South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Bayless athletic director inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Stahluth started playing tennis when she was 5 years old
Kelly Stahlhuth.

Amongst big names like the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, the Rams’ Todd Lyght, the Blues’ Barret Jackman and racing’s Kenny Wallace, Bayless School District Activities Director Kelly Stahlhuth was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023 on Nov. 19 for her impressive tennis career.

This career began when Stahlhuth was just five years old, hitting tennis balls off the wall with her father at Mesnier Primary School in the Affton School District. Though she also grew up playing team sports like soccer and softball, Stahlhuth found herself gravitating towards tennis due to the individual nature of the sport. She began playing in tournaments – first local, then regional and national – when she was 9 and continued throughout high school.

“I think it was just a good challenge because you’re kind of out there by yourself. There’s something to be said for controlling your own path,” she said.

And the path she controlled was an impressive one. While in high school at St. Joseph’s Academy, Stahlhuth went all four years without being defeated once.

“I didn’t lose a match. My freshman year I had a stress fracture in my foot, so I had a default a match. I don’t even remember the score, but I couldn’t finish it because I had to go into a boot and I couldn’t play for about six weeks,” Stahlhuth said. “But, I never lost a match.”

She also was ranked 10th nationally in the United States Tennis Association at age 16.

After graduating, Stahlhuth went on to play college tennis at Indiana University. She served as team captain in 1988 and 1989, was a member of the Big Ten championship teams in 1987, 1988 and 1989, earned All-Big Ten honors all four years and was the Big Ten Most Valuable Player in 1988 and 1989. She played in four NCAA championships in singles and three NCAA championships in doubles where she earned All-America honors in 1987 and 1989, won doubles at the 1998 All-American Championships, and was selected to the 1989 Rolex Collegiate All-Star Team. In 2002, she was inducted into the University’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

“It was nice to play for a team and have teammates and play for something besides yourself because it did get kind of solitary out there,” Stahlhuth said of her time in college. “It was a great four years. There’s just nothing like cheering for your teammate when you need their point or them cheering for you and coming back…the camaraderie was great.”

After college, Stahlhuth spent time coaching at Town and Country Racquet Club, now known as the Missouri Athletic Club West. She coached there for roughly fifteen years before taking on the Head Women’s Tennis Coach position at Washington University in St. Louis.

“It was a learning curve for a year…but I figured it out. With each year I kept going, kept building it…(and) we kept getting better in the rankings,” Stahlhuth said of her time at WashU.

She coached at the collegiate level for fifteen years, though ultimately decided to step down at the end of the 2019-20 season.

“There’s some coaches that are doing it when they’re 60 and 70, and that’s fine, but for me, I was like, ‘okay, I need a new chapter,’” Stahlhuth said.

The job search then began.

“I started looking around locally in St. Louis,” Stahlhuth said. “I knew I wanted to be around athletes, that’s just kind of who I am at the core. I wanted to be around strong students, I wanted to be around young people because they keep you young.”

Luckily for her, there was an opening in the Bayless School District that checked all these boxes. Stahlhuth began as the part-time Assistant Athletic Director which was “a great transition” from her previous role as full-time coach. The next year she was named Athletic Director, where she remained for only a year before switching to her current role as the District Activities Director.

“I get to set up programming for kids… at the elementary to junior high (level). I work within the district to find opportunities for kids after the school bell. Some of it is tennis – I still coach tennis, which is great, I don’t have to give that passion up – but I’m also finding out about art club and FBLA and all these activities… it’s just neat to see all the different avenues,” Stahlhuth said. “I’m lucky because it’s a great, great district, and it’s a great job – you get to do all the fun stuff.”

As briefly mentioned above, Stahlhuth also currently coaches the Bayless tennis teams alongside guidance counselor, Calvin Kohler, who played tennis at Missouri Baptist University. Though the school had a tennis team in the ‘80s, it had long been dormant until the duo resurrected the sport a few years ago.

“We both just have tennis in our blood, so we said ‘let’s start this up,’” she said.

Since its resurgence, the program has grown immensely, and Stahlhuth has enjoyed every bit of the ride.

“There’s just so much joy in it because you’re teaching them from scratch, you’re teaching beginners,” Stahlhuth said. “They’re trying something new, which is what you have to do in this life so many times, you know. You’re always adapting.”

In addition to being inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame, Stahlhuth was also inducted into the St. Louis Tennis Hall of Fame last year.

“I’m from here (and) I’m very proud of St. Louis,” Stahlhuth said. “Most of the people that are strong tennis players came from, you know, Florida, Texas, California, so it’s neat to represent the Midwest.”