Thursday April 21, 2016
Sheila Burleigh, the long-time Girls Varsity Basketball Coach at South Burlington High School (SBHS), will step down from her position after 42 seasons. She announced her decision to her players at a team meeting Thursday, April 14.
After coming to SBHS as a student teacher in 1972, Burleigh graduated from Lyndon State College and began her career as the SBHS girls basketball coach in 1973. That year she was also hired as a physical education teacher, took over as the varsity softball head coach, and started the SBHS field hockey program. She coached softball for just 2 years, and went on to coach field hockey from 1973 to 1988, compiling a career record, with 2 state championships in 1984 and 1985.
But it was in basketball where Coach Burleigh really left her mark. Her career record stands at 597-315, with 5 state championships, 10 Metro Division titles and 20 appearances in the Final 4. She coached the Vermont Twin State team twice, winning the game vs. New Hampshire each time. She also defeated NH once as the coach of the Vermont Twin State Field Hockey team. Burleigh’s 1987 basketball team defeated Oxbow, ending the Olympians’ and Coach Mona Garone’s 74 game winning streak. Burleigh was named Vermont Coach of the Year in field hockey 5 times and was Vermont Division I Coach of the Year in 1988. In basketball she was coach of the year numerous times. Capping her list of accolades, Burleigh was named the 2010 Russell Athletic/Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association National High School Coach of the Year for District 1.
Coach Burleigh has been inducted in 5 Halls of Fame: Lyndon State College Hall of Fame, 1999; New Agenda Women’s Hall of Fame, 2003; VPA Hall of Fame, 2005; New England Basketball Hall of Fame, 2006; and Vermont Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, 2008.
Mike O’Day, the athletic director who worked with Sheila for 3 decades at SBHS said, “Having the privilege of working directly with Sheila for 30 years, I can easily say that she devoted her life to her student-athletes. She was not only a terrific field hockey and basketball coach, but she taught life skills and challenged her athletes to improve themselves toward excellence every day. She gave so much to women’s sports in Vermont by her modeling and her continued pursuit to learn and to become a better coach and teacher. Sheila Burleigh is a great coach, a great teacher and a terrific person…SBHS will surely miss her talents.”
When asked what it meant to her to have had such an impact on so many young women’s lives, Burleigh said, “That is what teaching and coaching are all about. You try to get kids to believe in themselves, think and dream about things they want to accomplish, set goals, develop core values, and understand that good honest work can lead to accomplishments….not just on the playing surfaces, but in the classroom, and hopefully down the road to adulthood.” She was committed to instilling strong values around teamwork, respect, discipline, and commitment to excellence, both in athletics and in personal character and attitude.
Coach Burleigh enjoys staying in touch with her student athletes long after they have graduated, and seeing where life has taken them. She is grateful to former SBHS athletes Lindsay Kuhn Mott and Carly Companion West, who have been her dedicated assistants for many years, and looks forward to having more time to attend games at Saint Michaels College, where former SBHS player Shannon Kynoch is the basketball coach.
“This has been a sweet ride, a life full of wonderful people and wonderful memories. I am so proud of my student/athletes —like any parents with their kids. They are ‘my’ kids and to watch how they have grown into adulthood makes me proud to say I may have played a small part in their development,” Coach Burleigh said.