Coach John “Jack” Kelly began his teaching career at Ponaganset Middle School in 1973. He served there as a teacher of Special Education, Math and Reading for the next 31 years. From 1973-76, he coached the middle school boys and girls cross country teams, winning two state championships — first with the boys in 1974 and then with the girls in 1975.
Despite this early success, cross country would not be the sport he would devote his time and energy to for the remainder of his career. In 1978, he decided to bring a new sport to Ponaganset and started a soccer club. After one year of club play, he set off to coach the boys varsity team, where he remained until 2003.
Throughout this tenure, Kelly emphasized the qualities of leadership, perseverance, effort, citizenship and teamwork. But above all else, he stressed the importance of sportsmanship to his players. In his 24 years as head coach, he received ONE yellow card. The violation was too many men on the field. He was at the helm of the first boys soccer team in Rhode Island Interscholastic League history to complete an entire season without getting a single red or yellow card. Players wanted to work hard toward achieving success under his guidance, simply because they respected him and did not want to disappoint him.
He had a knack for convincing athletes from other sports not only to play but to enjoy soccer, though many of them had never played before. He knew exactly how the fastest or quickest player would fit into his schemes. He had a distinct ability to effectively fit any group of players around any system. Having never made any cuts in his program, Kelly offered the opportunity to enjoy the excitement and satisfaction of playing on a team to any schoolboy who wished to join.
During his tenure, Kelly brought his Chieftains to the state finals four times, capturing the Division II state title in 1982. He was the third Rhode Island boys soccer coach to win 200 games and finished his career with a 207-137-72 record. His .600 all-time mark is the 10th-best win/loss percentage in RIIL boys soccer history. He is also a member of the Rhode Island Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame.
Kelly resides in Jamestown with Mona, his wife of 45 years. They have two children, son Thomas and daughter Caitlin. Kelly has also served as a volunteer pole vaulting coach for North Kingstown from 2005-13.