First a player and then an assistant coach, Shannon Fitzpatrick now steps up to be the head softball coach at Incarnate Word Academy.
Fitzpatrick, who is a 2011 Incarnate Word graduate, played in college at Fontbonne. She spent last season as an assistant coach at her high school alma mater.
Former Red Knights coach Mike Gill and his daughter, Rachel, retired at the end of last season. Fitzpatrick played for Rachel when she was a senior at Incarnate Word. The father-daughter coaching duo had led the softball program at Incarnate Word since 2010.
“The opening for head coach was announced back in March,” Fitzpatrick said. “I submitted my resume and was asked to participate in an interview. The following day, I received a call from Dan Rolfes (IWA’s athletic director) asking if I was still interested in the position. I, of course, said yes and accepted his offer for the position.”
Naturally, she is looking forward to coaching the Red Knights.
“I am beyond excited to have this position,” Fitzpatrick said. “Softball is a passion of mine, and Incarnate will always have a special place in my heart being an alum. So, I couldn’t ask for a better place to coach. The IWA community is unlike any other.”
At Incarnate, Fitzpatrick was a four-year varsity starter. She started out playing left field and was moved to centerfield. As a senior, she hit .373 in a 16-5 season. She hit six doubles and three triples along with driving in 12 runs.
After her graduation in 2011, Fitzpatrick played softball at Fontbonne University. In addition to playing, she went on to earn a degree in secondary education. She then continued her education and earned her master’s degree in educational administration.
At Fontbonne, she played all three outfield positions and was the leadoff batter.
“I had a successful career defensively and offensively,” Fitzpatrick said. “I am proud of my time there. My teammates and I were able to accomplish many firsts for the university and we had a great time doing it.”
In her Fontbonne career, Fitzpatrick averaged .321 with a .467 on-base percentage and a .461 slugging percentage. She drove in 64 runs and hit 22 doubles and 15 triples along with one home run in 148 career games. She also stole 55 bases. Fitzpatrick holds the following Fontbonne records in career walks (83) and career triples (15).
She earned several all-district and all-conference honors along with being a scholar-athlete.
Fitzpatrick is a teacher at McCluer High. Before joining the Incarnate Word coaching staff as an assistant, Fitzpatrick was the assistant varsity softball coach for three years at McCluer South-Berkeley High School.
She credits the Gills with helping her achieve what she has in the sport.
“Fortunately, I was able to learn from Mike and Rachel Gill in many aspects,” Fitzpatrick said. “I played for both of them and was able to learn from them as a coach, too. I would say one important thing I learned from both of them was to never settle. Don’t accept anything less than greatness – and that can be achieved through hard work and persistence.”
She is ready to put her own stamp on the Red Knights program.
“My philosophy as a coach is to create a culture of pride and excellence both on and off the field,” Fitzpatrick said. “I seek to develop the whole of the player, not just their athletic skill. I aim to have each player leave better than when they started, in their softball skills and in their life skills so they can have a success future.”
Last fall, Incarnate Word posted an 18-8 record. The Red Knights earned a fourth-place finish in the Class 3 state tournament. The program scored a fourth-place state finish in 2017.
“I believe the program is in excellent shape,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are coming off a very successful season and I expect to have another successful season this year. And I know the girls expect the same.”
The team is looking forward to playing for her, she said.
“Some of the girls and their parents reached out when the news came out that I was chosen as head coach,” Fitzpatrick said. “They all have been super supportive, and I am excited to get back to business on the field as soon as we can.”