Margaret Stockburger's jersey retired at Ringgold

Ringgold head coach Margaret Stockburger was joined by her current players as she had her Ringgold jersey retired in a surprise ceremony on Friday. Several of Stockburger’s former players at Ringgold and Northwest Whitfield were in attendance to celebrate her 40 years on the sideline.

Margaret Stockburger is certainly not one to seek out attention for herself. In fact, she admittedly doesn’t care for it.

However, the longtime northwest Georgia girls’ basketball coach was genuinely moved on Friday night as the school retired her No. 20 jersey during a ceremony prior to the boys’ varsity game against LaFayette.

“Words are kind of hard to come by right now,” said an emotional Stockburger, who was not told about the honor beforehand. “I feel very special, honored and humbled all at the same time. They all know I don’t like having any praise. I just do what I do because I love doing what I do, and I couldn’t do what I do without having players that wanted to play, so I want to give them the credit for that.

“I’m kind of in shock, but I appreciate the school, (assistant coaches) Tori (Clemmons) and Karoline (Sholl) getting this all together and doing this for me.”

“(Stockburger is) a woman who demands excellence when she walks through the door,” Clemmons told the crowd, which included members of Stockburger’s family, as well as a multitude of friends and several former Ringgold Lady Tigers and Northwest Lady Bruins. “If you know her, you know she runs a tight ship and she’s a stickler for details because it matters.”

It’s those details, Clemmons explained, that not only has helped Stockburger to over 400 career victories, several region titles and one trip to the state finals, but has also changed lives for the better.

“The little things matter,” Clemmons added when asked about the main thing she’s learned from Stockburger, both as a player and as a fellow coach. “Putting in that time matters. She always puts a lot of time into her program and spends a lot of time with her players and teams, from basketball to personal relationships and everything in between. It’s those little things and that time you take to do those little things.

“She deserves it. She does so much for her players, for her family, for her friends and even for her players’ families and friends and sometimes she just needs to know that she’s loved back. It was just time we told her ‘thank you’ for all of the work, time and dedication she puts into everything she does.”

After playing at Ringgold High School and at nearby Covenant College, Stockburger began her coaching career at Northwest in 1980, heading up the junior varsity and freshmen teams, until she took over the varsity program in 1993. She continued to coach the Lady Bruins through the 2010-11 season and led the Lady Bruins to the GHSA Class AAAA state championship game in her next-to-last season with the program.

Going into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed from Region 7, Stockburger’s Lady Bruins defeated Region 6 runner-up Chamblee (60-48) and Region 5 champion Mays (57-53), both on the road.

They took down Region 8 champion Madison County, 61-42, in an Elite Eight game at the University of West Georgia before beating Region 4 champion Dutchtown, 75-56, in the semifinals at the Gwinnett Arena. However, they fell to Region 6 champion Southwest DeKalb in the finals back at Gwinnett two days later, 65-46.

However, her retirement didn’t last very long.

She was talked into coaching at Ringgold Middle School, which she did for two seasons before taking over the program at the high school in May 2013, hoping to revive a program that had only been to the state playoffs once in the previous 14 seasons.

Not surprisingly, Ringgold made the Class AAA state tournament field the following season and followed up with three consecutive Sweet 16 appearances. The Lady Tigers missed the playoffs in the 2017-18 season, but qualified the following year.

Last season (2019-20), she led the Lady Tigers to its first Elite Eight appearance since the 1985-86 team finished as state runner-up, defeating Hart County (68-53) and Rutland (64-40) before a 47-31 loss to eventual state runner-up Beach.

“I think one of the main things (I’ve learned) is that you have to care,” Stockburger added when asked about her four decades in coaching. “You have to let (the players) know that you care about them. If they realize you care about them, then they’re going to give you everything they’ve got.”

In addition to the retired jersey, Stockburger was also presented with a plate bearing the name of her late sister, Patricia Maples, who passed away in October. The plate will be permanently placed in a seat on the home side of the bleachers in the Ringgold gym as an honorary seat.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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