Kansas Spotlight: Meet Softball Associate Head Coach John Rittman

LAWRENCE, Kan. – During the offseason, Kansas head softball coach Megan Smith added John Rittman to her staff for the 2014-15 season. The newest member of the staff sat down to discuss his transition to the Midwest, KU softball and his coaching style.

Rittman spent the past 18 seasons at Stanford, where he coached the Cardinal to 16-consecutive winning seasons, made 15-straight NCAA appearances and notched 13 40-win seasons. Rittman accumulated a 711-338-3 overall mark at Stanford, coached a national player of the year and 16 All-Americans. 

Along with his success at Stanford, Rittman also served as an assistant coach with the national team for eight years. While with the national team, Rittman helped Team USA to a gold medal in 2004 and a silver medal in 2008.

At Kansas, Rittman has already rolled up his sleeves and gotten to work with the offense. He implemented a new hitting philosophy, which has resulted in the Jayhawks outscoring opponents, 35-2, and outhitting the opposition, 49-12, after the first weekend of the fall season. KU’s offense also recorded six home runs and 20 extra bases in the first four games this Fall.  

Has the Rittman family moved and settled into Lawrence?
“Everybody is settled into Lawrence. We have acclimated to Kansas, the weather and the climate, except for winter. Everybody has been so nice and welcoming, not only to myself but my wife and my kids as well. It has been a nice adjustment period.”
How has the adjustment been from the Bay Area to Lawrence?
“It’s a little different obviously; it’s a slower pace, less traffic, less noise, which are all nice things. You get used to your surroundings and we are definitely getting used to that. Those are the two biggest differences, the climate and the slower pace, but when you get on the softball field everything is very similar.”
When you came to Kansas to interview, was it your first trip to the Sunflower State?
“Actually, my father was stationed in Leavenworth for a year, so I spent sixth grade in Leavenworth. In my first year of college, he was stationed at Fort Riley, so I was there some too.”
How have past coaching experiences shaped you as a coach?
“Anytime you have experiences that you can look back on that will help you in the future is a benefit. I have been around a lot of people over the years and one of the things I kind of pride myself on is being a student of the game and trying to learn something new every year to implement into my coaching philosophy and not getting set in my ways. I look to bring a new set of eyes here, but also learn from Coach Smith and Coach Sims and I’m looking forward to that opportunity.”
What is your coaching style and philosophy?
“My coaching philosophy is really about having fun playing the game of softball. With that comes hard work, but that is part of the fun. Staying positive, working hard and having fun is my basic philosophy.”
What did you take away from the experience of working with the national team?
“I worked with the U.S. national team for eight years and it was a wonderful experience. Getting to know all of the people that are involved, not just in coaching, but the support staff there, was great. Also working hard to achieve one goal, winning the gold medal in 2004 and the silver in 2008, are experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I learned so much both on and off the field working with the national team. There are a lot of memories, but winning the gold medal sticks out. Getting to travel and see the world are all experiences I will take with me forever.”
What attracted you to Kansas softball?
“Coach Smith and Coach Sims are very optimistic on the future of Kansas softball and coming off of last year making the postseason. The University of Kansas is a great university and has a lot to offer. The people here have been so nice and welcoming, and the facility is outstanding. It’s going to be really nice to play in the new facility and having the indoor facility is huge. All of those are things that attracted me to Kansas.”
What are you most excited about for the upcoming season?
“The newness of everything, getting to know the players and watching them as a team is very exciting. We have a lot of upperclassmen leadership and that’s exciting, but we also have a lot of talented newcomers. Trying to blend those (those two groups) together and seeing the team come together is really exciting. I’m looking forward to start playing some games.”
How is working with the team going so far?
“Individual practices are great, you really get to know the players and their skill set. We have really been implementing our hitting philosophy in the individual practices. Now we are more geared to team defense and team practice. It’s exciting to see everything come together. For me, the players are all working really hard, the level of enthusiasm is outstanding and refreshing to see.”
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