Jeff Rickman

Jeff Rickman has coached the Pepperell’s girls’ basketball team for 13 of the last 19 seasons, leading them to a region championship in 2010. / File - Jeremy Stewart

More often than not through the years, Jeff Rickman’s coaching life has moved swiftly from softball season to basketball season. Now he’s decided to change up the pace.

Rickman is stepping down as Pepperell’s head girls’ basketball coach following his second stint on the Lady Dragons’ bench after he had initially coached the team from 2000-2011. He will continue to serve as the school’s head softball coach, a position he has held since 2004.

“I have a lot of love for the game of basketball and a lot of love for Pepperell High School, but honestly, coaching 10 months out of the year really took a toll on me mentally and physically,” Rickman said. “I need to be there for my family, my spouse, my kids, my parents and myself.”

After six years away from coaching basketball, Rickman returned to the court to take over the Lady Dragons’ squad in 2017 after former head coach Judson Cox was promoted to assistant principal at Coosa High School.

The team went 6-19 his first year back and played in the first round of the Class AA state playoffs. Pepperell finished this past season with an 8-15 record.

Rickman led the Lady Dragons to a region basketball championship in 2010 and was named region Coach of the Year and Rome News-Tribune Co-Coach of the Year for the season as well. Pepperell was region runner-up the following season.

Rickman said his love for the players and the game never wavered, but he feels like somebody younger and with more energy is needed to reinvigorate the program.

“This decision was made with a heavy heart, but I know what’s best for the program,” Rickman said.

Rickman is a lifelong resident of Lindale and a Pepperell graduate, something Pepperell Principal Jamey Alcorn said is a major part of his character as a person and as a coach.

“We are tremendously indebted to him as a Pepperell person because he knows what the community expectations are and how much these programs mean to our school,” Alcorn said. “I’m tremendously appreciative of the job he’s done entire time been here, but especially coming back and leading the basketball program the last two years.”

In addition to staying on as the head softball coach, Rickman will continue to be a part of the school’s physical education department. Alcorn said he has discussed the open coaching position with Athletic Director Rick Hurst and they will move forward with the process of hiring a new coach in the coming weeks.