ZEBULON — NASCAR had its Dale Earnhardt. Concord and Zebulon schools had their Barbara S. Roberson.
Earnhardt and Robertson will be inducted this month into the Cabarrus County Sports Hall of Fame alongside five others posthumously, and among 13 total incoming members of the 2013 class.
Those who knew Roberson, who died in 1993, understand why she is being honored in the company of the racing legend, an Olympic medalist and three former NFL players. Those who did not know her have probably seen her name in the newspaper, on a plaque in town, or on a local school gymnasium.
Roberson was an athlete, a coach, a mother, a teacher and a wife. She has been described as “a teacher of life,” who was commonly quoted saying, “Forget the score, but remember the players.” And was always smiling.
“Barbara Roberson had something – a special gift not very many teachers I worked with had,” said Charles Corbett, who coached alongside Roberson at the combination Zebulon High School and Middle School for about 18 years. “She could see something special in kids not a lot of people could, and could get more out of kids than anyone.”
Her tie to Cabarrus County is Concord High School, where she graduated in 1956. There, Roberson was named the school’s Outstanding Basketball Player of the Year her junior and senior seasons. She was her team’s leading scorer, averaging more than 19 points per game, and was named All Conference in 1955.
Roberson attended Appalachian State University from 1956 to 1960, and was president of the women’s athletic association there. She then made a 32-year career of coaching and teaching between Laurinburg High School (seven years), Wakelon High School (three) and the combination Zebulon school (22).
While she was a standout basketball player, Barbara Roberson was also big on golf, softball and tennis.
“She played everything,” said Elton Roberson, who was married to Barbara for 32 years and with her moved to Zebulon in 1967. “She hated to beat her friends, but she did. She loved to win, but she would do it fair.”
She coached mainly basketball but also track, softball and volleyball.
Her total varsity basketball coaching record was 193-87. She coached teams to back-to-back conference championships in the 1985-86 and 1986-87 school years in Zebulon, going a combined 47-3 those seasons. It earned her the title of Coach of the Year in the Raleigh metropolitan area in 1987.
Her varsity teams were also district champions twice and back-to-back runners-up in the sectional finals.
To Corbett, who taught and coached in eastern Wake County for 31 years before retiring in 2002, Roberson’s real success was off the court.
“She had a lot of irons in the fire,” Corbett said. “Not only was she a good teacher and good coach and player – she was a whole lot more than that. She balanced the role of teacher, coach, wife and parent better than anyone I’ve encountered.”
The Wake County Board of Education named the Zebulon Middle School gymnasium in honor of Roberson the year after she died. The Barbara S. Roberson Award has been granted annually to an outstanding female student-athlete at the middle school since then.
Elton Roberson said his late wife was not interested in awards, not for herself. He said she’d be humbled by the Hall of Fame selection.
“She would say the girls and boys she coached deserved the awards, not her,” he said. “She’d be honored to be inducted, also because some of the people who have been inducted (in Cabarrus County) were some of her best friends. She’s in good company.”
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at the Cabarrus County Boys & Girls Club at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24. The free event is open to the public.