Lindsey Linker has joined that elite group of sports figures who are selected for a hall of fame while still active in their profession.
Linker, who coached two Chapel Hill High School teams to state championships before leading 14 teams at East Chapel Hill to state titles, is scheduled to be inducted into the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame this fall. Thursday, her Wildcats won a dual match at Chapel Hill, 9-0.
“I must say I was surprised when I was nominated, and even more surprised when I was told I was in,” Linker said.
“This is a real honor. I’ve had unending respect for the high school association since I was a player at Myers Park, and I think the amazing coaches in that hall are awe-inspiring.”
Linker joins seven other people comprising the NCHSAA hall’s class of 2013 – Bobbie Guthrie, Jack Huss, Shelly Marsh, Dave Odom, Cindi Simmons, Sam Story and Ron Vincent.
“Lindsey deserves it. She’s a great coach,” said JV coach Anne Booterbaugh, who subbed for Linker as varsity head coach last year and whose daughters Maggie and Hayley played for Linker. “When you play for Lindsey, you learn about winning, but you also learn about life.”
Linker is the first person from Chapel Hill named to the hall based entirely on coaching. Six previous inductees all worked as administrators, including former University of North Carolina president Bill Friday and NCHSAA staffers Hap Perry, William Terrell, Dick Knox, Charlie Adams and Carolyn Shannonhouse.
Linker has more championships to her credit than any high school coach ever in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system.
“Lindsey is a friend and a great coach, and she deserves to be in the hall,” East Chapel Hill track and cross-country coach Stephen Marquis said. “As much as she should be in based on coaching skills, everyone has to know that a large part of this is based on wins. She has plenty of those.”
Linker credited her players and fellow coaches for the wins.
“We have so many great clubs around here and so many great feeder programs at the middle schools,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have so many great players and so many supportive parents and coaches.”
Linker began her coaching career at Chapel Hill High School after earning a master’s degree from UNC in 1981, working with both the CHHS men’s and women’s teams, and in 10 years there accounted for a record of 294-39, won two NCHSAA state dual-team titles and four individual state champions.
She left coaching briefly to work with Head sports manufacturing as a sales representative in the Carolinas and Virginia, but found she missed coaching.
“The gratification of selling tennis racquets and clothing just didn’t compare to touching the lives of young people through coaching,” Linker said.
She returned to the local school system as a teacher and coach at Culbreth Middle School. When East Chapel Hill opened in 1996, she stayed with the Culbreth teams before taking over as tennis coach at East Chapel Hill in 1998.
Her first Wildcat team won a 3A dual-team championship, the first of 14 NCHSAA team titles at East.
Coaching at East Chapel Hill from 1998 through 2013, she helped produce 11 individual state champions and almost 600 victories. She was named conference coach of the year 39 times.
Linker retired from teaching after 30 years in the classroom and took a six-month sabbatical last year, while Booterbaugh took over the varsity team for a season.
Linker thought about quitting coaching, too – “for about five minutes.”
“I knew I’d keep coaching all along, really,” she said. “Now I’ve got the best of both worlds, and I’m loving it.”