Story originally published 10:04 a.m. April 3, 2014
The winningest high school volleyball and basketball coach in North Carolina is calling it quits after 37 years, at least in the classroom.
“I’ve worked for 37 years, and it’s really been a wonderful experiene,” Sherry Norris says. “I love what I do; I love teaching children; I love coaching. But, 15-hour days at my age, 61, it begins to take a toll on you. There’s just a time when you’ve got to cut back.”
All 37 years of Sherry Norris’ teaching and coaching career have been in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district. She teaches PE at Seawell Elementary School along with Lucy Schimmelfing.
Norris has coached the Chapel Hill Tigers to more than 1,200 victories across the two sports. Most recently she recorded her 540th win on the basketball court when her Tigers completed the perfect season defeating Hickory 69-56 for the 3A NCHSAA state title in the Dean Smith Center.
“Going 32-0 this year and the team just having a phenomenal year, it was really outstanding and special,” Norris says. “That’s something that you’re not going to duplicate, so the timing is right.”
That win marked the second state title for Chapel Hill under the leadership of Norris. Her 1981 squad took the 4A title.
Due to state rule, Norris has to take six months off from coaching after retiring from the classroom. That would prohibit her from coaching volleyball again this year, but the last day of school for Seawell Elementary School is June 12. A six-month break after April 30 would lift the coaching block for Norris just in time for basketball season.
“I would be interested in coming back for the basketball job if they have not filled it,” Norris says. “I would probably coach basketball again, unfortunately I’m not going to be able to coach volleyball.”
Norris has also recorded the most wins of any state volleyball coach with 732. The Tigers fell one game shy of competing for a state volleyball championship this season as well.
“One goal I had was to coach a state championship in basketball and volleyball in the same year, and I’ve never done that,” Norris say.
While Norris has accomplished many great things on the volleyball and basketball courts, she’s also used her 37 years in the classroom to undertake many different projects for her kids.
“I was always supported by strong administrators at Sewell who allowed me to try and do innovative things,” Norris says. “We’ve written grants; we have a climbing wall; we have a fishing program; we did skateboarding this year for the first time and diabolos—which is a juggling thing—and dance. I think that we’ve been on the cutting edge. We were one of the first schools in our system to do roller-skating with kids and razor scooters and things like that.”
Norris also created a folk dance festival at Sewell more than 25 years ago called the Folkmoot Festival. She says she’s glad to get the opportunity to take part in one more.
“It’s a multicultural celebration that we do, and it’s the biggest thing we do at Seawell,” Norris says. “We’re doing that April 25. We moved it back a week earlier so that I could do that before I left on my retirement.”
Chapel Hill High School Athletic Director Tim Bennett says, “Coach Norris has given her life to Chapel Hill High School and our athletic program. She has impacted the lives of so many student-athletes over her 37 years of coaching. She not only leaves a legacy of outstanding volleyball and basketball teams but a love for her players and teaching the values of hard work, commitment and team work. It is rare now a days for a coach to spend their whole career at one school and Chapel Hill High School is better today because of her leadership and passion for teaching and coaching the young people in the Chapel Hill community. She will be missed but hope that she still has some coaching days left in her. CHHS is happy for her and her husband Ronnie, and wish them nothing but the best!”
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Tom Forcella says, “Sherry Norris personifies what’s great about public schools. She is most famous for her incredible accolades as a high school coach, but her work as an elementary teacher is even more remarkable. She has impacted lives for 37 years and we are thankful for her service.”