Melinda Goodson is one of the few native Personians to play NCAA Division I college basketball, and she did so to the tune of becoming a hall of famer at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She could have put down roots anywhere, but she chose to return to her roots to build a life for herself and help build up her community. For the past two decades she has taught and coached in Person County, writing her story the same way she re-wrote record books at UNCG.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) My upbringing was based off of discipline and hard work. I had the best parents in the world, Bessie Goodson and Nathaniel Goodson, Jr. My mother was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years at Earl Bradsher and Stories Creek in Person County. As a kindergarten teacher, she taught us sharing is caring, treat people the way you want to be treated. She always instilled putting God first and trusting in Him in everything we do. I am a member of Mill Hill Baptist Church and as a mom I try to teach my kid to always put God first, just like my mom taught us. My mom was also very big into making good grades and furthering our education. So that was the driving force behind us doing well in school and getting as much education as we could.
Now my daddy was our disciplinarian and structure. He was an Army Reserve Staff Sergeant and when we were growing up, he was a federal correctional officer in Butner. Also, he was a college football player at Winston Salem State University and he was elected to the hall of fame there as well as at his high school, Paisley High in Winston-Salem. So we get our athletic background from my daddy, and we had some big shoes to fill. But he definitely brought the structure and discipline. He was our coach and drill sergeant. He was always there to run us through basketball practices, or softball, or whatever sport we were playing at the time.
As far school goes, I’m from Timberlake so we went to Helena—the old Helena that had that separate gym. I loved it. I had wonderful teachers there. Mr. Josiah Thomas was our principal and I thought he was an incredible leader. From Helena we went over to Southern Junior High School. And we were the first class to get shipped over to Person High School when they restructured the middle schools and high schools. So instead of going to ninth grade at Southern, we were the first to got to ninth grade at Person, which means we only went to Southern for two years, 7th and 8th grade.
In high school our parents kept us busy. If we weren’t in class, we were on some court playing volleyball or basketball, or we were on the softball field. From what I remember I had a good high school experience, as far as classes and clubs. But we were very busy. By the time we got out of practice the only thing we had time for was homework then sleep. And then the next day we started all over again. And that’s what I try to do with my kid, I try to keep her busy. Do the stuff you have to do from 8:00-3:00. And then you do what you love to do, which for us was sports. My family has always been heavily involved with athletics. My twin sister and I played college basketball at the UNCG after playing basketball, volleyball, and softball in high school. And my brother, who was a year younger than us, played football and basketball in high school.
I graduated from Person High School in 1996, and as I said, my sister and I both went to UNCG. After college I stayed in Shelby, N.C. for a little while, but then I came back to my hometown of Roxboro, simply because I missed home and missed my parents. I missed bumping into familiar and friendly faces in the local grocery stores.
Q) What has your educational path been like?
A) My sister and I both got athletic scholarships to play basketball at UNCG. We played form 1996-2000. My major was exercise sports science, which is what I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in, both from UNCG. I love UNCG. Anytime someone asks me where I went to school, I say UNCG proudly. I tell the kids that I work with all the time, "You might want to check that school out. That's a good school."
When I was at UNCG, I thought I wanted to become a college basketball coach. I did some graduate assistant coaching there and then after I graduated, I was an assistant coach at Gardner-Webb University for a year. I loved the on-court instruction, but the part that I struggled with was the ongoing recruiting. College jobs are all about the talent you bring in and you’re always on the road looking for talent. That was a little bit too much for me. So plans changed and I went back Greensboro College to get a Teacher’s Certificate in order teach physical education.
Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) I have been involved in education for the last twenty-two years. My first teaching job was at Person High School as a P.E. and health teacher. Over the course of my first few years there, I was able to learn the ropes. Any career that you enter into, you have to stick out it long enough to learn the ropes. Some things may come easier than others, but over time, things get better. And that’s what happened for me. It might have been a little rough as a beginning teacher, but I had other teachers around me to help me through those beginning years. Also, during my time there I coached girls’ basketball, so I was able to stay involved with sports.
Today, I am currently teaching healthful living to primarily ninth grade students at Roxboro Community School, and this is my sixth year there. I came here with the goal of doing what I have always done, which is teach P.E. and health. But unbeknownst to me, at the time that I was applying for the job, the school also needed an athletic director. So while I was in the interview, they asked if I was interested in being an A.D. Now I had been coaching for about 17 years at that point and I had rubbed elbows with athletic directors, so I said, “Of course.” I didn’t know everything about the job at that moment, but I knew I would be able learn quickly. So I jumped into the position, and this is my sixth year. I do my teaching from 8:00-3:30 and then immediately after that, I change gears and do game supervisions and make sure everything is running smoothly.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) I appreciate whoever dedicated March as Women’s History Month. It is important that we are recognized because representation matters. When little girls see and read about accomplishments of other women, that can have an inspirational effect on them. I can think back to when I was a kid watching track and field on T.V.—and that was a sport that I never played, but I always loved to watch—and one of my favorite athletes was Flo-Jo, Florence Griffith Joyner. She was very stylish and she was very fast. And it made me want to be like her. I wasn’t fast like Flo-Jo but watching her made me want to work hard and see how good I could become in my sport. And there are others, like Maya Angelou, Wilma Rudolph, Amelia Earhart, and Shirley Chisholm. Seeing such women be celebrated and knowing their accomplishments definitely inspired me to be the best that I could be. If they could do it, I could do it too.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) This probably sounds cliché, but I want us all to be able to work together, no matter what you look like or what your background is. I want us all to be able to work toward a common goal. Because if we are not working in harmony here, then what are we doing? In these times, the way things are now with politics and people bashing each other, I still believe that Person County is a good place to live. But I know we have some work to do in terms of everyone being able to live harmoniously. So my vision for Person County is to strive to do better.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who look to you as motivation?
A) Interesting tidbit: the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX in college sports will take place on June 23, 2022. A section of the Title IX act involved creating more opportunities and resources for girls and women in sports. With me being an athletic director, coach, and former collegiate athlete, I will always encourage young girls to participate in sports for its numerous intangible and tangible rewards. Sports have a way of empowering women, building them up to achieve their potential. I enjoy watching female athletes become more confident in themselves and later using their voices in their community. One of my favorite all time quotes deals with the fear of inadequacy by Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
My advice to girls is that we need to demonstrate that we are not inadequate, but that we are powerful. And we do that by building ourselves up, as sports has a way of doing. If we prepare ourselves and are ready when the opportunity comes along, it is ours for the taking! And further advice would be to just do things the right way with integrity, honesty, and accountability.