Lady Tide Coach Kristi Mitchell

Published 10:33 pm Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lady Tide coach Kristi Mitchell is making a difference, one life at a time, through the  Picayune Memorial High School and Jr. High fast pitch softball teams.

Mitchell, the product of life-long sports involvement, being raised with values and a good work ethic has been at the helm of the Picayune Memorial High School Lady Tide since she was 23-years-old. A graduate of USM, who double majored in Coaching and Sports Administration and Biology, She returned to college, while coaching full time, to earn her Masters in Administration.

Mayor Ed Pinero, says of Mitchell, “Coach Mitchell is a great person who has dedicated her life to helping young girls grow into mature ladies. She has that special way of identifying a person’s talent and teaching them how to use it to the fullest extent. I am thrilled with her success and honored that she is helping to shape many young lives.

“These qualities have shown brightly with the 2012 Championship for the newly formed Picayune Jr. High fast pitch softball team and the continued success of the Picayune High School fast pitch softball team.”

Her formative years were spent on a 500 acre dairy farm which her parents ran with the help of her and her two sisters.

“I am definitely my daddy’s daughter. My dad left his position  as business manager at Pearl River Community College when I was six, to live his dream of having a farm. He was always a hard worker and I think I learned my work ethic from him. He would be up at sunrise and come inside well after I had gone to bed. It was hard work and it did me so much good.”

A good work ethic is mandatory when your day is like Mitchell’s. The day begins at 5 a.m. She gets in play time with her Lab and is on the ball field at 7:15 a.m. to wash clothes. By 7:30 a.m. she is at school to teach classes until 1:40 p.m. Then she heads to the ball field to prepare for the kids. Her high school team ends practice between 5 to 5:40 p.m. and the jr. high ends practice between 7 to 7:15 p.m. She then cleans, mows (or whatever needs to be done) and typically gets home at 9 or 9:30 p.m. There is no time for television unless it’s about the weather forecast.

“I am a huge Pat Summit fan and record Lady Vols games so I don’t miss any of them but that and weather are the extent of my television watching,” she says.

The only downside to what she does, according to Mitchell, are tryouts and graduation.

“I dislike that everyone who wants to be on the team can’t make the team because they all have value and the team is such a wonderful experience. Graduation is another hard time for me because my seniors are leaving to go out into the big world. But, once a Lady Tide team member always a Lady Tide team member; my kids still call me all the time from all over the United States. Sometimes when I am at wit’s end about something a former student will call and it just turns everything around. It makes my day.”

She says, “It’s all about the kids and sacrifices are part of it. I wake up excited to go to work each day. The kids are my extended family— they have dedicated three hours a day, every day, to perfect their game, so we see each other and bond through the team training process. We are not just building programs here, we are building people.”

While her kids love her, they are not the only fans of “Coach Kristi.” Parents love the team ethics and values impressed on their teenage daughters under Mitchell’s guidance.

Becky Nail Dodd says, “It’s been such an amazing experience having (my daughter) Sarah play ball for Kristi. I remember when Sarah was little and playing t-ball; I just hoped she would wear a Lady Tide jersey one day. Coach Mitchell has been such an encouagement to Sarah and she was an instrumental part in preparing Sarah to go on and be able to play at the next level. I will always be grateful to ‘Nedge’ for all that she has poured into Sarah.”

Suzan Wilson, says, “Coach Kristi coached my daughter through high school and I cannot praise her enough. She is an exceptional coach in every way. She personally invests her time, Christian values, morals and effort into each and every girl. She believes in them and they know that. She has a lot pride in what she does and in her coaching abilities.”

Mitchell says, “As a coach, you have to meet the individual players where they are. Everyone begins the process at a different place, but you build on values, morals and characters. You teach them it is about playing the game right, respecting the game and respecting the people they play with. I want my kids to know that it’s ok to be a strong, independent woman. You can be one and still be kind, soft and loving. It’s all of the little things that make the big things work.”

Mitchell leads by example and believes if you show a student how much you care and respect them, they will try as hard as you do. Her approach to coaching and her motivation to excel is embraced by her players.

Lady Tide Pitcher, Bethany Crawford,  describes her team experience as, “It’s great, I wouldn’t trade her as a coach for anybody else. She doesn’t show favoristism on the field, she loves us all and treats us equally. She pushes us to our limit and if she isn’t out there yelling at you that means that she has given up on you. But that is the thing about her, she doesn’t give up on you.

“As team mates we all work together; we have our separate personalities and overall we support each other. When we step on the field we play as a team or we don’t play at all.

“She wants us to be the best and to put out the best, she puts out alot of extra effort like today, it’s spring break and she brought us to Hattiesburg to a pitching clinic. She is like that in the biology classroom as well. She will help you with schoolwork, extra practice or anything else you need.

“She has really pushed me to be the way I am, she could have given up on me a long time ago but she didn’t and she has made me who I am today.

Jr. High catcher, Alyssa ‘P’ Pinero, says of Mitchell, “I love her to death, she is an excellent coach and is always pushing us to do our best. She never gets down on us and is always positive!”

One of Mitchell’s favorite memories involves her former Sunday School teacher at Pine Grove Baptist Church named Ray Martin.

“I met him when I was around eight-years-old but I never knew that he was a retired John Curtis High School football coach. When he found out that I had graduated from college in coaching, he caught me on the front steps of the church, grabbed my arm and said, ‘Young coach, let me tell you one thing. You may never know the key to success; but the sure key to failure is trying to please everyone. No matter what, always be fair, show them you care and they are loved.’”

Mitchell took those words to heart and has held fast to her beliefs and determination to make the best decisions for both the players and the program.

“Some people get the opportunity to reach one child in their lifetime and it is such a blessing, but I get the opportunity to reach many for sometimes six years. Sports has made me who I am and has reinforced the values my parents raised me to have. I am truly blessed to be doing what I love, with people I love, in a community that I love,” says Mitchell.