Progress: Making things happen: Shannon Casey works tirelessly as West Forsyth’s assistant athletic director

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2023

By Dan Kibler

Shannon Casey stepped on the West Forsyth High School campus 35 years ago. She played softball, volleyball and basketball as a student. She left for four years of college — with a softball scholarship to UNC-Greensboro — and returned not long after graduation.

She’s never left and doesn’t plan to leave until she has 30 years of teaching under her belt when her daughter, Meredith — a softball pitcher for West — graduates in 2026.

“I’ve have 4 years as a student and 27 as a teacher,” said Casey, who has served as an assistant coach in the three sports she played in high school but has focused on her job as assistant athletic director since 2003.

“I don’t know anything other than West Forsyth.”

And there are a lot of coaches and athletes who are glad she is in that situation.

Casey has been in charge of determining whether the approximately 1,000 West Forsyth students who are also athletes are eligible to set foot on the fields and courts at the Clemmons school. She calls on guidance counselors and teachers all the time to make sure a football, softball, tennis, basketball or baseball player has all of his or her ducks in a row, as far as passing courses — the right courses — and maintaining grades good enough to remain eligible to put on the Titans’ green athletic attire.

And she’s done that without, well, attracting much attention to herself, which is just fine.

“I am perfectly happy to fly under the radar, and do what I do,” she said one day in March, sitting in the driver’s seat of an ATV, a stylish pair of Oakleys covering her eyes and her left foot in a walking boot/cast from a Meredith fastball that cracked a metatarsal bone.

But Casey, 49, almost wound up across town.

“When I went to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in; I just wanted to play softball,” said Casey, a catcher. “I decided on PE, and you are certified to teach for K-12. I did some stuff with an elementary school and realized quickly that wasn’t for me. I thought about high school, and I decided the only high school I would consider was West Forsyth.

“I took a job at Hanes Middle School. I put my contract in the mail, and that afternoon, Durwood Pack (West’s athletic director) called and said they had a PE opening. I talked with Norma Harbin (West’s principal) about it, and then I called the principal at Hanes, Debbie Brooks. She told me she would let me out of my contract if she could fill the opening by the end of the school year.”

She did, and the rest is history — good history for Titan Nation.

T.R. Richards, who succeeded Pack as the Titans’ athletic director in 2003, had the idea first to move Casey into athletic administration. When Pack retired, Charles Beatty, who had been handling athletic eligibility, decided to set aside those responsibilities. Richards turned to Casey.

“When Durwood retired, Charles retired from doing eligibility. He taught me the job. I started the same year Austin (her son) was born.”

“Durwood wanted me to have assistants, and Mr. (Kurt) Telford (former WF principal) created that position and funded it,” Richards said. “I asked her, ‘Is this something you would want to do?’ and she said yes. She bleeds green. Anything she can do to help, she does it. I couldn’t have done my job without her doing hers. She and Kevin McIntosh (another assistant AD), they were so great.

“Shannon’s organizational skills are outstanding. She takes her job extremely seriously, and she’s willing to put in the time to do it. I really needed her to take eligibility off my plate, because most years, we had more than 800 athletes out of 2,200 students. With the new rules the county put in, on top of the state rules for eligibility, it was too much.

“She has to keep track of eligibility, and of physicals, and now, she has to keep up with the concussion protocols. When I started (as assistant AD), we had to keep papers on kids for 4 years. All of our papers could fit into one box. By the time I became AD and Shannon came on, we had three boxes for boys and three boxes for girls. And we have more sports now — sand volleyball, lacrosse. Durwood realized it was a big (job), getting bigger and bigger.

“It’s an unsung hero’s job. Nobody knows there’s someone sitting in an office, going through pages and pages of paper. The average person would go crazy, but she is very meticulous — she crosses every T and dots every I, and she has always been looking for ways to streamline things. Now, Shannon has become the expert the rest of the county turns to with questions.

“And Shannon is such a team player. She’d come help us with ball games when it gets busy.”

When Richards retired in 2014, Casey said a number of people asked her if she was going to apply for the job, but she had no desire to be in charge.

“No way,” she said. “I don’t like the limelight. I do what I do.”

Casey said she learned there was plenty to her job outside of making sure the star tailback, baseball catcher or star butterfly swimmer is eligible.

“I think I love most seeing all the kids standing around, watching them do what they love and be good at it — take it to the highest level they can,” she said. “There’s no telling how many picture days I’ve been at, watching kids come through.

“There are a lot of things they don’t teach you in college that you learn to do — in this job and about teaching in general,” she said. “It’s more than physicals and insurance forms. I found out, one of the most important jobs an AD has to do is make sure there is toilet paper in the bathrooms.”