In a league of her own: Shelly Klinek first to play in both men and women’s leagues

  • Derogatory's Shelly Klinek calls to the catcher during the first Chautauqua Softball League game of the season against the Slugs, Friday, June 29, 2018. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

From an early age, Shelly Klinek had a competitive spirit and knew what she wanted to grow up to be.

“I knew I wanted to be a physical education teacher and play sports from the age of five,” Klinek said. “I had been tagging along with my father when he went to play softball and basketball, and I continue to still play to this day.”

This softball season, Klinek is the first woman to play in both the men’s and women’s leagues at Chautauqua. She found out about the leagues from reading the Daily and, because she loves competition so much, wanted to join both. Klinek had to win the majority vote from the captains of the men’s teams to be able to join.

“Shelly showing up is a real gift to our league,” Men’s League Commissioner Mark Altschuler said. “To have her play in both leagues and umpire games for us is exactly who we needed at this time.”

Klinek said she does not have any worries about playing with men.

“None at all. Only time, playing Monday through Friday,” Klinek said.

Klinek was the starting pitcher for one of the men’s teams, Derogatory, on June 29. The team lost 15-12. She went 1-3 with a single.Having never played a game in the women’s league, Klinek is excited and ready to meet new people, regardless of gender.

“Adjustment to the women’s (league) should be easier, and maybe I can relax a little more,” Klinek said.

Klinek said she is not worried about being treated different when playing with men.

“At first, when they don’t know me, they either think I won’t be able to keep up with them, or I am going to bring all my girlfriends, and they are going to take over,” Klinek said. “Then, after playing with me, they realize that I am a team player and just one of the guys.”

Klinek didn’t start out playing softball and basketball. She was a competitive swimmer from ages six to eight. She knew she couldn’t participate in swimming and play other sports as well because swimming demanded so much of her schedule.

She did play basketball at Norwin High School. When her coach, Bob Shrader, was asked in 2010 who the best student he ever coached was, he didn’t hesitate.

“Shelly Klinek,” Shrader told the Tribune-Review. “Shelly was the complete basketball player.”

Klinek played at Norwin in the late 1970s, earning basketball and softball scholarships to Salem College, where she majored in health and physical education.

She went on to get her master’s degree in early childhood at Malone College in Ohio, and a doctorate in educational leadership and administration from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She taught public school for 22 years in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and now teaches at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, where’s she’s director and assistant professor of health and physical education.

Klinek also taught adapted health and physical education for students with disabilities. She was a Special Olympics coach and coordinator in Ohio for 14 years and won a basketball state champion- ship that was recognized by the house of representatives in Columbus, Ohio.

“It was so cool. We got to ride around on fire truck, and (the students) loved that,” Klinek said. “I never got that opportunity for myself; we never made it to states. We were one game short, so I got the chance to live it through them.”

From coaching Olympics to playing in them, Klinek won a silver medal in the 3v3 basketball at the 2013 Senior Olympics in Cleveland. The Senior Olympics is for ages 50 and up. Teams have to qualify during the even years, and the Olympics is held every other odd year.

“It is very competitive,” Klinek said. “I never knew about it until I saw a flyer about it while teaching at Slippery Rock University. I have only been playing for a few years now.”

Klinek believes playing basketball with men helps her prepare for the Olympics.

“When I get to the Olypics, it’s a slower game and playing with men helps my mentality,” Klinek said.

Klinek will be participating in the 2019 Senior Olympics in Albuquerque. She has also been a volunteer  firefighter for two years.

This summer will be her first full one at Chautauqua. After recently moving into the area, Klinek wanted to be more a part of the community and help out.

“I love it here,” She said. “Love the people, the community, the atmosphere and the opportunities.”



Tags : Chautauqua men's softballChautauqua women's softballShelly Klinek

The author Donovan Conaway

Donovan Conaway is from Maryland and is a rising senior at the illustrious Morgan State University, where he studies multimedia journalism. He will be reporting on recreation/Boys’ and Girls’ Club for the Daily. His goal for the summer is to learn how to swim. Donovan is a huge sports fan and idolizes Carmelo Anthony. For any sports talk, email him at