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Remembering Ross Kershey: A Look at the Coatesville Teacher’s Legacy

Photos courtesy of Scott Kershey

Students share memories of Coatesville’s Ross Kershey as a teacher, coach and friend.

Ross Kershey’s silver-gray hair contrasted sharply with his dark eyebrows and piercing eyes, earning him the nickname the Silver Fox. Tall and lanky, with only a slip of paper in his hand, he’d work the halls at Coatesville Area Senior High School like he was looking for the next fast break or fade-away jumper.

In 28 seasons on the basketball court and 14 on the track field, Kershey amassed 13 Ches-Mont League Championships, 14 league relay crowns, two district titles and a state championship. The school’s gymnasium bears his name, and his classic Overplay and Pressure Drill was published in 1971’s Treasury of Basketball Drills From Top Coaches. The drill emphasized “physical and mental toughness—an essential for any pressure team.” It’s a trait he embodied on the court and in the classroom at Coatesville from 1956 to 2020. Kershey passed away this past October at age 90.

As one of his students, I sat up straighter and always paid attention in his classes. You had to be sharp, because you never knew when the next question was coming your way. “Teaching was always first for him,” says Kershey’s only son, Scott. “Life around our dinner table was like an endless game of Jeopardy, with history, sports and entertainment categories. It was great.”

Ross Kershey in 1970.

Kershey was both the namesake and the first recipient of Coatesville Area Senior High School’s Honor Society’s Educator of the Year Award in 1981. Many of us recall his classroom model of Gettysburg Battlefield, complete with soldiers, cannons, ramparts and accurate topography. On school field trips to the site, visitors would gather around his students to listen in to his lectures. “On one trip, a guide stopped talking and told his group, ‘Listen to that guy,’” recalls Scott.

Kershey was also passionate about Coatesville. “His biggest gift was his love for the city and the people who lived there,” says Holly Wilson Leslie, a 1988 CASH graduate. “Each year, ahead of the prom, he’d dedicate an entire class to showing students how place settings worked in fancy restaurants, so inner-city kids who may have never gone to nicer restaurants wouldn’t feel embarrassed.”

With a 104-1 record as a track-and-field coach, Kershey knew nothing about the sport before he was asked to coach in 1963. He learned all he needed to know from a handful of books supplied by his wife, Sally, the school’s assistant librarian.

Kershey’s family moved to Connellsville, Pennsylvania, from West Virginia when he was 3. A commitment to education and service was instilled by his dad. “He liked to tell us how his barely literate father came home from the coal mines one day covered in dust, sat down and told him, ‘Boy, if you ever go into those coal mines, I’ll break both of your legs,’” Scott says.

Kershey took those words to heart, earning an academic scholarship to Temple University. Though he always downplayed his skills on the court, he made the basketball team his senior year, graduating with a communications degree in 1955. A year later, he was teaching social studies and coaching basketball at what was then Coatesville’s S. Horace Scott High School. He never left. He also put his degree to good use as an announcer at Coatesville football games for over four decades and a sports columnist at the Coatesville Record for 25 years.

In 2021, in honor of his son, Kershey established the Scott Kershey Basketball Permanent Endowment to benefit the West Chester University men’s basketball team. Like his dad, Scott was a longtime high school coach and football announcer who attended WCU after five years in the Navy. “He never pushed me to do any of that—I just loved it,” says Scott. “We both thought ESPN was the greatest thing ever invented.”

 

Back in 2005, I asked my former teacher if he missed coaching. His response: “I coached 10 guys each year but had 160 students. Which job do you think was more important?”

Related: Remembering Top Steeplechase Trainer Jonathan Sheppard: 1940–2023

Kim Douglas

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