Scott Shields, alumni coach, switches jobs

April 29, 2010

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Whitman College has turned to Scott Shields, the winningest coach in the history of its women’s soccer program, to take command of its men’s and women’s cross country program.

Scott Shields

Shields, 41, is leaving the women’s soccer program to fill a cross country coaching vacancy created by the recent resignation of Malcolm Dunn, who held the position for the five years.

Dunn is getting married this summer and plans to relocate outside the Walla Walla area.

To fill its now vacant coaching position in women’s soccer, Whitman has launched a national search and hopes to have a new coach in place by the end of May or early June.

“In terms of our cross country program, we are fortunate to have someone already on staff who has helped coach our distance runners in the past, and who is excited about refocusing his considerable coaching expertise and energy on that sport,” Whitman athletics director Dean Snider said.

“Early in his coaching tenure at Whitman, Scott also was part of our track and field coaching staff for several years,” Snider added.”Our track teams enjoyed good success in those years, in large part because of the fall cross country runners who ran distance events during the spring track season.”

This past fall, the Whitman women’s cross country team placed second at both the Northwest Conference and NCAA Division III West Region championships, earning a team berth at the national championships.

Meanwhile, a young men’s team placed fourth in a nine-school field at the conference meet.

Dean Snider

“We are truly sorry to see Malcolm leave because he did a great job of raising the competitive level of our cross country programs,” Snider said.”At the same time we are confident that Scott can continue to build on Malcolm’s successes.”

Shields, a 1991 Whitman graduate, was an NAIA All-American in soccer for the Missionaries. He came to Whitman from Richland (Wash.) High School, where he ran cross country and was a multi-sport track and field athlete.

Shields, who has a master’s degree in education, returned to Whitman in the fall of 1994 as its women’s soccer coach. That next spring, he served his first season as an assistant track coach.

By the time Whitman changed its track program from varsity to club sport status following the 2002 spring season, Shields had logged six years as an assistant coach and two as head coach.

“This opportunity to coach cross country at Whitman is tremendously exciting for me,” Shields said.”Everyone who knows me understands how I feel about distance running. I spent most of my youth going to summer camps for track and field.”

“Both running and soccer have been my life-long passions,” he said.”It wasn’t easy to leave Whitman soccer but I also couldn’t wait to get started with our cross country athletes.”

Shields has already met with Whitman’s returning cross country runners and made contacts with high school student-athletes interested in competing for the Missionaries in the future.

“Our women’s and men’s cross country teams finished very strong this past fall, and that’s something we plan to do on a regular basis,” Shields said.

Malcolm Dunn

“We want to recruit a strong core group of runners in every class. The plan is to have a high quality program that sustains itself on a year-to-to basis. The goal every season is to win conference or finish near the top.”

Whitman was fortunate to have Dunn here for five years as its coach, Shields said.

“To have and maintain a running program that is successful from year to year, you need to create a running culture that is committed to a year-long structure and is part of a long-term, four-year program,” Shields said.”Coach Dunn did a wonderful job building this program, and my hope is to build upon the current team’s winning culture.”

Assistant cross country coaches Neal Christopherson and Damian Sinnott will continue with the program, Shields said. Christopherson is director of institutional research and an adjunct assistant professor of sociology at Whitman, and Sinnott is a Whitman graduate.

“It’s great that Neal and Damian are willing to stay with the program and help push it to a higher level,” Shields said.

Shields expects more coaching help from his spouse Marqui, who ran cross country at Linfield College and helped coach the track teams at Whitman for two years. She is a physical education instructor at Walla Walla high School.

“Marqui is excited about my change from soccer to cross country,” he said.”This brings her back to a sport she understands. She’s excited about helping with cross country, especially the women’s team.”

In addition to his coaching duties, Shields is a senior lecturer and the NCAA compliance officer in the Whitman athletics department. He and his spouse have two sons; Kamron is six and Kooper three.

Shields, a third-generation Whitman graduate, followed in the footsteps of his late grandfather (Frederick Shields, Sr., ’32) and his father (Fred Shields, Jr., ’56). His grandmother Hazel Meiners Shields, also attended Whitman for a few years and turns 100 years of age this July.

Other family members with Whitman degrees are older brother Keith Shields ’89 and aunt Mary Lynn Shields Potter ’62.

Marquie and Scott Shields with Kooper and Kamron.

In his 16 seasons with the women’s soccer program, Shields collected a total of 120 victories.

In the past nine seasons, his teams suffered just one losing campaign (missing a winning record that year by one loss/win), finished third or fourth six times in the highly competitive NWC, and posted a combined win-loss-tie record of 86-68-15.

His best season in terms of win-loss records came in 1996, when the Missionary women finished 12-6-1.

“The decision to leave the soccer program is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Shields said.”All of those players and teams became part of my family. After all the tossing and turning, I was able to make the change for two reasons.

“First, we’ve always had simple goals with our soccer teams, one of which was to always leave a situation in a better place than when you arrived. I can feel good that I’m leaving the soccer program in a better place.

“Second, I couldn’t leave the soccer program unless I was confident that I can have same positive impact with the cross country running program.”

Snider said student athletes in the women’s soccer program can rest assured that Whitman’s national search will find a strong coach to fill the void left by the departure of Shields.

“Having Scott coach cross country leaves a big hole to fill for women’s soccer, but we are confident we can find a highly qualified coach who can continue to build on his successes.

“Our department goal with all sports is to not only continue our successes but to build on them and get stronger,” Snider said.”Our goal in all cases is to aim for the top of the conference and beyond.”

CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College.
509 527-5902
holden@whitman.edu