A in their anatomy class. When kids sign on to go to another school I feel so grateful and it makes everything else worth it.”
Pearson-Bloom said one of her favorite days of the year is the annual softball alumni game. She says that a lot of players come up to her and share stories with her about how the days at Solano helped change their lives. As Pearson-Bloom approaches the milestone, many of those players are thrilled for her to get to No. 400.
“This is a huge deal,” Clark said. “It’s a great reflection of all the work she puts in. She’s kind of created a legacy there. It’s kind of known that when you go out on the field there that winning is to be expected.”
Myers went on to give credit to Pearson-Bloom’s entire family.
“She’s gotten a lot of support from her husband Andy and the kids, especially since she’s gone a lot on weekends,” Myers said. “This is a big thing for her, but also for them. Back in 2000 I couldn’t predict that she would have 400 wins, but she had the personality and the drive for it. She’s still pretty young, so I’m hoping she can get a lot more wins there.”
Although Pearson-Bloom’s job is to win games and send players off to other places in the world, she said she’s fine staying at the Fairfield campus.
“You know, I’ve never applied to another job since I got this one,” Pearson-Bloom said. “I’ve gotten calls over the years from Division I schools, but I don’t have the desire to leave. I love this college, I love the program and I love the region. I believe in this team’s mission and I choose to be here.”