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Kristi Mitchell leaving role of high school softball coach

After 25 years with the program and 23 years as the head coach, Kristi Mitchell is stepping down from her position with the Picayune Lady Maroon Tide softball team.

Mitchell will also vacate the position of athletic director for the Picayune School District, which will be taken over by Adam Feeley. Mitchell will be taking over as the new principal of Picayune Memorial High School, but to do that she had to give up the coaching position she’s held for over two decades where she built the softball team into a powerhouse.

Mitchell said the team’s success on the field was in part due to her players’ character off of it. “I’ve been very blessed in 25 years to have exceptional young women to play softball with me. Not only talented in the game, but I’ve also had some great girls who have come through this program,” Mitchell said.

Parents serve an important role in high school sports while sometimes taking on the responsibilities of volunteer, financial supporter and fan, not to mention being responsible for the athletes themselves.

Mitchell said the parents of her athletes while at PMHS have been second to none in their backing of her while she was at the helm.

“I made mistakes and they supported me. I grew as a coach and they grew as players. I can’t even explain how great it’s been,” Mitchell said. Mitchell’s success on the field is undeniable, but she hopes her players learned more beyond the sport of softball.

Every athlete at one point has to hang up the cleats, and Mitchell said she’s hopeful her lessons benefitted the athletes long after they stopped playing.

“One of the best things is when the kids reach back to you and say, ‘Thanks for this. I remember you taught me this and now I’m using it in my life.’ Those things are what makes all this worthwhile,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said that while she did want to help improve the athletes as softball players, she also wanted them to become better people.

The message was always that they were more than just athletes, and that what they did off the field mattered just as much as what they did on it.

“I hope first and foremost that they know I love them. I also hope they know that it’s more important to me the type of person that they became. That softball did not define who they were. We always wanted to put out successful women of good character to go lead in our community, and in other communities,” Mitchell said.

Because Mitchell was so entrenched in the community and spent decades in it she saw her players grow from young children into adults.

The maturation process and relationship between coach and player is what drove Mitchell to continue leading the athletes in the right direction. “To see a kid go from 12 years old to 18, and the growth and development during that time (was incredible). You love them through the struggles and love them through the great times too. That’s what I’ll miss most is that relationship,” Mitchell said.

Courtney Dickens will be taking over as the new softball head coach, so Mitchell can move on feeling comfortable that the program is in the hands of her former player and assistant coach. The decision wasn’t an easy one, but the time had come to take on new challenges and seize new opportunities.

Even though she’ll no longer be on the field, Mitchell said she will still be coaching, it’ll just be with a different team as she looks to lead PMHS and its staff into the future.

“I think walking away from the softball program has probably been the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, but at the same time I knew it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. This has been the best 25 years of my life. This community has been nothing but supportive, so I thank them and hope they’ll continue do that,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s final record as a coach in fast pitch and slow pitch softball is 490-380.

Her slow pitch team was South State champions and State runner up in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011. In 2017 her fast pitch team was South State champions and State runner up.