Karen Shelton 2010
Over the course of her 29 years in Chapel Hill, Karen Shelton has built one of the country’s finest field hockey programs at the University of North Carolina. Shelton took over as the Tar Heels’ head coach in 1981 and since then has led UNC to national prominence in the form of six NCAA Championships, six NCAA runner-up finishes and 27 winning seasons.
Shelton carries a career record of 482-133-9 and ranks fifth among NCAA coaches in career wins.
In 2009, Shelton led the Tar Heels to the program’s sixth national championship. She was named National Coach of the Year for the fifth time in her career and the second time in a three-year span. Shelton has been honored eight times as Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year and has led the Tar Heels to a league-best 16 ACC titles.
In January of 2008, Shelton was inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame for her achievements as a coach. She was inducted into the USA Field Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989 for her performance as a player.
Born Nov. 14, 1957, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Shelton spent the first 10 years of her life on Army bases across the country. She was in fifth grade when her father retired and the family – Shelton has four brothers and two sisters – moved to Pennsylvania, the cradle of field hockey. At West Chester State, Shelton played on three national championship field hockey teams and one national championship lacrosse team. Three times she was named field hockey’s national player of the year, a streak that has never been equaled.
Shelton earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1979, then spent one year as assistant coach at Franklin & Marshall College before coming to UNC.
She was a member of the U.S. National Team from 1977-84 and started for the squad that won a bronze medal at the Los Angeles Summer Games in 1984. Shelton was U.S. Field Hockey’s Athlete of the Year in 1983. In 1999, she was named the Delaware County Field Hockey Athlete of the Millennium by the Delaware County Daily Times.
Throughout her career, Shelton has groomed her players for success after UNC. Carolina student-athletes are high achievers on the field and in the classroom, adding academic honors to All-America accolades. Tar Heels alums are successful in fields such as medicine, coaching, teaching, dentistry, business and finance.
Many of Shelton’s players have gone on to represent the U.S. in international play. Six of the 16 players on the U.S. roster at the 2008 Summer Games were from UNC. A total of 24 North Carolina players have been members of U.S. national teams and every squad since 1989 has included at least one Tar Heel. Four Carolina players are on the current U.S. Under-21 Team.
A very visible ambassador for North Carolina and its athletic programs, Shelton was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece, a campus honor society, in March of 2002. Shelton is married to Willie Scroggs, a senior associate athletic director at UNC who coached the Carolina men’s lacrosse team from 1979-90, a span that included three NCAA titles. Their son, William, is a freshman at Carolina and a member of the lacrosse team.