Richardson steps up to the plate

By Jennifer Lassiter
Star Staff

   Elizabethton High School Lady Cyclones Assistant Coach, Aimee Richardson, 32 , will soon be leaving her team, family and her home to serve in our nation's mission to "rebuild" Iraq.
   "I'm ready, confident and proud," said Richardson, who is also studying physical education at ETSU, although her graduation has been put on hold since her deployment.
   "All I lack is my student teaching, so I'm a little frustrated, but I knew that when I joined the military," she said.
   Richardson has spent six years of active duty in the Navy and joined the National Guard as a medic three years ago.
   She will leave on June 11 for California, where she will be fine-tuning her medical skills and training in the desert to become acclimated to weather conditions in Iraq. In December, she will leave for Iraq for an estimated 18 months. She is assigned to an elite armored medical unit and will be driving an ambulance and helping wounded soldiers and Marines.
   Although this is only Aimee's second season as assistant softball coach for the Lady Cyclones, she has really found a place in the hearts of the people and students at EHS. On Monday, the team surprised her with camouflage T-shirts they plan to wear to games.
   "That was cool; it really showed me their support, and that helps," Richardson said, "We've decided to wear them the rest of the season, for good luck."
   Cyclones Head Coach, Kenny Hardin, said, " Aimee has contributed greatly to the hitting aspect of the game and the way she is with the young girls."
   The official "village mom" because she takes care of everyone, Richardson tries to help her players not only with their softball skills but also in their daily lives. While she coaches, she sometimes has to settle spats among players.
   "I try to teach the girls that there are people I don't like in my regiment, but these are people I trust with my life, so I have put those things aside. It's the same thing on the field."
   Richardson also assists the Head Athletic Trainer at EHS, Danny Smith. Smith has volunteered his services at EHS for 27 years and also has his own physical therapy clinic in town.
   Smith said, "Aimee is such a wonderful person and has been such an asset to the school system."
   Richardson contributes greatly to the staff during all sports, especially EHS football games. She has become a valued member of the staff and others have come to depend on her.
   "It's the little things Aimee does that we are going to miss the most," Smith said, adding that Richardson keeps the team supplied with Gatorade and offers preventative first aid.
   The preventive services she provides for the students in the school facility allow them to stay in school rather than leave campus.
   "There won't be a day go by that we won't miss her here at the clinic," said Smith.
   Richardson is spending as much time with her family as possible before she leaves for Iraq. Her daughter, Kennedy, 6 , has become a permanent fixture at EHS.
   "It's going to kill me to leave her, but I know she will be well taken care of when I'm gone," she said.
   Richardson aspires to teach at EHS when she returns and rejoin the "family" she has left here in Elizabethton.