Shortly after coach Kim Moncrief stepped down from the helm of the Elmore County softball program, the Panthers announced athletic director Terry Nicholas will take the job. Nicholas has been the school’s athletic director since 2015 and has coached football, baseball and golf at Elmore County since 1998.

“The main reason is because the need is there but at the same time, I have fallen in love with the game,” Nicholas said. “I’ve always been a baseball guy but I think baseball can learn a few things from softball. The pace of the game just makes it better to watch and it’s more fun to be a part of.” 

Nicholas spoke highly of Moncrief, saying the foundation which has been built will make his job a little easier. The Panthers are coming off a 21-17 season after going three games into the regional in Oxford. 

“She stepped up to take over the program at a time when we needed it,” Nicholas said. “She’s done a very good job with the girls over the last five years. She really shows she cares about the game and about our students.”

With Nicholas already being involved with the school’s athletics, he believes it will make the transition of having a new coach a little easier. Nicholas said he already knows many players on the team, specifically the upperclassmen.

“I think the familiarity will help us not just with the players I know but with the community around the team,” Nicholas said, “players here who I taught and coached their parents or their older siblings.”

Elmore County saw improvement during the 2019 season and is expected to return six of its nine starters. The Panthers have not won an area championship since 2014 which was also the last year they went to the state tournament and Nicholas thinks they are closing back in on Lagoon Park.

“I don’t think we’re that far off honestly,” Nicholas said. “I’m really excited for it. We have a lot of young girls who are experienced at the varsity level and I expect for us to be competitive from game one.”

Nicholas said the Panthers had 60 girls show up for the school’s first summer workout last week. He believes that willingness to work will translate into the season and it will show with the team’s style of play.

“We’re going to play fast,” Nicholas said. “I want it to be fun for the girls so we’re going to be the team constantly putting the pressure on. We have girls who can really hit the ball but we’ll be putting bunts down, stealing bases and playing a fast pace.”

While Nicholas takes over for the softball team, Moncrief will put her focus on the volleyball program. Nicholas said he believes it will benefit both programs to have a coach putting in the work the entire year instead of splitting time.

With rumors already swirling around the next offseason, Nicholas said he does not expect it to be a one-and-done season for him. However, he also said he has responsibilities as an athletic director to make sure the program has the best coaching it can have.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Nicholas said. “I can’t approach this any other way than being in it for the long haul because that would be doing the girls a disservice. I could see myself doing this for the rest of my time here.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.