A true Titan: Shannon Casey has decided to step away from her duties as assistant athletic director at West Forsyth

Published 12:08 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — When Shannon Brooks walked on campus at West Forsyth as a student and athlete in 1988-89 school year as a volleyball, basketball and softball player, even she probably couldn’t have imagined the direction her life would take in those 36 years. 

Now Shannon Casey, as she is currently known, is married with two children. But to West Forsyth coaches, athletes and supporters they know her as an assistant athletic director and a fixture at sporting events. Casey has also, in many ways, been a trailblazer, because even though it’s 2024 and society has progressed, Casey is just one of a handful of local female athletic administrators. 

However, Casey, 50, who has been a health and PE teacher at West Forsyth for the past 28 years, and an assistant athletic director there since 2003, has decided she’s giving up her role as assistant athletic director, effective at the end of this school year to spend more time with her husband. She has decided to remain at school as a teacher for the next two years.  

“I made this decision last summer,” she said. “…Full disclosure I was sitting in my living room working on eligibility. It was around 1 a.m. It just, not getting into anybody’s business or whatever, but I’m a believer in the Lord. And God smacked me in the face and just gave me a big old sign that it was time. Like, I have no other words. It was like, it wasn’t something that I had pondered. Like, and so, I’m just like, ‘Wow.’ It spoke — I don’t know how to explain it.” 

Who would’ve thought what Casey, who basically bleeds green for her high school alma mater, would’ve done after she accepted a teaching position at West Forsyth after graduating from UNC Greensboro, where she played college softball, in 1996? 

“I just didn’t say anything about it to anybody, not even my husband (David), for a few days to see if that’s really what I felt was the right thing to do. But the more I thought about it the more I just felt at peace with it, and I told my husband. Of course, he was on board because he’s been ready for me to step down for a while because I’m not at home a lot.” 

Not only has Casey been to many games and competitions as an athletic administrator over the past 21 years, but her main focus has been athletic eligibility. 

“I didn’t want to just cold-turkey drop it,” Casey said. “So, and also, I didn’t think that would be fair to (Athletic Director) Mike (Pennington) or (Principal Kevin) Spainhour, or whoever would be taking it (my position). I wouldn’t, especially the eligibility piece, so that’s why I decided to give it a year.” 

After Casey thought about it, she made her decision, along with speaking with her family. That family includes husband David, son Austin, who graduated from West Forsyth in 2021 and competed on the shooting team, and daughter Meredith who is about to finish her sophomore year at West Forsyth and plays on the softball team. 

“She brought it up to us and I thought it was a good idea because I want to spend more time with her, to see me play more,” Meredith Casey said. “And it’s caused a lot of stress on her lately, so I’m happy to see that go away.” 

Casey also requested to speak with Spainhour and Pennington. 

“I wasn’t surprised on one end,” Pennington said. “She and I share an office together. And so, I wasn’t surprised on one end, but on the other end, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, wow, I’ve got to do eligibility now.’ You know, I’ve got to add something to my plate, which is fine. We’re going to get it taken care of.” 

Before coming to West Forsyth, Pennington didn’t know much about Casey. That quickly changed. Pennington was named athletic director in 2014, replacing T.R. Richards, who retired that fall. 

“I will tell you this. The seven years that Mike Pennington was the basketball coach at West Forsyth I bought her a Christmas gift every year because of what she did for eligibility,” he said. “Just because other schools don’t have a Shannon Casey. And so, a lot of that stuff they’re doing themselves. And so, I felt like she was doing my job for me…That was just as the basketball coach. 

“I should buy her a house or a car now (since I’ve been the athletic director).” 

If there was any question Pennington knew that he could fall back on Casey. 

“I knew that she had it,” he said. “And she was going to do eligibility and she was going to do a great job at it. You didn’t have to worry about it. You know, you heard horror stories at other schools, and you know, West Forsyth never had those horror stories because Shannon took care of it.” 

Casey, who in many cases did the job of three people, will have her job with eligibility split between Pennington and Brad Bullard, who resigned as the West Forsyth baseball coach last summer and has been an assistant athletic director since January, will take care of the eligibility and input that goes into DragonFly. 

Although Casey ultimately decided to announce her departure after this school year last summer it may have been something she was contemplating earlier.

“We’re not getting any younger,” she said. “It just seemed like every year there’s something new and something more and more and more on the plate of things that we’re accountable for and having to do, another form here and another form there, and another rule here and another rule there. I guess I could just say I’m just tired.” 

Dragonfly, which according to the NCHSAA, “… makes sports and activities more organized with easy-to-use digital forms, health records and communication tools. Their sports management tools are used by more than 300- thousand administrators, coaches, parents and student athletes nationwide for registration, game scheduling, payments, and more.” 

“She does a great job,” said Bullard, who graduated from West Forsyth in 2002. “I think you talk to anybody around the county, and you hear one common theme, and Shannon knows, she’s a guru of eligibility, and you know, Shannon’s going to do things right. She does it the right way.” 

Bullard and Brad Bovender, who were part-time assistant athletic directors this past school year, with Bovender having the job from last summer until the end of December, and Bullard, who started in the position in January. Bullard and Bovender will now become full-time assistant athletic directors. 

“It’s just a lot,” Bullard said of eligibility. “And, you know, I feel like they add more every year. You know, (Casey) jokes around like, you know, back when I started, you know, you had like physicals and insurance. And then, you know, it was this. And then you know, it was the concussions. And of course, we have the Gfeller stuff now (head-injury protocol). You know, you’ve got to have a health-history form now. You’ve got to have a medical eligibility form now. 

“Now that we’ve got the trainers, you know, with (Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist), you’ve got an Atrium Health release form now. And (Casey) said when I started, you know, it was two or three columns and then now you go in there and she’s got two monitors on her desk and both monitors are completely full.” 

It makes it even harder for Casey, especially with Pennington and Bullard taking over her role with eligibility now that West Forsyth has 2,400 students, many of whom are involved in athletics.  

“I think they perceive me as all business, do what has to be done to get the job done, do it right,” Casey said. “There’s only one way to do it and it’s the right way. And you know, just my passion for seeing young people do what they do, whether it be on the court, the field, the mat, the course, the track, whatever it is, watching a kid step in as a little ninth-grader and watch them flourish and bloom until they graduate.” 

West Forsyth’s graduation is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Saturday at Joel Coliseum. 

“Somebody asked me what was my favorite day of the year?,” Casey said. “It’s graduation day. Seeing those kids in the caps and gowns, and it’s not just about sports.” 

Although Casey feels as though she has missed much of her family life, she gives full credit to her husband. 

“He has had to hold down the fort at home for a long time with me having to be at West so much,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being able to be at home more and being able to spend more time with him.” 

Casey is also one proud mom. 

“With Meredith getting ready to go — I mean she just finished her sophomore year. With her, you know I looked at the time frame of, if I did it one more year it would give me her junior and senior year into putting full focus into being her mom, and just sitting on the sidelines and watching her play ball,” Casey said. “And not having to be pulled in different directions in the middle of a game. And that wasn’t the sole reason.” 

Casey also did the same thing with Austin before he graduated from West Forsyth. 

“Heck, my son didn’t go to college,” Casey said. “He went straight to a trade. Whether it’s the kid going into the military, going into a trade, going to college, play a sport, to not play a sport, the arts, whatever. Just watching them evolve into the person that they’re becoming and knowing that I was a part of that foundation that’s getting them to spread their wings and fly.” 

But for Casey, she’s looking forward to being there full-time as a wife to David and a mother to Austin and Meredith. But she’ll still be at West Forsyth as a teacher and a fan. 

“I’m looking forward to it,” Casey said. “I’m looking forward to it to just soak in. There’s not many things that I’d rather do. I won’t say nothing, but there’s not many things I’d rather do than — my son, he shoots competitive shotgun. But to watch him compete with that shotgun in his hands and to watch (Meredith) pitch that softball there’s not much other things I’d rather do. So, I just want to soak in every minute that I can.” 

Whether it be watching Austin shoot or sitting perched on the hill watching Meredith play softball, being present is a constant for Casey even when it was hard to be home as much as she would’ve liked. Part of Shannon Casey’s duties were to be athletic events as an official administrator. Pennington purposely put Casey on every softball game so she could be there to watch Meredith play. 

“She was at every athletic event my entire life,” Meredith Casey said. “So, she’s very involved, I guess. Most nights, when I was younger, she was never home. She was always at football games, but now that I’m there i get to see her more.” 

In fact, the two often have lunch with each other in her office. 

“I feel like the time I lost when I was younger I get back now that I can have lunch with her,” Meredith Casey said.  

Both Shannon Casey and Meredith Casey also have a passion for softball. 

“I mean she played softball her whole life. She went DI, so I definitely look up to her in everything I do,” Meredith said. “At first, she wanted me to do it, but then I fell in love with it. Just the thrill of the game and the connection I have with my mom.” 

Casey was recently honored by West Forsyth. 

“We honored her (two weeks ago) at our awards day,” Pennington said. “We have a Test of the Titan award that our admin gives to a staff member every year who’s gone way above and beyond. And they gave that to Shannon this year, which was very well deserved.  

“And I gave her a gift, I talked about her a little bit in, when I did my Athlete of the Year, like and all those awards. And I said, ‘Shannon bleeds green because she does. She was a student here, she was an athlete here, and she coached here, her kids went here. She bleeds green. I think everybody knows how much she loves this school. People don’t realize, our coaches realize, I think, all that she does because they’re involved with that eligibility piece too.” 

It’s important to note that Shannon Casey will still be involved with athletics. She plans on driving the activity bus for the volleyball team in the fall. 

“I’m so glad she’s not leaving West Forsyth, and I’ve got her to help me,” Bullard said. “Even just (last Friday) I was working in DragonFly today and I shot her a couple text messages. Knowing that (last Friday) was her last day (in a official capacity as assistant athletic director), I reached out and I said, ‘Hey, you know, can you just double-check me on this and put your eyes on it?’ 

“You know, because I don’t want to mess up. And it was within 30 seconds she said, “Absolutely, I’m eating lunch. As soon as I get through eating lunch, I will double-check it.’ And sure enough, she sure did.’” 

Also, when fall sports start later this summer, and games begin, it’s quite likely you’ll see Shannon Casey sitting in the stands rooting for the Titans. 

“I think the fact that I’m not leaving, leaving yet, and still going to be sitting in as a spectator rather than an admin, like I don’t think the finality really has hit,” she said. “Like I said, when (Meredith) graduates, she’s, ‘Mom, I want you to read my name when I graduate.’ Because I read my son’s too. But we, the teachers we read their names. I can’t read just them. I’ve got to read like several hundred names.  

“I think the finality of reading her name when she crosses the stage and knowing that she’s walking out as a graduate, and I’m walking out as a graduate from many years ago, and then as a retiree, I think that will be kind of the icing on the cake.”