Veteran Coach Rittman Joins Jayhawk Softball Staff
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Head softball coach Megan Smith announced the addition of John Rittman as the associate head coach of the Jayhawks on Friday. Rittman joins Kansas softball after 18 seasons as the head coach at Stanford University and eight years on the United States National Team coaching staff (2001-08).
“John Rittman is one of the most well-respected coaches in our game,” said Smith. “He has had such a successful career and we are excited to have his expertise and experience to help us continue to build success at Kansas. He will come in and make an immediate impact working with our hitters and outfielders and his recruiting experience and connections will be invaluable to our program. His excellent reputation as an elite softball coach is matched by his impeccable character. Our entire staff welcomes John, Lorie, Justin and Jake to the Jayhawk family.”
Kansas is already a program on the rise after five years with Smith at the helm. The Jayhawks have posted four-straight 30-win seasons. In 2013, Kansas led the country in batting average and finished fourth in the Big 12 Conference. The following spring, Smith led the Jayhawks to their first NCAA Regional since 2006, where they picked up a win against No. 19 Nebraska.
“I’m extremely excited to join Megan Smith and the KU softball program,” Rittman said. “I’m looking forward to assisting and developing our student-athletes on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I think Coach Smith is a true leader and an outstanding coach. I’m really looking forward to contributing to the success of the program. I saw the new softball facility, and it is absolutely amazing. It’s a very exciting time to be joining KU softball. I’m really, really looking forward to getting out there and getting started.”
Under Rittman, the Cardinal recorded 16-consecutive winning seasons, made 15-straight NCAA appearances, notched 13 40-win seasons and produced at least one All-American in 15 of the last 16 years. At Stanford, Rittman accumulated a 711-338-3 overall mark, coached a national player of the year, 16 All-Americans and maintained a spot in every regular-season National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll for more than a decade.
“I was very fortunate to spend 18 years at Stanford, but to have the opportunity to move to Kansas and help contribute to the program’s success is something I’m really looking forward to,” Rittman said.
Prior to being named head coach at Stanford, Rittman spent four seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Washington. With the Huskies, he was responsible for teaching the fundamentals of hitting as well as defensive play. Rittman helped start the program and, within just four seasons, the Huskies had earned a No. 1 national ranking, won the 1996 Pac-10 Championship, made three NCAA Tournament appearances and notched a runner-up finish in their first trip to the Women’s College World Series. Washington became the first team since Texas A&M (1983) to advance to the championship game in its first appearance at the WCWS.
Before his appointment at Washington, Rittman spent two seasons as an assistant at Minnesota. During his second year, the Golden Gophers won the Big Ten Conference with a 20-4 league record. The team batting average jumped from .235 to .269 and the Gophers set team and individual records in almost every offensive category. The Minnesota squad led the nation in hits and total bases en route to a No. 15 national ranking. Rittman also helped produce two Golden Gopher All-Americans.
From 1988-90, Rittman was an assistant coach at Oregon. During his stay, the Ducks played in the 1989 Women’s College World Series, set several team and individual offensive records and produced an All-American.
In the summer of 2008, Rittman made his second coaching appearance in the Olympic Games, and was an integral part of the staff that led Team USA to a silver medal in Beijing, China. The squad won its first eight games of the tournament, most by considerable margins, and outscored opponents 58-5 over the nine games. Two of Rittman’s former pupils, outfielder Jessica Mendoza and utility player Lauren Lappin, were part of the medal-winning team and carried two of the team’s top three batting averages on the 40-city Bound 4 Beijing Tour leading up to the Games.
“I’ve seen elite softball played at various levels. Softball is played at a very high level in the Big 12 Conference, as well,” said Rittman. “There’s just a lot of tradition in the Big 12 Conference. Kansas has a lot of tradition, as well. This is an opportunity to come into the conference at the right time. You’re seeing a lot of talented players and depth within the conference.”
Rittman coached the 2007 USA team that won its second-consecutive title at the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City and its eighth title at the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Lappin and Mendoza were both key players on that squad. In 2006, he helped Team USA to its eighth-consecutive World Championship in Beijing, a World Cup of Softball title and a gold medal at the Japan Cup in Yokohama.
In 2004, Rittman made his first appearance as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic Team, guiding former Stanford player Mendoza and the rest of the team to a gold medal in Athens, Greece.
Team USA won gold medals at the Pan Am Games and the U.S. Cup in 2003. In addition, Rittman coached for the teams that won the 2002 U.S. Cup, the 2002 Canada Cup, the 2002 Japan Cup and the 2002 World Championship. In 2001, he coached the USA Red Team that won the gold medal at the U.S. Cup and competed in the Canada Cup and the USA Softball Shootout.
Rittman graduated from New Mexico State with a degree in journalism in 1986. He was a three-year letterwinner in baseball as an outfielder at NMSU after transferring from Yavapai Junior College in Prescott, Arizona. Rittman and his wife Lorie, a former softball player at Oklahoma, are the parents of Justin and Jake.
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