Sunday, February 19, 2012

Barefoot on Barefoot: Sharon on her Old Dominion sis Karen

Can you tell who is who?

Talk to Karen and you think she is Sharon. Talk to Sharon and she sounds just like Karen.

Sure, there are differences. Karen has brown hair and brown eyes and wears a whistle around her neck most of the time. Her kids are college women -- Lady Monarchs.

Sharon is blond with hazel eyes. She cuts hair. Her kids are Christopher, 10, and Gabe, 2.

Karen is also older. By seven minutes.

"Ha, ha, ha," Karen says, an age difference that Sharon is clearly tired of hearing about.

"Yep,  she likes to joke about that,'' Sharon says good-naturedly.

The Barefoot twins (or should we say the Barefeet?) are two of a kind. For one thing, that fast-talking, sweet Southern twang. Who is who? It's hard to tell. They used to fool their boyfriends on the telephone as teenagers.

"That was Karen's idea," Sharon says emphatically.

"She is my BFF for life," says Karen. "We can finish each other's sentences. She's the beauty. I'm the grinder basketball girl."

Actually they both used to play hoops, though even at 5 years old, Sharon realized this was Karen's game.

"We were at a YMCA camp and I remember her going up to make this layup," Sharon says. "It was just amazing. Right then I could tell basketball was really her. It's like her body and the game are one, completely in tune.  I reflect on that moment a lot."

You probably know the story. Karen was a terror at point guard at Menchville High School. You might remember her from Sports Illustrated's  "Faces in the Crowd," where Barefoot was recognized as being the first man or woman in NCAA history to score more than 2,000 points and amass 1,000 assists during her career (now Courtney VanderSloot of Gonzaga is the only other player to also hold that distinction). For four years, the three-time All-American led CNU in assists and steals. Need we go on?

"My brother Johnny got me into basketball," Karen said. "I followed my granddaddy, Lem Wheeler, who played for Julie Conn in Newport News. ... He started the first girls basketball organization at the Y in Newport News."

As for her "baby" sis:

"When I played, I actually scored for the other team," giggled Sharon, who played one year of JV at Menchville. "Let's just say it wasn't my thing."

Sharon liked to model (just like their mom, Joy, who modeled for "Good Morning America"), and when they were young, Karen took part, too. Sharon cringes when she recalls their runway walk for what used to be the department store Leggetts.

"If I did it, she'd try it, too," Sharon said. "When I was nervous, Karen always said, 'We'll try it together.' "

Karen chose CNU to stay close to Sharon, who now lives in Gloucester. Like most twins they have that quirky twin bond that's hard to explain. "I remember driving to CNU one night and I got this sense that I needed to get there fast," Sharon says. "Sure enough when I got there Karen was in the training room ready to go to the ER. Somebody had come down on her making a shot and busted her eye."

"What makes Sharon and I a perfect fit is that we are complete opposites," Karen says. "We feel each other's emotions and know each other's thoughts."

They both love to annihilate Mom's chili dip. And they can't get enough of the Chevy Chase movie "Vacation." Karen cut the cord when Gabe was born -- "That was one of the special moments of my life," she says. "Like cutting the nets down."

Nags Head is among their favorite spots, mile marker 6 1/2 to be specific -- "my granddaddy's cottage," Karen explains.

When Karen get the job at Lenoir-Rhyne in 2001 in faraway Hickory, NC (344 miles away from Gloucester), Sharon remembers "the hardest day." The twins had never been apart.

"Karen came over and she put on this song, Christopher Cross' 'Sailing,' " Sharon says. "I played flute then and had done a solo of that song. We both just teared up."

Their lives have never followed a similar path, yet they have been intertwined. Big things tend to happen to them together. When Karen left for Carolina, Sharon (who has since added "Lamb" to her name) gave birth to her first child. Shortly after Sharon became a mom again, Karen got the job as head coach at ODU.

Sharon loves to have Karen close to home. They are planning a summer bash for their 40th birthday, which is on March 6 (the party will have to wait until the basketball season concludes). They don't go a day without speaking, usually one, two, OK three times a day.

And you know what? Try as LadySwish might, we couldn't get Sharon to snitch on Karen for being negative and/or unenthusiastic about anything in life.

Not housework. Not traffic jams. Not rain on your only day off.


Never Karen. "She just really embraces life," Sharon said. "She's just really into doing good and helping others."

Now Karen gets plenty mad, confesses Sharon. "My brother had this bag of jellybeans. She and him are so super competitive. She had to get this one particular color of jellybean, and he had ......"


That's Karen.


  1. Johnny Barefoot, Sr.February 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Ladyswish, Thank you so much for this beautiful article. It gives Joy and I a great sense of pride in Karen and Sharon.

  2. What a great article about such a great family! I remember the concert when sailing was played! Awesome!
    Mark Romero