Nichole Dixon, 30, is the head fastpitch softball coach and an assistant varsity girls basketball coach, as well as the JV basketball head coach at Wesleyan. The 1995 Mount de Sales (Macon) graduate also played college basketball at Mercer. In this latest installment of "Getting to Know...," Dixon talks with sports editor Will Hammock on a variety of topics, ranging from her hometown of Gray to Anne Marie Armstrong to Wesleyan head girls basketball coach Jan Azar, who coached Dixon at Mount de Sales.
WH: How many times do people misspell your first name?
ND: It happens quite frequently. Jan (Azar) has a daughter named Nicole without the h. They joke around and tell her I spell it wrong.
WH: You're in your second year at Wesleyan, what brought you there?
ND: They're committed to excellence on the academic level as well as athletics. And with my personality I just thought it would be a better fit for me to be at a school where spiritually the kids are motivated, where you can make a difference spiritually. And the kids want to be challenged in the classroom, on the field and on the court.
WH: How is living in Macon compared with metro Atlanta?
ND: Wesleyan feels like home. It's a smaller community of people who really do care about you. So, it's like being at home in Macon when I'm at school here. When I'm out in traffic, it's not quite the same thing. Because I come from Gray, a relatively small town. Not a lot of traffic there.
WH: What's Gray like? What do you do for fun growing up in Gray?
ND: Oh my goodness. Basically, the only thing to do for fun is play sports and there are a lot of things in Macon. It's pretty close for movies and things like that. Overall, there weren't a lot of things you can do for fun. I didn't go mud bogging or anything crazy like that. I didn't hunt deer. We had deer on my property, but my mom's a nature lover. I guess that's why I went into (teaching) science.
WH: How neat is it to coach at Wesleyan when the girls basketball team has been on such a dominant run?
ND: It's exciting. At first I was a little worried that because they had such a great reputation, it would be hard to come in and make a difference. But they are kids and they are growing and learning more about softball and basketball. There still is a difference that can be made. No one's perfect. These kids want to learn. They're kind of like sponges. They listen to what you say and take it in.
WH: So who wins in a one-on-one hoops game, you or (Wesleyan's star junior) Anne Marie Armstrong? Do you have a chance?
ND: I'd take her down (laughing). She's definitely a phenomenal player, she's explosive and quick. I was more of an outside shooter. I wonder if people really understand this, that she's very coachable. That's what makes it so fun to be around her. Whatever you're trying to teach her, even if it's a minor adjustment, she does want to improve her game.
WH: How about you and Jan Azar in a game?
ND: Jan would not score. When I was in high school she would stay late and scrimmage me and I actually played with a cousin of hers, Wendy Hatcher. She played us one-on-one and she was very good. She played point guard. Even back then her style of play was fastbreak. In her time, that was different, teams always slowed the ball down. That's why she's a good coach, she thinks girls can play quick and at the same pace like guys do. Every day we work on running the fastbreak and keeping it intense.
WH: You've known Coach Azar for a long time. Has she changed any from when she coached you?
ND: No. She still has a great mind. She can really think quick on her feet in the game. I think she's best when she's in a game atmosphere that's very close. She can call a quick play. For example, against Randolph-Clay last year, she ran an inbounds play for Anne Marie, it was simple but it was to the point, getting the ball in the hands of our best player and allowing her to score. She puts her players in places to be successful. That's why she's fun to work for, she's always thinking.
WH: Why does Jan get so many technicals?
ND: I don't know if it's the red hair. If she believes she's in the right, she's not afraid to express it and she does know the game very well. Many times she may be right. And those redheads are pretty feisty and she just continues on. She'll fight for a kid in a game if she believes one of our kids didn't commit a foul. She'll ask the referee point blank, "Why did you call a foul?" Some people don't take that well. Refs are human.
WH: Which sport do you like coaching best, softball or basketball?
ND: I like them both for different reasons. Softball I like to be outside and we're trying to build our program to a point where we're extremely quick on the bases. I like to see fastpitch softball played really quickly. We want to be able to play small ball, advance around the bases quickly and also hit doubles, triples and home runs as well. It's exciting about softball because it's in the making and a lot of great coaches around me are helping out. And the girls are absolutely amazing. They're great to be around.
It's the same with basketball. I played four sports softball, basketball, soccer and track, and I always enjoy competition. That's what I love about both sports.
WH: What are your career ambitions? Do you want to do the teaching and coaching thing for the long term?
ND: I really like being at K-12 school because you get to see the kids grow up mentally and spiritually and physically, especially at Wesleyan. I used to think I wanted to coach in college because I wanted a more intense environment. But Wesleyan has the best of both worlds. You see them grow up from kindergarten. And I get to teach and work with a group of young ladies (in sports) who really want to compete at next level.