North Carolina High School Athletic Association

4 Questions: A Conversation with…Carolyn Shannonhouse

Carolyn Shannonhouse joined the NCHSAA staff in 1986 after a brilliant coaching career and has just recently retired, although she is working part time at the NCHSAA through the end of 2014.  A member of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. she  has worked with women’s and combination sports at the NCHSAA since her arrival on the staff.


What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in high school athletics during your career?

One major change is athletes choosing to specialize in a particular sport and not participating in multiple ones.  We have also seen the reclassification and growth in all NCHSAA sports programs.  State championships being held in large neutral venues to give athletes “a memory forever” has been a nice change.

The student services program expanding its offerings to provide many new leadership opportunities for both the student-athlete and the coach has been of great benefit.

The increase in costs and having to look for innovative ways to secure the funding has been and continues to be an ongoing challenge.  This is especially difficult for our schools. 

Community support for athletics in many areas is not what it used to be. In some cases, though, this is due to the addition of schools in the area.

Parental involvement and their expectations for their children, with so many people thinking about college scholarships despite the fact that, in terms of percentages, very few earn them, has been a change, too.


What would you say are a couple of the greatest individual performances you have seen during your career at the NCHSAA?

Surprisingly, two performances that remain vivid do not involve an athlete winning an event.  Both involve cross country athletes overcoming limitations just to compete.  A blind participant running tethered to another runner and a female runner with multiple sclerosis so severe that she had to be completely doused with ice water at the conclusion of her race to recuperate from the demanding run.  

I remember observing Jordan-Matthews soccer team’s excitement after they won their school’s first men’s soccer championship.  The primarily all-Hispanic team members, which has had a book written about their season, were so excited they held their championship trophy up high and ran around the entire field to celebrate their victory.  At the time, I was worried that the opposing team’s spectators might think this was taunting, but instead the Lejeune High School fans gave a standing ovation as the Jordan-Matthews’ soccer team paraded by.  What a great example of good sportsmanship displayed by an opposing team acknowledging the great game these young people had played. 

A Bishop McGuinness player hitting a last second shot from past midcourt at the conclusion of a 1-A women’s basketball championship to win the game for her team was really exciting, and there have been some great performances in softball, too. One great pitching performance I recall was Gina Allen of Central Cabarrus striking out 36 in a 19-inning state championship softball game which Central finally won, 1-0.


What is your best memory of high school athletics personally, from your own involvement in them?

Personally, I think observing how young people benefit so greatly from the life lessons that come from their involvement in athletics is the best memory.  My greatest reward as a coach was watching high school student-athletes grow, mature, develop and become inspired to do greater things.  Ultimately, watching them mature into productive adults has been the most rewarding. Many of them have come back, years later, to express their thanks and appreciation for my involvement in their lives.  So, even though I was fortunate enough to coach some very talented teams, the wins and losses are not what I remember—I remember the progression and journey during a season, the bus trips and the many other experiences I had both on and off the court or field with my athletes.  Great memories!!  While with the NCHSAA, It has been wonderful to observe the many athletes that have been recognized for their accomplishments and to see how they have been inspired and encouraged to reach for excellence through education-based athletics.   

During my years of working with the NCHSAA, I have observed many athletes, individuals and teams, winning state championships.  This is always such an exciting time for players, coaches and fans and watching them hold their trophy up high to their fans with pride and celebrate is really a special moment.  Also seeing the joy and excitement in the eyes of the athletes and coaches during the pre-game ceremony introductions, like parading in during the Olympic protocol at volleyball, crossing the field towards the fans in soccer, being introduced in basketball, is great.  Watching the anticipation and excitement on the faces of the athletes prior to playing in a state championship event is a fond memory of mine.

Knowing that all the student-athletes have been given opportunities to showcase their talents and benefit from the many programs–sports, student services and special programs–that the NCHSAA offers—is a dear memory.   


If you could wave a magic wand (that worked), what is one thing you’d like to change in high school athletics?

If I could wave a magic wand, it would be that the funding for high school athletics would be available so that all students, regardless of ability, could compete on a team.  The values of participation are tremendous and I would love for all students to be able to benefit from a wholesome athletic environment that stresses the importance of sportsmanship, ethical behavior, academics and good citizenship.