Sports

Passing the Baton

Mr. Schlitz at his desk.

Mr. Schlitz Takes Over as Athletic Director as Mr. Ritchie Becomes Dean of Students
I remember entering Memorial as a new student two years ago, unsure of just about everything, unsure of what to expect from a new school. But most of all I was unsure of how to get to the Boys Cross Country locker room, which is conveniently hidden in the basement of our school. I remember, though, how Mr. Ritchie, Memorial’s longtime Athletic Director, personally walked me to practice my first day so that I would remember how to get there.
Mr. Ritchie has accepted a new appointment as Dean of Students, where he hopes to offer to Memorial’s entire student body that same individual care and attention that I – as well as countless others – have experienced. The position is new, and will gain definition as the year progresses, but Mr. Ritchie envisions himself working with students to maintain academic and extracurricular achievement. He is especially excited for his new job because he can regularly interact with students outside of sports, in addition to those with whom he has been working for years. In fact, some of his favorite students aren’t athletes, and his new job will open doors for him to meet many new faces.
But while Mr. Ritchie looks forward to these changes, there is no doubt that sports have defined his life for decades. His passion for sports began while he walked these halls as a Spartan himself. He took a class called Advanced Physical Education, learning the science and methods behind the basketball, volleyball, and ping-pong we play in gym. Mr. Spencer actually took the same class, too. Mr. Gary Kolpin, the former Memorial Athletic Director and Boys Swimming coach, taught the class. While talking about Mr. Kolpin, Mr. Ritchie added, “He’s the reason I do what I do.”
Once Mr. Ritchie became a PE teacher, he loved that the students had a good time when they were in his class. And as a PE teacher, he was lucky enough to have been able to teach and have fun with every student in school (Jefferson at the time), something not many teachers experience. But now as Dean of Students, Mr. Ritchie hopes to experience it again.
When I asked him to share moments—the best, the worst, and the most difficult—from his tenure as Athletic Director, Mr. Ritchie said that he is humbled to be part of such a well-respected athletic program that has gained statewide recognition for “doing the right thing,” despite recent lapses in that image. But he did single out the Boys Soccer State Championship in 2006 as a special moment, because it was his first title as Athletic Director. It turns out, however, that Athletic Directors don’t get parking privileges at championship games.
Mr. Ritchie has also enjoyed the perennial success of our Boys Swimming program. This is no surprise since he swam for Memorial, then returned to coach the Boys here for 25 years. His sons Pat and Danny didn’t share the same zeal for swimming. They played football, hockey, and baseball at Memorial.
But there are, of course, difficulties that have come with the job over the years. Mr. Ritchie says his came with the tough decisions he has made and the tougher reactions they have stirred. Budget allocation, discipline, and demanding parents place a big burden on his shoulders. And because Memorial often stands in the limelight, bad situations become worse. But he says, “You can’t make it personal.”
“You don’t hear from people who are happy with you, you hear from those who aren’t,” he explained. And those vocal opponents can often become unnecessarily mean, as he found out last year as other programs questioned Memorial Athletics and its disciplinary measures for some athletes.
Through it all though, Mr. Ritchie is proud to say he is happy with the decisions he has made as Athletic Director. He had set out to maintain Mr. Kolpin’s athletic program as the “Cadillac of High School Athletics” in Wisconsin, and is pleased with his results.
Mr. Ritchie has also developed our inclusion of international students into sports. He has worked with these students to work around hurdles – such as work or familial obligations – preventing their participation in Spartan athletics. He hopes this push for increased participation will characterize the future of Memorial Athletics. Mr. Ritchie would love to see more athletes, more multi-sport athletes, and most of all, a tightly knit support system between students, where we celebrate gymnastics or track and field like we do football or basketball.
Mr. Ritchie hands the Athletic department over to Mr. Schlitz: a Math teacher, a head Boys Tennis coach, and an assistant coach for Boys Basketball. Mr. Schlitz started his new position after returning from his honeymoon in late August. But as Athletic Director, he cannot teach nor coach, and the district is now searching to fill those vacancies. (Hopefully you have a math teacher by the time you’re reading this). These last-minute scrambles for faculty arose because the original hire for the Athletic Directorship, Mr. Brent Huggins, a PE teacher at Glenn Stephens Elementary, decided to continue his job there. He was unavailable for comment.
Congratulations to both Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Schlitz on their new appointments, and to Mr. Schlitz for getting married. And who knows, maybe as Dean of Students Mr. Ritchie will finally get that parking spot he has always wanted.

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