Ann Booterbaugh probably is the best known substitute teacher at East Chapel Hill High School this semester.
She views herself as a temp employee.
The hours aren’t that good and the pay is worse, but she wouldn’t trade the job for anything.
Booterbaugh is coaching the East Chapel Hill girls’ tennis team this fall.
“They are at a level where I am not teaching them, really. My job really is to encourage them and to guide them,” Booterbaugh said last week as undefeated East Chapel Hill was winning its second match of the young season.
Booterbaugh, the mother of multiple East Chapel Hill athletes, has subbed in classrooms at Phillips Middle School and some of the area’s charter schools in Henderson and Wake County.
This is a different type of post.
Lindsey Linker, who coached East Chapel Hill’s males and female student-athletes to 15 state team championships since 1997, had more than 30 years teaching in the N.C. system, and she was ready to leave the classroom after last year. But she still wanted to coach.
“That’s my passion,” Linker said. “That’s what I do, and these my kids. I never want to leave coaching.”
To get her retirement to kick in, Linker needed to leave East for at least six months. The state system doesn’t want retired teachers on campus for at least that long, lest there be the appearance of having them work “off the clock,” so to speak.
Linker intends to return in the spring to coach the East boys’ team. But, for this fall, she needed someone else to coach the girls.
Linker approached Booterbaugh to be the caretaker of the team.
“This is still Lindsey’s program,” Booterbaugh said. “She has built East tennis to be what it is, truly, and she knows I am respectful of that.”
Booterbaugh previously played on a state high school championship team at Virginia Beach, Va., and played varsity tennis at Virginia Tech.
More importantly, Linker said, Booterbaugh was completely familiar with the East Chapel Hill tennis program. And her daughter, all-conference player Maggie Booterbaugh, graduated last spring, so there couldn’t be any conflicts inherent in coaching one’s own child on a team.
“I knew the parents and I knew the girls. This is a really great group,” Booterbaugh said. “Lindsey knew I wouldn’t want to change anything; I knew this program works. It’s not about me; it’s about these girls.”
Booterbaugh has the luxury of coaching a talented group, most of which has some varsity experience no matter how young the players.
Senior Brittany Hill is playing at No. 1, representing a class that never has lost a Piedmont Athletics Conference match. The top six singles players include juniors Mackenzie Bright and Meghana Holegadde, sophomore Caroline Pope, and talented ninth-graders Julia Gan and Rainie Heck.
“Everyone on the team misses Coach Linker, but we all think it’s going well; Coach Booterbaugh is doing a great job,” Hill said.
Tuesday in Durham, East stayed undefeated in conference matches by winning 6-0 in straight sets at Jordan High School, giving up only three games of the six matches completed before rain ended the competition early.
East Chapel Hill improved to 3-0 overall, 2-0 in the PAC-6 this season with another shutout on Thursday, when the Wildcats won 9-0 at Durham Riverside. This time, East gave up just one game in singles — in Hill’s 6-1, 6-0 win against Leland MacDonald. Pope, Heck, Bright, Holegadde and Gan all won 6-0, 6-0. The Wildcats swept the pro-set doubles by a cumulative 24-5 score.
“If I had thought it was going to be really crazy, I am not sure I would have done it, but these are really great players,” Booterbaugh said. “A friend asked me: ’How did you get so lucky?’ It’s true. It was like winning the lottery.”
Booterbaugh was impressed by Linker’s preparations for her departure, leaving everything in order for this season. She’s also been impressed by Linker’s ability to multi-task.
“One thing I’ve learned is that it’s tough to watch all six matches at once,” she said. “So I had six girls out watching the other matches; it was like having seven coaches out here.”