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Roberts becomes the first female head boys basketball coach in Oregon in 80 years

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Yamhill-Carlton's new boys basketball is Heather Roberts, a former colegiate basketball coach. One Canby resident is taking on a historic position on the basketball court. For the first time in 80 years, a woman will take the helm of a boys' basketball program in Oregon. Canby's Heather Roberts was recently named the Yamhill-Carlton boys basketball coach for the upcoming school year.

Roberts will be the first woman to coach boys' basketball since the 1930's. While the position is a historic one, it is one with which Roberts is well prepared. A head basketball coach since 1996, Roberts has coached girls basketball programs across Oregon and spent the last four years coaching at the college level. Roberts and her family split time between Oregon and Virginia, where she was a coach at Southern Virginia University.

The move to coach a boys' basketball program in Yamhill was just the next step in seeking challenges to overcome, as well as wanting eventually coach her sons when they play basketball in high school.

"I've been very successful with the high school girls, so I thought about the next challenge," Roberts said. "That's kind of why I decided to go with boys. One thing I feel like I teach my players is that we have a comfort zone and we need push ourselves outside the comfort zone because that's how we grow. That's ultimately what it came down to when I decided to take this job."

Roberts has been the subject of public interest as of late, fielding a series of interviews from several different sources. It surprised her the amount of press she was asked to do, but she didn't feel any pressure from outside sources. The pressure came from accepting a new job and wanting to do well.

"Everyone keeps talking about the pressure," Roberts said. "I wouldn't feel a ton more pressure with just the fact that I'm taking over a new team. I've done this a lot, I've come into programs a lot. They haven't done well, so how do we be successful? I do want to do well for Yamhill-Carlton and for myself, I'm very competitive."

Roberts did however add that there was an added pressure being a female coach for boys basketball, and the need to represent should other female coaches throw their hat in the ring in the future.

"I do also feel," Roberts added, "I would say a little extra pressure because I want to do a good job so that if other schools decide that they want to hire a woman because they feel she's the best candidate, then they'll go, 'Look, it worked over at Yamhill.' I don't want to fall flat on my face. Then people would say, 'Oh look, you can't hire a woman because of that.'"

At Southern Virginia University, Roberts led her team to a 12-13 record last year. Her squad averaged 71.4 points per game, and 41.7 rebounds per game. In Yamhill-Carlton, she takes over a team that went 3-21 last year, and was 0-10 in conference play. Next year, Yamhill-Carlton drops to the 3A classification and joins a conference that sent three teams to the state tournament last year.

There are a few things that will require Roberts to adjust. For starters, going from coaching college athletes to high school athletes will require reinforcing fundamentals.

"I've been dealing with college kids, and the boys are stronger and faster than my college girls, but the girls had their skills because they've been playing for so much longer," Roberts said. "We're really trying to get back to proper shooting form, how to pass, ball handling, really trying to work those skills. Even if we're athletic, if we don't have skills, it can be difficult to execute what we want to do."

Despite the change of league scenery, Roberts does not expect the challenge to be any less. Given that she will be a new coach with a new style of gameplay, Roberts is not looking to measure success in games won or lost. Part of whether the impending season will be a success is if the team improves significantly from the start of the season to its end.

"I would say that next year it would be nice to pick up some wins in the conference, but we want to be competitive night in and night out," Roberts said. "I think the other thing we need to do is make sure we're progressing each game so by the end of the season we're better than where we started. We're employing a completely different system than what they've done so far. I'm also so excited because I think the learning curve is going to be really high."

Roberts is unsure of how much longer she'll be coaching basketball. She wants to see her two boys through their high school careers, and after that? It is a matter of waiting and seeing what happens. There was one idea that came to mind after a pause.

"I love Oregon State, I could go to Oregon State," Roberts said.

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