BRAX salutes Regional Director, Coach Sheila Boles, as she enters into both the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
Coach Boles has been determined to make a difference her entire life, and has not only succeeded, but also exceeded, against the odds. The year 1973 was not an easy time for women to play collegiate sports; however, timing was on her side. Title X, federal legislation that mandated equal opportunity for women in high school and collegiate sports, had just been passed and Sheila went straight to play for UNCW’s first women’s basketball team, The Seahawks.
In our interview, Sheila Boles credits some of her success to timing, “If I had come along a year or two earlier, I probably wouldn’t have ended up taking the path I was able to take.”
During those years she was named Most Valuable Player three times, also earning NAIA District 28 Player-of-the-Year honors in 1976. In addition she was awarded UNCW’s first female athletic scholarship.
After graduation she coached junior varsity boys’ basketball, where her skill and success drew fast notice. In 1988 she found herself in the position of being considered for the varsity boys’ basketball coach at Hoggard High School. No other woman in the state of North Carolina had held that position and opposition was fierce. The principal, players, and members of the board of education would not be swayed from hiring the best person for the job and Sheila became the first woman to coach a boys’ basketball team in the state of North Carolina, and coach she did.
The Hoggard Vikings saw a school-best 167-121 record in 11 seasons, advanced eight times to the 4A playoffs and set a school record 24 wins in one season. More barriers were broken when she became Hoggard’s Athletic Director, the first woman AD in New Hanover County. Sheila’s talent and dedication stood out in every role she took.
One of the qualities that will strikes one about Sheila is her humility. She dodges the accolades, instead stating, “I truly believe it was my calling to be able to spend my whole life with young people, in athletics. It was kind of a dream come true for me.”
In 1998 Sheila was diagnosed with breast cancer, but refused to give in. She continued working throughout treatment, and with the strength and spirit she used to keep coaching her boys, she won the fight against cancer.
That year Sheila was awarded both New Hanover County and Southeastern North Carolina’s award for Teacher of the Year, as well as mid-eastern AAAA Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year. She also received the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Award for Courage. In 1999, while serving on the board of the NC Athletics Director’s Association, she was awarded that organization’s Brave Heart Award. The Brave Heart Award was especially important to her as the famed Kay Yow, head coach of the NC State women’s basketball team and herself a breast cancer survivor, presented it.
“What is it that you are most proud of?” I ask. She smiled and said, “Getting wedding invitations, or birth announcements from my students…running into them on the street.” Sheila is more proud of her kids than any award. “It’s like anything else,” she adds, “You just get out there and do the best you can. The difference as a coach is, your product is a human being.”
She believes in being the best you can for everyone. More than once, Sheila facilitated scholarships for some of her players when they needed help to do so.
In addition to the awards and recognition listed above, other notable honors include:
- 2008, Athletic Director of the Year by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
- 2008, Athletic Director of the Year by the North Carolina Athletic Director’s Association.
- 2011, The Colonial Athletic Association honored Coach Boles during the league’s Legends program on the eve of the CAA Women’s Basketball Championship.
- 2011, The Wilmington North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
- 2012, The UNCW Hall of Fame.
- 2012, The NCHSAA Hall of fame.
Although she has more than earned the right to be proud of her accomplishments, Sheila simply said, “To be my age and be able to spend a lifetime in athletics is a true blessing.” I can’t help but think of all those who consider Coach Sheila Boles the blessing.
The BRAX family salutes Coach Sheila Boles as someone who continues to make a difference.