THSADA Spotlight: Dick Rittman

Dick RittmanI was born March 20, 1932 in Keokuk Iowa.  I lived there until the age of twelve when my family moved to Arkansas, where I completed my secondary education at Subiaco Academy.  Upon graduation, I was offered a football/basketball scholarship to Ole Miss, however I was injured in a spring game and advised to drop football and focus on basketball.  I found myself frustrated with the thought of giving up football.  Having received a draft notice for the Korean War I joined the navy for four years.  After completion of my four years of service, I contacted Coach Rose at the University of Arkansas to see if his offer of a basketball scholarship was still on the table and it was.  I enrolled at the University and completed work for my B.S.E. while playing basketball for the Razorbacks on a team that won the SW Conference Championship in 1958.  During these college years Betty and I started our family with the birth of two daughters; a family which later on turned into five beautiful girls.  (All of whom thankfully took after their Mother!)

My first job was in New Boston, Texas coaching everything.  There were two coaches and we did it all; football, basketball, baseball and track.  I had the good fortune to work with a talented group of kids who made it to the state finals my third year coaching.  It was a 2-A school back then and now is a 3-A and with 10 coaches.  Boy how times change.  After five years in New Boston, I was given the opportunity to join Coach Emory Bellard in San Angelo as Head Basketball and Assistant Football coach.  I would like to say that Coach Bellard was the finest man I was ever associated with during all my years in Athletics and a great Coach.  After winning the State Football championship in 1966 our coaching staff started to split up.  Emory left to go to the University of Texas and other coaches took head coaching jobs.  It became decision time for me, as we had been blessed with three more girls.  Living with six women I began to see the need for more time at home.  Rather than continue coaching, I made the decision to obtain my Masters and Administrators Certificate and go into Administration.  I spent the next six years as a secondary Principal followed by eleven as Athletic Director of San Angelo Schools.  I was very lucky during my time as A.D. – two of my first head coaches to hire were Jimmie Keeling and Jim Slaughter who both went on to become Presidents of the Texas High School Coaches Association, and later inducted into the Hall of Fame.

An opportunity to help kids in a different way led me to finish my career by developing curriculum and opening San Angelo’s first specialized school focused on dropout recovery.  This evolved into a nationally recognized program as we were able to bring together an amazing team of seasoned educators to help those students with extraordinary challenges in life.

Athletics has been very good to me; it has been my life.  I have been associated with some great kids and fellow coaches (Emory Bellard, Spike Dykes, Jim Slaughter, Jimmie Keeling, Clovis Hale) and have many wonderful memories.  One of the things I remember with pride was implementing the Title IX programs.  Having five daughters of my own, I was a little partial for the girls.  I found it very rewarding putting the programs in place and watching them grow.  The last 24 years have been spent retired.  I enjoy watching my grandsons play sports and am very proud of them all.  One is at the Air Force Academy on a football scholarship.  In total Betty and I have eleven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.  I have saved the best for last.  I could not have made the journey through life with out my partner of 60 years.  She is and has been the very best.  I don’t know where I would be had I not had her as my partner.

I need to mention my golf game.  I have been shooting my age since 71.  I must say it does get easier at 82.  I’m happy to see coach Slaughter keep working, as I occasionally enjoy winning his money on the course.

I have lived a sober life the past 31 years.  That was the best decision I have ever made.  It has allowed me to enjoy more quality time with my family and will hopefully allow me to enjoy a longer and healthier life.  The last 31 years have been the best of my life (that’s how long since my last drink of alcohol).  Not to mention that my wife and children have probably enjoyed having me around more.  Early on I use to blame having four teenage daughters and a twelve year old who thought she was seventeen as the cause of my drinking, then I thought it was my job.  It dawned on me, it was none of that.  It was all me – ME, MYSELF, AND I.  Quitting has made life a lot easier, but more important than anything, it has afforded me the opportunity to be a good role model for my grand-kids and great grand-kids, none of whom have ever seen me take a drink, and that’s the way I want them to remember their pop.