BROCKPORT, N.Y. — The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) is remembering the life of Lillian “Lil” Shelton, former head coach at Severna Park High School in Maryland and NFHCA Hall of Fame member who passed away on January 24, 2021.
In addition to being a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, Shelton was a coach, mentor, and inspiration to countless young women across Anne Arundel County.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Alabama and her master’s degree from the University of Richmond, Shelton began a teaching career in Dothan, Alabama where she met her husband. Together, they started a family in Richmond, Virginia and then relocated to Severna Park in 1971.
She was hired as a physical education teacher at Severna Park High School in 1972, where she was instrumental in establishing girl’s athletics in Anne Arundel County. Throughout her life, but especially at the beginning of her teaching career, Shelton advocated for girls’ sports and fought for equal opportunity.
Her coaching career began when she established Severna Park’s first softball team in 1973, but lightning struck when she found a pile of old field hockey sticks in a school closet.
“When we started, we played on the front lawn of the school because there was nowhere else,” Shelton told the Baltimore Sun in 2011. “The girls loved the sport and we begged for it become a varsity sport. Title IX had passed in 1971, and that helped me. I’ll never forget the day they gave us our kilts and shirts for the team. It was 1975, and I think we went 5-5 that first year.”
Little did she know, she had laid the foundation for a dynasty.
In her 37-year stint on the SPHS sideline, Shelton amassed 31 Anne Arundel County titles, 29 regional championships, and 20 state titles, planting Severna Park High School at the top of the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) most-state-championships record list.
With her 544-60-10 career record, Shelton’s name is still securely in the record books — she is ranked sixth on the NFHS’ most-wins list.
Shelton is a member of the Severna Park High School Hall of Fame and the Anne Arundel County Hall of Fame. She was recognized as the National High School Coach of the Year by the NFHCA in 2011 and received “coach of the year” honors several times over by a variety of national and local news agencies.
She was inducted into the NFHCA Hall of Fame in 2001. She was a member of just the second class of inductees, showcasing not only her coaching prowess, but the respect she earned from the wider field hockey community.
Over time, Shelton adapted to the changing landscape of girl’s and women’s sports, filling the needs of her local community. She founded the SPark Field Hockey Club, which continues to compete at indoor tournaments and host clinic and skills academies. She also co-founded the Field Hockey Coaches Association of Maryland in 1989 and the Maryland State Games which have since morphed into the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association State Championships.
Her family noted that although her teams were very successful, her greatest contribution was the influence she had on her girls. She instilled confidence, sportsmanship, and leadership in young women that benefited them throughout life. Her obituary notes that “while she was humble about her on-field accomplishments, she would light up when she talked about ‘her ladies’.”
Shelton’s contributions to the sport of field hockey are prolific. She will be remembered for her dedication to establishing athletic opportunities for women, her work toward a more equitable future for female athletes, her record-breaking success on the sidelines, and her infectious enthusiasm (and smile).
Photos generously provided by the Severna Park Voice.