Leann Green holds a photo of her daughter, Shelley, while looking over a board filled with her daughter's and accomplishments. Shelley Green died of cancer in 1999. - Julia Moore

Still an inspiration

Leann Green has seen some of the little girls who played on her daughter's soccer teams grow up and become successful women.

No one knows for sure what Shelley Green would have become because she passed away of cancer when she was just 19.

Fourteen years after she died of a rare form of bone marrow cancer, she's dearly missed. Those who knew and loved her say she would have been great.

"When she became ill it just broke all our hearts," says local coach Dave Potter, who taught and coached Shelley for several years.

Shelley's legacy as a passionate local soccer player was once again honored Saturday during the inaugural Rogue Memorial Challenge at North Medford High. The Shelley Green Award, which was created in 1999, is given to a U14 boy and girl each year.

Prior to the Goalie Wars competition, Medford's Joelle Sills and Brookings' Alex Anaya received the accolade from Leann and Potter.

Coaches nominated athletes and the awards were voted on by a nine-person committee.

The U14 level was chosen because, "It is a special age level for us," says Potter. "It is prior to the high school years. U14 is where the kids transition from the competitive level into high school and it's a way of rewarding the kids who have developed through rec and competitive leagues."

Shelley enjoyed the outdoors and traveling, but she adored soccer, Leann says.

So much so that she always played her heart out, once breaking a leg during a match.

"She didn't give an inch," Potter says. "She didn't back off of physical contact. Shelley played with her heart and soul. When she played the game she played with an absolute love and passion for the game and gave it 100 percent. She was not the best soccer player. She was a very good soccer player, well above average. But no one played harder, no one gave more effort than Shelley. If Shelley walked off the field on her own without limping or needing assistance it was something."

Always active and healthy, Shelley began playing soccer when she was 7. Mostly a defender, she competed in tournaments around the region.

"She was always interested in sports," Leann says. "She would rather go out and rough and tumble with the boys than play girly things. She had beautiful long legs built for running and she did well in running games and had natural athletic ability. She was a good track athlete. In seventh- and eighth-grade track her team could be way behind in the 400 relay and she would catch them up and win."

Shelley graduated from North Medford High in 1998 and was a freshman at Oregon State University when she noticed she was having trouble urinating, Leann says.

Shelley was picked up and brought directly to the hospital after making multiple visits to the student health center.

"They kept running tests and she just got sicker and sicker and sicker," Leann says.

Shelley was told that she had cancer on her 19th birthday on Nov. 22. She went through a rapid and harsh series of chemotherapy sessions. "We almost lost her right after that," Leann says.

It was discovered that she had a primitive neuroectodermal tumor a few months later.

Shelley's best shot at complete recovery was by doing a stem cell transplant, which the family knew was risky. She passed away of complications.

Shelley had planned to transfer to Southern Oregon University as she fought for her life.

"I did not doubt for a second that what we were doing would help her," Leann says. "She wasn't one to give up on anything. She just kept going."

Leann plants a flower or plant in her Medford yard each year in Shelley's memory. The first was a crape myrtle bush. This year it was a daphne.

She's seen many of the award winners grow into something special, too.

"They are all outstanding, wonderful individuals," Leann says.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email

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