Sherry Norris didn’t get to play basketball when she was a student at Bladenboro High School.
She was a cheerleader.
“There was a budget crunch in the ’60s when I was in high school, so they did away with girls’ sports,” Norris, the Chapel Hill High School girls basketball coach, said recently. “Girls were either cheerleaders or majorettes. I didn’t get to play team sports.”
When Norris arrived at UNC-Chapel Hill, Title IX was just taking effect, bringing an expansion in women’s sports.
“I would have loved to have had that opportunity like they had when I was in high school. That’s why I got into coaching. Someone had to advocate for girls,” Norris said.
Thirty-seven years and more than 1,200 wins later, Norris is still advocating for her sports, her teams, her girls. She’s been honored with the N.C. High School Athletics Association’s Toby Webb Coaching Award and last year was named as one of the NCHSAA’s centennial “100 To Remember” in coaching.
The Chapel Hill girls basketball team has won back-to-back conference championships and 29 consecutive games against league opponents. This year’s club is 17-0 and is No. 1 in The News & Observer rankings.
Norris’ team lost in the 4A championship game in 2013, and adding a second state title is a goal for this season. She is the NCHSAA’s leader in volleyball victories (732), and her clubs have won a pair of state titles.
But Norris has had to weather the vicissitudes of high school sports. Chapel Hill had to weather a down span in 2008-2010 when the Tigers went 0-20 and 1-19.
Norris’ husband, Ronnie, (“my best coach,” she says,) suggested she didn’t need the aggravation. Though discouraged, Norris wouldn’t quit.
“Even with the odds not in our favor, she still came to practice every day with high expectations, and she continued to push us,” recalled Sophie Pruden, a senior on the 0-20 Tigers squad.
“She didn’t let our losses define us as players. Even when we were losing games by a lot, she never let us roll over and stop playing hard.”
Pruden went on to play at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, where she’s averaging a double-double and was named her conference’s player of the week earlier this month.
“Sherry is one of the best to coach both sports in our state’s history,” said former Chapel Hill athletic director and boys basketball coach Tod Morgan, who is now in his first year at Pikeville Aycock.
“Sherry is highly competitive and driven to be the best,” Morgan said. “She will out-work most coaches across the state. She is very passionate about her girls, women’s athletics, her teaching, and of course, CHHS basketball and volleyball. I think she is driven to win another state championship in both sports before she retires.”
She has no plans to resign, though. She still wants to be an advocate for her girls.