Once dubbed “the winningest coach ever in college soccer” by Sports Illustrated, William H. “Bill” Shellenberger, University of Lynchburg’s legendary soccer coach, died Sept. 7, 2009 at age 88. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in Snidow Chapel with the Rev. Pete Warren, professor emeritus of education and human development, officiating.
Visitation will be at Tharp Funeral Home, 220 Breezewood Drive, from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday. A graveside service, open to the public, will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Holy Cross Cemetery behind Rivermont Avenue Baptist Church.
Coach Shellenberger led his teams to 31 consecutive winning seasons (1956 to 1987), setting a record of 371 wins, 167 losses, and 48 ties. He was the recipient of soccer’s three top national awards, the first coach in America to be so honored. He was inducted into eight halls of fame, named Coach of the Year 28 times, and recognized in 1991 by the Virginia General Assembly for his “Unparalleled Record of Achievement.”
University of Lynchburg named Shellenberger Field in the coach’s honor in 1990, shortly after his retirement in 1989. Former students established the William H. Shellenberger Scholarship Fund “to honor a former professor, coach, mentor, and friend.” The annual Shellenberger Golf Tournament raises additional funds in support of the scholarship. Shellenberger also served as LC’s golf coach for 22 years.
It’s hard to imagine now, but when Shellenberger came to University of Lynchburg in 1952, soccer was not played in the Hill City. He quickly introduced soccer to the College and the community. He created a passion for the sport, and in 1954 the LC Hornets became the fourth team in Virginia to play soccer at the collegiate level.
Shellenberger is credited with being a major force in the growth of collegiate soccer. As coach, professor, and athletic director, he worked with more than 300 players, many of whom are now coaches themselves in college, high school, and youth programs.
A lifelong athlete, Shellenberger played just about every sport except football. “My whole life has been involved with athletics,” he said in a 2005 interview for the University of Lynchburg Magazine. “There was never any question about what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach physical education and coach sports.”
An ex-Marine and World War II veteran, Shellenberger was recruited by University of Lynchburg originally to coach basketball, track, baseball, and tennis. He approached the College administration about forming a varsity soccer team and was given the go-ahead with $600 to finance the venture.
Shellenberger never let winning get ahead of sportsmanship. “Sportsmanship was very important to me as a coach, and I tried to instill it in my players,” he said. Only once in his career did he receive a red card (the term used for being banished from a game), and that was after a game when he argued with an official. “He was wearing glasses; it was raining; and he just couldn’t see,” he recalled. “I indicated he wasn’t doing a very good job.” He added that a very few LC players ever received a red card, because their consistent good sportsmanship. Only three of his players were ever dismissed from the squad, and after some counseling from their coach, they were reinstated.
Every year at the end of soccer season, he and his late wife, Gloria Lynch Shellenberger ’69, ’71 MAT., were hosts for a dinner party at their home honoring team members and their parents. He is survived by a son, William Jr. “Hank” ’79, who played soccer for his dad while attending LC, daughter, Virginia “Ginger” Parsons ’73 MAT, and a grandson, Will Parsons.
Memorial gifts may be made to the William H. Shellenberger Scholarship Fund, c/o Development Office, University of Lynchburg, 1501 Lakeside Drive, Lynchburg, Virginia 24501.
Honor Award of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (the highest award the organization bestows)
Bill Jeffrey Award from the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America
National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association Merit Award
HALLS OF FAME
National Soccer Hall of Fame
National Soccer Coaches Association of America
Virginia State Hall of Fame
Virginia Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association
Lynchburg Area Hall of Fame
LC Sports Hall of Fame
Bluefield College Hall of Fame
Mount Penn High School Hall of Fame
Lynchburg Host Lions Club 2001-02 Fellowship Award
University of Lynchburg Honorary Alumnus Award