Kelley takes over Forest softball program after years as assistant coach

Dan Kelley, the new coach of the Forest girls softball team, on the field at Forest High School on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

Home » Community
Posted March 10, 2023 | By Allen Barney 

After four years as the head coach of junior varsity softball and assistant coach at the varsity level, Dan Kelley will coach Forest High School varsity softball this year. 

Kelley, 68, started the job in July 2022 after the previous head coach retired due to health reasons. 

Kelley was born in Columbus, Ohio, and got his start in sports at young age by playing football and baseball in elementary school. He played varsity football and baseball at Bishop Ready High School in Columbus before he graduated in 1972. Kelley earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Ohio State University in 1999. 

The Ohio native said his dad, Bill, is the reason he became interested in sports at a young age. 

“My dad introduced and taught me football. I tried to play everything. My dad gave me the love for the game, and he was always the coach. I feel I enjoy coaching because I watched him do it for so long,” Kelley said. 

The first-year head coach believes sports can teach quality lessons that people can keep with them for the long run. 

“It teaches you discipline; you have to be on time. You get to a point where you are burnt out and think you can’t do anymore, but you find that you can,” he said. 

After living in Columbus for 43 years, Kelley and his family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, due to his wife Patti’s career in manufacturing management. It was there that Kelley found a booming softball scene and decided to get into coaching with his three eldest daughters, Danielle, Muriel and Blair, all playing the sport. 

“I fell in love with the game of softball. Nashville was a whole different world with softball, and I began learning the game there,” Kelley said. 

The time and dedication to the sport for his daughters paid off as Danielle played at Ohio University, Muriel went to Ohio Dominican University and Blair landed at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. 

“They all got to travel around and make lifetime friends. It’s pretty neat because they still contact people they played with years ago and they all got an education and jobs,” Kelley said. 

His two youngest daughters, Blair and Ciara, played at Trinity Catholic High and Forest High respectively. 

Kelley’s wife’s job led the couple and their daughters to Ocala in the early 2010s, where Kelley continued his career with the Veteran Administration before he retired in 2019. 

Kelley has a head start in terms of relationships and familiarity with his players due to being on staff the previous four years. 

“They know my process and how I do things. We played in the fall league, and it was good. I enjoyed myself. You got have the girls wanting to be there and the numbers are good. We had 26 show up for workouts recently, it shows they want to be there, and I consider that a positive,” he said. 

Kelley’s goal as far as leaving an impact on his players is a lesson in life that can be applied to anything. 

“I want to show them that the results you get depend on how much work you put into it. Just teach them how to work hard,” Kelley said. 

newspaper icon

Support community journalism

The first goal of the Ocala Gazette is to deliver trustworthy local journalism so corruption, misinformation and abuse are not hidden from the public or unchallenged.

We count on community support to continue this important work. Please donate or subscribe: