Keith Shelton recently stepped down from his position as the Massac County girls basketball coach after nine seasons.
Shelton compiled a record of 137-110 during his tenure as the head coach, which included six SIRR Ohio Division championships.
In 2008, Shelton replaced James Forthman, who had a highly successful run for six years. Jim Prevallet, who was also very successful, coached the team from 1985 to 2002.
“I knew there were high expectations going into it,” Shelton said. “I talked to this crew about it this year when we were 3-20. The name on the front of the shirt carries some weight. I did feel a little bit of pressure. It’s so different now than when Coach P was there, not so much because of the kids, but because there are so many more sports to choose from.”
Shelton was an assistant coach on Joe Hosman’s staff for the boys basketball team prior to taking this job. He had never coached girls basketball before.
“It’s so much different, and it probably took me three or four years to understand the mentality and the parents,” Shelton said. “Even parents of girls are different than parents of boys. With boys, you try to make them young men and all of that. If you do that with girls, they’re thinking I’m hurting their baby.”
But Shelton learned to excel at the girls game as well. His teams won four regional championships and a sectional crown. Massac County made a Sweet 16 appearance in 2013 and earned a spot in the Elite Eight in 2015.
“You have to coach them like boys, but I don’t think the parents understand that,” Shelton said. “I think that’s where you have issues. There are years where you don’t have to raise your voice much with different kids, but you have to coach them like they’re athletes because they are.”
Appreciating the kids who worked hard even with little to possibly zero playing time is something Shelton enjoyed.
“We had a kid this year, Ammiel Russell, and I talked about her at our banquet,” Shelton said. “She wasn’t even eligible because she didn’t live in our district, but she was going to school here. After we found out she wasn’t eligible, she came up to me and said she just wanted to practice. And I thought, “wow.” She sings like a bird, and she sang the national anthem at a couple of our games. If you can sit there and maybe play a minute or not all the whole season, that takes some courage.”
Throughout his nine seasons, Shelton was one of most highly respected coaches around. Most people never had a bad word to say about him.
“I just try to treat everybody like I wanted to be treated,” Shelton said. “I think for the most part everybody tries to do that in our conference, and you just clash with certain people. I just try not to get wrapped up in it. I have probably 10 years on everyone at least, and if I was 40 years old, people would probably have a different opinion.”