In The Arena: UD legend helps granddaughter hone soccer skills


Don Donoher, Shannon Donoher and Liz Rose

Shannon Donoher wanted to hone her soccer skills over the summer. Fenwick High School assistant coach Liz Rose couldn’t work with her soon-to-be senior in the offseason. Over lunch the duo found someone who could.


Shannon Donoher wanted to hone her soccer skills over the summer. Fenwick High School assistant coach Liz Rose couldn’t work with her soon-to-be senior in the offseason. Over lunch the duo found someone who could.


In this case, “Grandpa” is the grand daddy of University of Dayton men’s basketball. Don Donoher is the winningest coach in UD history with 437 wins and 15 postseason appearances, including five Sweet Sixteens. In 1967 the Flyers faced UCLA and some guy named Lew Alcindor in the NCAA Championship game. A year later UD won the NIT title.

Now Donoher has another foe.

“I’ve had a little trouble with Cruyff and Rivilino,” Donoher laughed. “I’m not sure I even have them spelled right. And that offsides thing threw me for a loop, but I have an appreciation for the skill it takes to play soccer. It’s very hard to control the ball with your feet. I appreciate what it takes to excel in this sport.”

Donoher’s granddaughter Shannon has the tools it takes.

A starter at Fenwick since her freshman year, Shannon Donoher has done extra work on her own in previous offseasons to refine her conditioning. Playing on the Fenwick varsity and club teams has boosted her ability.

Yet coming into her senior season, Donoher wanted to do more. She wanted to work on fundamentals – you know the boring stuff.

“Shannon started two years ago after freshman year wanting to know what more she could do,” Rose said. “I said ‘Are you serious?’ She was playing club ball, high school ball, and I mean honestly there wasn’t a lot more she could do. But she wanted to get better and work on her own. It was more a fitness aspect. I can’t coach her out of season but she’d ask me for advice as far as conditioning drills and I’d email her and tell her what she could do. She’d go out by herself and go to the track with her cones and just start running. This past year though she thought that maybe club ball wasn’t enough. She wanted to work on technique.”

Don Donoher was the perfect motivator.

Over the past four years, Donoher spent time with Shannon’s brother Kevin in the offseason, helping the soon-to-be Ohio University freshman better himself on the basketball court. That of course was basketball.

This was soccer.

“I remember when I was in the service in Germany many years ago, soccer was a way of life for those kids over there,” Don Donoher said. “They always had a ball at their feet.”

Turns out Donoher has had a ball himself learning a new sport.

Although he has a card he reads that details what drills to do during Shannon’s 45-minute workout, Donoher has had fun with the daily morning sessions that take place at Ernst Park behind the Kettering YMCA.

“Liz sent me some drills and I knew nothing about them,” Donoher said. “I really just go off the notes and give a command. I’ve enjoyed it though. I’ve enjoyed Shannon’s dedication.”

Shannon has enjoyed her grandfather’s presence.

“It’s been neat,” Shannon said. “I’ve always seen my grandpa and brother work out with basketball and that’s something they could share that they loved. It’s been nice to teach my grandpa something that I really like. It took him a while to figure everything out and we had to teach him the words. But to see him get into it is really gratifying.

“If it was just me I’d probably come out here some days and just kick the ball against the wall for 10 minutes just to say I worked out. It’s a lot easier to come out with someone pushing you. I don’t think I would have done this if he hadn’t come out.”

During a typical workout Shannon will work on agility, turns, attacks, footwork, shooting and other individual aspects. Don Donoher also implemented one basketball drill that he says “is nothing but effort for 30 seconds.” A dented down spout displays scars from Shannon’s kicks – all of which have not hit their mark – unlike grandpa’s words.

“When she’d be kicking and miss the goal I’d yell at her and say ‘Badin wins…Alter wins…Carroll wins,’” Don Donoher said. “That would get her going, but she’s very motivated as is. She doesn’t need much whipping.

“And she’s not going to say much because she knows you have to get it done on the field. She has to apply what we’ve done. This is just drills. It’s just like a basketball player. You have to make application when it’s five-on-five and this is 11-on-11.”

Over the years, Shannon and Fenwick have left their mark on the girls soccer scene. What they haven’t been able to do is claim a district title. That’s hard to do in Southwest Ohio with perennial powers Hamilton Badin and Alter waiting at the district level.

This year, with nine seniors and 16 letter winners back, Fenwick – and Shannon – hope to advance to the regional. Last year the Falcons lost to eventual state runner-up Badin in the district semis in a shootout.

Rose, an Alter and UD grad, said the Falcons are “the most talented team” she’s been around and that the squad carries the most potential of any she’s been associated with. Rose expects several Fenwick seniors to continue their careers in college, although only one has already committed.

“I’m headed to Dayton,” Shannon said. “I was looking at a lot of other schools and I never really considered UD, but my parents made me take a visit there. I fell in love with the school and the UD soccer program. I knew that’s where I wanted to go.”

Shannon’s grandpa did not lead that venture.

“That’s her business, her future,” Don Donoher said. “It didn’t matter where she went to school – but it is kind of nice.

“I’ve got a closet full of Dayton stuff.”

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