For seven years, Alicia Pickens was on the bench at New Albany, learning under one of the area’s best coaches, working toward the time she would pace the sideline as a head coach. With the resignation of Billy Gray at Hickory Flat, Pickens has accepted that opportunity, taking over the Lady Rebels’ program.
And it is a moment she owes to her mother.
“When I was in college, I thought about coaching, but wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go that route,” Pickens said. “She encouraged me, and I started working with Coach (John) Stroud my sophomore year. It was a good decision, and I know now I’m fully prepared to be a head coach.”
Working with Stroud taught Pickens valuable lessons she now hopes to implement with her own program.
“The biggest thing I’ve taken from him is that every team is different, each kid is different,” she said. “You can’t go into coaching thinking your one way of doing things will work with every group. Each team is filled with individuals that you have to work with, and he’s great at working with each individual.”
And the longer Pickens was apart of the Lady ‘Dawgs’ program, she found that more trust and responsibility was handed to her.
“A lot of head coaches take it upon themselves to do everything, but the longer I was there, the more responsibilities he gave me,” she said. “Each year, we set aside specific things I would be in charge of doing, whether it was scheduling or working on the weight programs. Just him having that trust and confidence in me meant a lot.”
Pickens was a part of several successful New Albany teams, including this year’s 4A State Champion. Knowing she has inherited a young squad at Hickory Flat, she is excited at the possibilities.
“Like this group that just graduated from New Albany, there is a large sophomore class (13 athletes) and they’re very talented, very athletic,” she explained. “This is a group that was highly successful in junior high, and right now, working with these girls, I see that they’re hungry. They want to work on the fundamentals and they’re excited to get in shape.”
“I think a lot of people will be surprised when they see the Lady Rebels play next year.”
As for her former boss, he is proud to see her move on and take over her own team.
“She was a great assistant, one that will be missed tremendously by our program,” Stroud said. “She has grown in her job over seven years, and there’s no doubt she will be successful as a head coach. She is a strong disciplinarian with the girls, and I think she will relate very well with the team at Hickory Flat.”
The Lady Rebels are coming off of an 11-9 season, return three juniors and have no seniors on the roster in 2011.