With Columbia softball coach Greg Arnold returning to Alabama, the Lady Wildcats will be led by a new face in 2022. That new face has had an illustrious career to this point and is looking forward to helping the Lady Wildcats claim their first state title.
Jamie Powell comes to Columbia with a highly impressive resume spanning nine years at Wayne County and seven seasons at Sumrall. He had a record of 434-154-4 leading Wayne County and won eight South State championships and 11 district titles. In total, he has made 19 playoff appearances and been named Regional Coach of the Year 11 times.
He initially was both a football and softball coach, but when his softball coaching career took off, he decided to focus entirely on it.
“It’s been a blessing for us. I believe that if you put the Lord first and your family second, everything else will fall into place,” he said. “That’s been the key to our success — that and a lot of hard work.”
Powell, who serves on the Mississippi Association of Coaches softball committee, is extremely excited to build the Columbia program up to where Wayne County has been and said it’s a great opportunity with the right people in place to put it at a championship level.
“There’s a lot of hard work that’s got to happen. The mindset, from day one, has to be that way,” he said. “It’s a different kind of challenge for me. Being at Wayne County for the past nine years and being able to play for eight state championships, you’re constantly trying to build and maintain a program. Here I think there’s a lot of young ladies who have a lot of potential, and as a coach I’m going to try to build this program and softball in this county. I want to work with everybody, and I don’t see why we can’t be one of the premier programs in the state.”
Powell’s meetings with Columbia Superintendent Jason Harris and Athletic Director Chip Bilderback were a big reason he decided to make the switch after having so much success at the Class 5A level at Wayne County.
“The vision that they have for the athletic program here at Columbia, and not just that but the academic side of things too, I felt like it was time to take this opportunity,” he said. “I really felt like the administration (has people) that will appreciate the job that you’ve done, be willing to stand behind you and help support in reaching your goals. To me, that was an extremely important piece of the puzzle to making this move happen. I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Harris, coach Bilderback and the rest of the faculty and staff here at Columbia.”
The other major selling point was Powell getting the chance to return home and spend more time with his family. He graduated from East Marion, played football for legendary coach Les Peters and currently lives in Sumrall. When he worked at Wayne County, he had to drive an hour and 15 minutes one way just to get to work, which ate into his time with his daughter, Elizabeth, and wife, Brittney.
Not only will the Lady Wildcats enter into next season with a new coach, they will be doing so in a new classification as they move up from Class 3A to 4A. Powell said 4A is a different kind of beast than 3A, which was competitive in its own right, with a lot of good quality programs throughout the whole state.
“In my mind sometimes, 4A is even more competitive than 5A,” he said.
Outside of coaching the Lady Wildcats between the lines, Powell also wants to improve the facilities to truly make Columbia a premier program. He said he wants to improve both the fan and player experience. His vision includes upgrading the bleachers to grand stands, upgrade the press box and concession stand, add outside batting cages and a bullpen and upgrade the playing surface.
Powell said Arnold did a tremendous job during his tenure with the Lady Wildcats, and it’s an honor to follow him. He wants to build upon the foundation Arnold set and put his own twist on it so that one day the road to state championship will go through Columbia.
“If you want to accomplish things you’ve never done, then you have to do things you’ve never done,” he said. “Getting the players and the community to buy into the mindset of wanting to be champions, the scoreboard isn’t what really makes you a champion or a loser. How you play the game is the most important thing to me.”
He added that to him, success comes down to doing the best with what you have been given. To accomplish that, Powell said his job is to help his student athletes reach their full potential, both on and off the field.
“I want us to be a first-class, top-class program, and we’re going to walk and act that way,” Powell said. “We have to be willing to work, and we’ll let the Lord bless the work that we do.”
Columbia went 21-5 last season and was knocked out in the third round of the playoffs.