4 Questions: A Conversation with…Sherry Norris


Sherry Norris is one of North Carolina’s most successful coaches in a couple of different sports.

She is now retired from teaching, but has coached varsity women's basketball Chapel Hill for almost 40 years and volleyball for almost that long, and also coached softball for five years. She is the state’s winningest coach ever in the sport of volleyball and her teams have won a pair of NCHSAA state titles in that sport, in 1994 and 2003.  Norris has also guided teams to a couple of women’s basketball state titles, in 1981 and 2014.

  She was a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught elementary physical education for over 35 years. An active member of Cross Roads Baptist Church in Hillsborough, where she has taught Sunday school and headed the puppet ministry, Sherry coordinated the Jump Rope for Heart event at Seawell Elementary in Chapel Hill for many years, raising thousands of dollars for the American Heart Association.


What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in high school athletics during your career?


 The biggest change I’ve seen in high school athletics is equity for girls.   When I started coaching in 1975, there were seven sports for girl athletes, with each one having varsity teams only.   Girls now have the opportunity to participate in 12 different sports at Chapel Hill High School and all of these have varsity and junior varsity levels of participation.  Some teams, such as track and cross country, even have a no cut rule.  I think the increase in teams allows more girls to be active, experience competition, develop good work habits, and learn valuable life lessons. 


What is your best memory of high school athletics personally, from your own involvement in them? You have coached some outstanding teams during your great career.


My best memories of high school athletics are hard to pinpoint, because I have had so many.  Coaching at Chapel Hill High School my entire career was a blessing in itself.  I have been privileged to work with great athletes and developed close ties with many supportive families. 


Winning the 1981 North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championship at Elon College will always be a special memory.  It was my fourth year of coaching!  The year before, when we lost to Henderson Vance in the conference tournament championship game, I told my players we would win the state championship next year.  A bold prediction, but I really believed it.  My team was a unique group of girls who were talented, willing to work, focused competitors, and great student athletes.   


My first year of coaching my team was 3-16, and I wondered if I chosen the right profession.  But three years later, we were finishing up the season with a chance of being 24-2 and State 4A Champs.  When we entered the packed Elon Gymnasium, Sandra Langley’s 3A SouthWest Edgecombe team was playing, the place was rocking.  You could feel the electricity and energy in the air.  I knew right then I had made the right choice in becoming a coach and I’ve never looked back.   


You were phenomenally successful in both volleyball and basketball as a coach.  What did you find to be some of the similarities and some of the differences in coaching these athletes in two different sports?


The similarities in coaching any sport is getting your athletes to buy into your philosophy, system, teamwork, and commitment to hard work.  As a coach you must know what you believe about the game, what the best way of teaching the fundamental skills are, and how you will communicate your expectations.  You must also be able to evaluate your players strengths and weaknesses so that you can provide a positive experience.  These beliefs change and must be refined as you mature in your coaching.  At the end of each season, it is a good practice to reflect upon what worked, what didn’t, and what will make it better.  I have found that I can always improve just as I expect my players to!  


The biggest difference in coaching volleyball and basketball is that volleyball is player-driven.  Players are in control of the game.  Players are continuously making decisions and adjustments.  Coaches must prepare their teams in practice.  There is very little you can do in a match.  Your players must believe that you trust their judgment and they must trust their teammates for you to be successful.  Basketball is more coach-controlled.  With unlimited substitutions and more time outs, coaches can control momentum and tempo of the game. 


What are some of the activities you are involved in away from athletics?


Away from sports I am involved in my church.  I teach Sunday School, am the choir director, and direct our puppet ministry program.  I love to quilt and have been designing and making barn quilts since I’ve retired.  I love spending time with my husband of 45 years, watching my grandchildren play sports, and spending time at the beach.