Circle now complete for Lee Shell at Ringgold
Even though he lived in Boynton off of Three Notch Road, Lee Shell has always been a Ringgold kid. He spent his formative years in downtown Ringgold, frequenting the area and attending as many Ringgold High School athletic events as he could. His uncle even nicknamed him “Tiger”.
And now, it’s all come full circle for the 1986 Ringgold High graduate.
Shell was named the school’s new Athletic Director at the start of the 2018-2019 school year, taking over for Robert Akins, who stepped aside to focus on his duties as the school’s assistant principal and head football coach.
He returned to RHS nearly 10 years ago to teach English and coach football, finally closing a near decade-long stint at nearby LFO.
“I was asked to come back when the opening came up,” he said. “I’d been at LFO for almost 10 years and I loved it there, especially when Jerry Ransom was principal. It was a phenomenal time, but the call home was what pulled me over here. It was nothing against LFO. I’m still good friends with those folks over there.
“I had a group of football players at LFO (in the mid-2000′s) and I’d promised I’d stay as long as they wanted me as a coach. I did have some other opportunities, but I think if you tell a kid or student something, you need to do it. It all worked out though. I thank God because the timing was perfect. Those kids eventually graduated and I was able to move on. It was the opportunity to come home.”
Once at Ringgold, he said he was taken under the wing of Akins, whom he considers a mentor and a friend.
“I started out as an assistant athletic director,” he explained. “It was a nurturing process. There have been some great A.D.’s here over the years, people who were big influences on my life, like Don Patterson. Now I’m following in Robert’s footsteps. He’s not (originally) from here, but he’s become Ringgold in his own way. Thank goodness he’s just a phone call away.
“It’s good though. I feel a little extra pressure to succeed, but it’s home and I know people here. Jerry Jones was my freshman football coach and people like Don Patterson, Steve McDaniel, Bill Womack and Hazel Brown are all legends in Ringgold, so it’s very important for me to continue that tradition.”
Along with the tradition, Shell says, comes pride.
“Winning breeds pride and tradition and that’s what we’re striving for, not just in the athletic department, but in the school as a whole,” he continued. “It’s not just wins and losses. It’s what we do in the classroom. It’s what the band does. We have a great theater department now. It’s everyone working together to instill pride and tradition. I’m really pushing the term “student-athlete”, not just “athlete”.
Shell said plans are in the works to honor male and female student-athletes with awards each month. He added that those awards will have as much to do with behavior, character, academics and leadership as much as, if not more than, on-the-field performance.
He adds that the key to it all is balance and working together for a common goal.
“A winning tradition and successful extracurricular programs breeds success throughout the school,” he said. “General Patton once said that every link in the chain is important, from the cook to the general, and that’s a philosophy I have adopted and adapted to here.
“No doubt, we want to win and win state championships. No matter what sport it is, we’re going to give whatever we can to that team, that sport and that coach to help them succeed, but we also want well-rounded student-athletes that show good sportsmanship on the field of play.”
Shell also knows that he is helping to prepare student-athletes for life after they get their diplomas.
“We want to produce quality athletes and help get them into college,” he said. “For some kids, (athletics) is their ticket to getting into the school they want to get into and in some cases it pays for it too. I’ve seen athletes in this county that probably wouldn’t have graduated if it weren’t for sports, so it’s very important that we nurture all of that.”