By Danny P. Smith
Jessica Dickens doesn't have to go far for her first head basketball coaching job.
After serving three years as an assistant girls basketball coach and last season as the softball coach at Starkville Academy, Dickens has taken a position as the head girls basketball coach at Winston Academy.
Dickens, who also moves closer to her Leake County home, is excited about the opportunity and looks forward to being a head coach.
"It's something I need to do to advance professionally and get to where I want to be so I'm very excited about it," Dickens said.
Winston Academy administrator Farrell Rigby contacted SA athletic director Glenn Schmidt and asked for permission to visit with Dickens. Rigby and Dickens set up an interview the same day and the job was offered.
Although she hates to see Dickens leave the Volunteers, Schmidt is happy to see someone she has worked with move up and grow as a coach.
"We're heartbroken, but at the same time, we're very proud for her," Schmidt said. "She's going to do well and it's been a privilege to work with her. She is going to do a great job in whatever she does.
"We're pleased with the effort she's put in and the quality of work she's done. You want a coach that wants to move on and be a head coach in the basketball area. You don't want to hire someone that doesn't have any ambition about themselves at some point to move on."
Schmidt and Dickens both used the term "bittersweet" about the situation because of the time they shared at Starkville Academy.
Dickens thanks Schmidt, the administration, the players and the parents for making her time with the Vols enjoyable.
"It has been a wonderful experience for me to work with coach Schmidt in my first three years into coaching," Dickens said. "She has taught me more than I'll ever learn my whole life in three years. I'm going to miss everything about Starkville Academy, but this is something I need to do."
Dickens expects to be on the job full-time at Winston Academy as early in May as possible, but will be finishing the school year out in Starkville and traveling to Louisville on certain afternoons in April to get things set up.
As far as Starkville Academy, not only will Schmidt be looking for a new assistant girls basketball coach, but a new softball coach as well.
Schmidt said Dickens has left the softball program in "great shape."
"I know she is regretful she's going to have to leave that too, but she's got them in a really good position to go forward," Schmidt said.