Over the course of more than three decades 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, 11 NCAA runner-up finishes and more than a dozen ACC championships.
She is among the all-time leaders in career victories with well over 600, earning her 600th career win back in 2015.
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.
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.
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