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Local woman co-authors book on Sylvia Hatchell

BY ROZELLA HARDIN
Editorial Director
rozella.hardin@elizabethton.com
When it comes to writing books, Roberta Teague Herrin and Shelia Quinn Oliver work as a team. Sheila does the research and Roberta, better known as Bobbie, does the writing. And, this is how they did the book “Sylvia Hatchell: The Life and Basketball Legacy,” which is now on sale in bookstores.
Hatchell last coached at the University of North Carolina. And, although Herrin had not met Hatchell before she wrote the book, through Oliver’s thorough research, Herrin was able to take her information and share Hatchell’s coaching story.
“There are very few books about women coaches, and Oliver’s friend, Judy Stroud of Hendersonville, N.C., suggested the book about Hatchell, which she described as a “compelling story.” She and Hatchell had met one summer at University of Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt’s summer basketball camp and Stroud left really impressed with Hatchell with whom she later became a friend.
Herrin said in writing the book about Hatchell, she learned more and more about the coach. “Hers is an incredible life story. She’s the only coach to win three national championships, each in a different national athletic association,” said Herrin, who is now retired and spends a lot of her time at the family home on Ripshin Mountain. She also maintains a home in Jonesborough.
Herrin has come a long way from her modest roots as a student in the one-room schoolhouse on Ripshin. She earned both her B.S. and M.A. degrees in English at ETSU. She went on to earn her Ph.D. degree in English from the University of Tennessee. In 1976, Herrin returned to ETSU as a professor of English, specializing in children’s literature. She ended her 44-year career in higher education as Chair of the Department of Appalachian Studies and Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services.
Her co-author, Sheila Oliver, is a retired school library media specialist and lives in Spartanburg, S.C. She is also a former student of Herrin’s and about her, Herrin says, “Shelia is a fabulous researcher. She can find anything.”
Oliver, who enjoys a good story, said it took a long time to do the book. “I began my research in 2007 and we finished the book in 2019. I did a lot of follow-up research,” she said.
Oliver said it was a joy to get to know Sylvia Hatchell and to work with Bobbie. “I had worked with Bobbie before on a previous book ‘Appalachian Children’s Literature,’ and it was a joy to do research for her.
“It was also a joy to meet Hatchell and spend some time with her. I found her to be a very warm and loving person, and genuine. Sylvia is just Sylvia. I could not find anyone to say anything bad about her. She is straight up and honest,” said Oliver.
THE BOOK
As a young girl, Sylvia Hatchell longed to play title league baseball and, later, high school basketball, but both were closed to her because she was a girl. In college, her world shifted when she discovered a passion for coaching that would lead her to become a Naismith Hall of Hame coach of women’s basketball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the book by Oliver and Herrin, Coach Hatchell’s life story unfolds against the backdrop of Title IX and women’s struggle for equal opportunities to compete and excel in athletics. Along the way, she celebrates triumph such as winning the 1994 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament and weathers the sadness and failure (such as the loss of her parents, surviving cancer, and being forced to resign from her dream job in 2019.)
“Coach Hatchell is really a very remarkable woman as well as coach. I credit that in large part to her Christian faith. She is married and has a son and inaddition to racking up a successful coaching career, Coach Hatchell has maintained a strong family and faith. She is an amazing woman and hers is a powerful story,” said Herrin.
Hatchell in a telephone interview this week said when contacted about a possible book by the authors, “I wondered why they would want to write a book about me. But, they did a great job, and I hope it (the book) helps a lot of young coaches.”
Hatchell spent 33 years at the University of North Carolina as a coach, and prior to that, 11 years at Francis Marion College.
“As a coach I got to do something that was fun and rewarding every day. I loved my coaching time. It was very rewarding and I had a lot of great kids,” Hatchell said.
Hatchell played college ball at Carson-Newman College, and later coached the Junior Varsity team at the University of Tennessee under Coach Pat Summit. “She and I became great friends, and she really helped me a lot as a coach,” said Hatchell.
About women’s basketball and coaching in 2021, Hatchell said, “We live in a very different world. Ninety-five percent of the players are great kids, but they have so much to deal with — social media, a lack of respect for authority, etc. Coaching is hard, it’s tough, it’s hard to discipline. It’a very different time and world than when I was coaching,” she allowed.
The book “Sylvia Hatchell: The Life and Basketball Legacy” sells for $39.95 hardback by Amazon.com. It can be found in most area bookstores.