Shelly Morris is no stranger when it comes to the town of Westport.
For a decade, the Easton resident traveled to the SouthCoast region of southeastern Massachusetts to visit its beaches and family relatives.
Now, Morris takes a prominent role in the 236-year-old town.
“I’ve known the community for the past 10 years,” Morris said. “It was very familiar for me to go back. It was comfortable to come down and get to know the people. Everyone has been fantastic.”
Morris was recently named the new Director of Athletics/Student Activities Coordinator for Westport Junior/Senior High School.
She replaces former AD Jason Pacheco, who has been at the helm since 2012. Pacheco’s teams won numerous league championships, made it to the finals several times, and was named Coach of the Year for three seasons over 11 years. Pacheco did not have his contract renewed.
In a statement to the Wildcat community, Morris addressed her hiring:
“I am honored and humbled to be named the new Director of Athletics/Student Activities Coordinator. I would first like to thank Superintendent Thomas Aubin, Principal Laura Charette, and the rest of the search committee for their time and efforts during this search process. It was their thorough approach and the passion they displayed for this community that made it easy for me to accept this tremendous opportunity. I have spent the better part of my life surrounded by sports. My experience in athletics over the past few decades, coupled with my educational background in Athletic Administration, has provided me with the leadership and skillset needed to be successful in the position.“
“Through collaboration with my colleagues in the district and our coaching staff, I am looking to build on the success our programs have had this past year,” Morris said. “I believe we can broaden our marketing presence to celebrate our team’s and student-athlete’s successes on and off the field.”
Morris, 51, graduated from Northeastern University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Recreation and Sports Management. Morris also obtained her master’s degree at the university in Sports Leadership.
The Western Massachusetts native, who graduated from Agawam High School, has coached field hockey for over 20 years, with stints at Division I and II schools — Ohio University, Stonehill, and Northeastern. At Ohio, the team won their first conference championship in 20 years and made the tournament for the first time in the program’s history. She took Stonehill to several Final Four appearances and won the league and conference tournaments. At Northeastern, her team made it to the semifinal and finals for the conference tournament in the last couple of years.
Morris stepped down before the spring season to pursue her new career path.
“I wanted to get into athletic administration,” she said. “Years ago, when I was at Northeastern, there was a co-op school at Brookline High School. I was the assistant athletic director at that school. I stayed on right through my co-op into post-graduation and worked for a little over a year as an assistant athletic director. During that time I liked it, but at the same time, I had an itch to coach.
“I always knew I wanted to go back. It was great to connect with Westport. I enjoyed the people. It seemed like a perfect fit. Being a smaller school and [myself] being a first-time athletic director at the high school level, It’s a great fit. I’m enjoying it these past few weeks.”
Morris interviewed for a handful of schools around the area.
“I just kept my eyes opened, and I saw the position pop up,” Morris said.
Morris said the community and school system did a great job of retaining many athletes this year. She said the new fields are almost complete behind the new high school. Morris also said there will be a middle school program for field hockey in the fall.
“I think our athletes are excited about competing at their school and being proud,” she said. “We want to get our athletes excited about each other, excited about what they are doing, and pump them up as much as we can. We want to be proud of them. That’s one of my goals.”
Morris said she wants to use her philosophy as a coach and take that into her AD job.
“As a former athlete at the Division I level was all about my experience,” she said. “We won, but we didn’t always win. I still had a good experience in what I was doing. As a coach, I wanted my athletes to look back at their time and say I had such a great experience those four years and create those lasting memories.
“Obviously when you can generate that pride, hopefully, that turns into success. Some of our teams have had tremendous success over the past few years, and we want to continue with that with those teams and with more.”
Morris said there will be a parent/student-athlete information night on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. inside the school auditorium for anyone who hasn’t registered yet. They can meet the coaches and answer any questions about the upcoming season. Students can register onsite, and the athletic trainer will be there for questions.
Herald News and Taunton Daily Gazette sports editor Steven Sanchez can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Chezsports