‘Horns coach is off to Utah
BASALT What started as a campus visit with his teenage daughter turned into an unforeseen – and appealing – job opportunity for Basalt head baseball coach Rick Ryan.He recently accepted the head coaching position at Wasatch Academy, a college preparatory school in Mount Pleasant, Utah, a six-hour drive from Aspen.”I have no idea what to expect,” said Ryan, who took over at Basalt in 2006. “It’ll be a good learning experience. It’s a different state, a different group of guys, and I’m sure they’ll teach me things I can bring back to Basalt and use down the road here.”Because fall is baseball season in Utah, Ryan will be able to maintain his head coaching position at Basalt next spring. He will, however, have to take a leave of absence from his job at the transportation kiosk near the airport.
“The people at the city have been phenomenal and want me to be able to pull this off,” Ryan said. “And I asked my wife if this was something we could do, if I could leave for three months. She was happy for me – maybe a little too happy.”Ryan, his wife, Dawn, and daughter, Alex, were eating lunch during a campus tour when a group of students – among them three baseball players – approached them. Ryan mentioned that he is a coach, and a conversation began.He soon learned that the school was looking for a new head coach – Harold Smith vacated the post after this season when his son, a player, graduated. He learned that the Tigers went to the 1A state semifinals last fall for a second consecutive year. In 2006, Wasatch was 14-5, and 8-0 in conference play. “They said that last year they felt like they could’ve won it all,” Ryan said. “The opportunity to take a team that has done really well and take them over a line they haven’t been able to cross really interested me.”
The chemistry was evident from the start, so much so that the players interrupted a meeting between the Ryans and the school’s head administrator, Joseph Loftin.”They came up and said, “We’re sorry to interrupt, but he coaches baseball, and we want him to coach here,'” Ryan remembered. “The dean asked me if I was a good coach. Dawn said she thought I was – that’s the first time I ever heard that from her.”Loftin’s interest was piqued, and he vowed to resume conversations with Ryan after commencement. Loftin e-mailed Ryan last week to gauge his level of interest and, when the coach confirmed he was still on board, offered him the job. For the past week, Ryan’s been scouring the Internet, pulling up articles and information on his new team and school. (His new rival will be perennial power Penguitch.) He already inquired about the possibility of buying new uniforms.
The boarding school’s student body, which includes those in grades 9 through 12, consists of 170 students representing 22 countries and 20 states.Earlier this week Ryan talked with catcher and team leader Charlie Josi of Southern California. “He said there was a lot of talent coming back,” Ryan said. “They’ve got three players and one pitcher coming back, and maybe a couple boys that came at the end of this year – one from Alaska who is incredible and two from California. The beauty of the school is that you can gets kids from out of nowhere in a heartbeat.”Ryan will leave Aug. 1 to attend the school’s sports camp; the baseball team will head to school three weeks before the semester begins for practice and team-building sessions. They’ll practice three times a week, live together in the dorms and attend sporting events. “I have a system for how we practice and play that I use with every team, and different kids take to it differently,” Ryan said. “I’m hoping it’ll be a good match. I’m looking forward to the challenge and seeing what I can do.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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The Aspen High School girls soccer team looks a lot different from the last time it played, with many new players and a new coaching staff. But winning has become part of the culture, and it’s so far, so good for the Skiers this spring.