Two months ago, I reported on the success of the girls’ basketball team. They had a phenomenal season that included a pivotal win against undefeated Highland that won them a share of the Tri-County Conference Royal Division title. This was their third divisional title in a row, against the last undefeated team in New Jersey.
The team later went on to finish the season with an impressive 20-7 record in the Royal Division, winning their fourth divisional title in six years. The Lady Dragons defeated Clearview and Atlantic City in the playoffs to get to the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals, where they lost an exciting battle with Cherokee, 39-27.
Little did anyone know that this would be the end of career for a South Jersey coaching giant.
Coach Karyn Pickard has decided to hang up her whistle as one of South Jersey’s all-time winningest coaches with 337 wins over 20 seasons. She still will continue as a physical education teacher at the middle school.
Her athletic and coaching career, which started at Highland Regional High School in the late 1970’s as a star athlete, has been a memorable one. During her time at Kingsway, Pickard also has coached in boys’ tennis, girls’ soccer, field hockey, boys’ basketball, girls’ soccer and softball.
Assisting Coach Tony Barchuk, she has helped build the softball team into a state championship-level team over the last two decades. She even is a member of the Gloucester County Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in 2015.
So why leave now?
“You know when it’s time to retire, and I know it’s time,” said Pickard. “My knee, which has endured nine surgeries and last was replaced 12 years ago, was hurting throughout the season. I can’t sacrifice my health anymore. I didn’t want to have it become a major issue or distraction during the next season. Boy, will I miss it though.”
“This season was a great, fitting way for me to go out’” said Pickard. “This group was the epitome of ‘team’ and played the way that I always want my teams to play. They played as a group of girls collectively, as opposed to playing like individuals.”
So what’s next for Pickard?
“I will have to learn how NOT to be a coach,” said Pickard. “I will tinker with my home. I will spend time with my family, since they’re sacrificed so much for me to coach. I will enjoy life. I will figure it out as I go. As a coach, you live your life so fast. I will have to learn to slow down.”
As for what Pickard will miss….
“I will miss walking in that old gym, even the smell of it,” said Pickard. “It’s addictive being a coach. I’ll miss the X’s and O’s; I am a student of the game. I will miss learning about the sport.”
“I will miss the kids most though,” she continued. “I cared about them so much and worked to build character in them. Winning in life is so much more important than winning games. In games and out, when they found success, it brought me so much satisfaction. Strength of character is what it has been about all along.
“However, it’s now time for me to discover life after Kingsway, while I still can. I’ve given my heart and soul to this place. I will love it forever.”
Knowing the impact that this coaching legend has made on countless members of the Kingsway community, the feeling will be mutual for Dragons, past and present.