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Born To Lead

Longtime Delaware men’s lacrosse coach realized his calling from an early age

Delaware coach Bob Shillinglaw was twice named U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coach of the Year. University of Delaware photo

If you would have told Bob Shillinglaw that he would be a college men’s lacrosse coach for 42 years, it wouldn’t have surprised him.

Shillinglaw, who announced that the 2017 season will be his last after 39 seasons at Delaware, had a good grasp of what he wanted to do by the time he was in fifth grade participating in sports. Even at that age, he knew he wanted to be a coach when he grew up. It wasn’t until his collegiate playing days at North Carolina that he decided he specifically wanted to be a college lacrosse coach.

“I became intrigued about what motivates people and the relationships that coaches have with players,” said Shillinglaw, who graduated from North Carolina with a degree in physical education in 1974. “Through the years, it was clear to me how you can have a positive impact.”

Before Shillinglaw took over the Delaware program in the fall of 1978, he began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Massachusetts Maritime. He chose that part-time position over a full-time high school teaching and coaching job in Maryland, where he grew up.

“I had to get another job to support myself, but I followed my passion,” said Shillinglaw, who also has a master’s degree in sports psychology from Boston U. “That’s what got me started.”

After one year of being the assistant and less than two years after graduating from college, he was named Massachusetts Maritime head coach. The Delaware job became available in 1978.

Shillinglaw’s tenure with the Blue Hens is one of the most storied in men’s lacrosse. He entered the 2017 season holding the NCAA all-time, all-divisions record for most career coaching appearances with 639. He also entered this season ranked 10th in all-time coaching wins (327) for any division in NCAA lacrosse.

“I’ve enjoyed all aspects of my career,” the 65-year-old Shillinglaw said. “There are ups and downs and wins and losses, but it is great to be involved in the lives of all the student-athletes I’ve coached. I’ve never thought for one minute to do anything else.”

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.