Interview with Ritchie Davis
Date: April 27, 2011
Name: Ritchie A. Davis
Major, minor, and graduation year: B.S. Business Administration w/concentration in Business Education; minor in Coaching
Job Title: Executive Director
Organization/ Place of work: Wisconsin Playground Warriors, Ltd.
You're the Executive Director of Wisconsin Playground Warriors, Ltd., what does that entail? What are your duties or responsibilities in that role?
As the Executive Director and Head Coach with Wisconsin's Playground Warriors, I am responsible for recruiting student athletes to participate in our program, provide academic service to those athletes, assist our athletes in achieving a full athletic scholarship at the NCAA Division I or II level, complete game and practice schedules for the season along with individual workouts, maintain an accurate budget, supervise a professional coaching and support staff currently consisting of 19 individuals, and develop and build relationships with college coaches across the country as well as high school coaches from the state of Wisconsin. Our organization which is a part of the ADIDAS grassroots basketball family has won 4 AAU Division I National Championships and 57 Wisconsin AAU State Championships. We have had 2 McDonald's All-Americans as well as several former players competing professionally in the NBA as well as overseas.
What are the highlights of your job that you enjoy most?
I enjoy helping young people succeed. Coaching permits me to have a positive influence on student-athletes both on and off the basketball court. I thoroughly cherish the time that we get to work with each player and his respective family. The greatest reward in my position is seeing them as adults doing so well within their chosen career paths not to mention being outstanding husbands and fathers.
What are the challenges that you face with your job that are not enjoyable?
The greatest challenge that we face throughout each year is the unrealistic expectations that so many parents have for their children. We spend a great deal of time, energy, and resources trying to educate parents/guardians. This is a very difficult process and one that we are striving to improve at on a regular basis.
How do you spend your work days? Do you spend a lot of time office/lab/meetings/outside?
I spend some time each day monitoring the current players within our program. I also spend some time making sure that I am 100% up-to-date with what is going on within the state of Wisconsin regarding boy's basketball as well as any important happenings on the national level that I need to be aware of. I have a plethora of obligations that I must fulfill as a result of my contract with Adidas and those obligations quite often are a big priority in determining my work week. Fundraising is such an important piece of what our organization does and, therefore, I am involved with several meetings each week with potential donors. We also have either practices or individual skill development sessions that we conduct during the week for our players and teams. I do not attend every single one of these but I am involved in the planning process for any that do take place. Campus visits for many of our current sophomores and juniors take place throughout the calendar year and I may travel with for some. We also provide academic resources for our players including ACT/SAT prep work.
The number of college coaches that I speak with on weekly basis whether by phone or email literally depends on where we are at within the calendar year.
In April and May, I speak with coaches on current players they are interested in, seniors who may still be unsigned and could help a specific program, transfers which usually includes former players of mine who may be looking to make a move and play elsewhere.
In June, coaches want to know who played well for us all spring and where we will be at in July.
In July, the grassroots basketball season reaches its peak. When we are NOT at an event, my phones are ringing continuously about our current players. Our rosters typically contain young men who will be moving on to play at the NCAA Division I and II levels respectively and therefore, coaches put a great deal of energy into making important decisions as to whom they are willing to offer an athletic scholarship too, etc.
August is a chance for college coaches to catch up on what they were able to take in during the July LIVE period. We also spend a great deal of time communicating about "official" visits for our seniors as well as discussing attendance at various "elite" camps. We always have several players that will participate in some elite camps and, of course, we always have seniors that will be taking official visits to help them gain the information necessary to make an informed decision about which institution of higher learning they would like to also play college basketball at.
My communication in September and early October revolves greatly around the high school Open Gyms that our players are participating in. This becomes very tiring because we most certainly need to work with the high school coaches as well on this. Let me be honest, our player's #1 priority is and always will be their respective high school teams. Coaches drive and fly in from all over the place to see players work out as well as to be seen by these players.
The college season begins in late October. So from late October through the middle of March, most of my discussions with college coaches are about my player's progress during the high school season, other players from Wisconsin, and about getting specific players to attend games at their schools during the season.
I attend a basketball game on average, six nights a week. I most certainly see more high school games than college games but I do see quite a bit of college games as well. I make it a point to see every one of my former players play in college and that is not very easy when you have well over 30+ playing. Add in our former players that are playing professionally and my schedule is already packed before I even get to make some decisions about what games to see.
How did these types of jobs/fields interest you and how did you get started?
I started working for the Wisconsin Amateur Athletic Union following my senior year of high school at the state office in Menomonie. I was able to really learn and develop some important leadership skills working as an Assistant to the President for five years.
I also was employed in the Athletic Office at UW-Superior throughout my five years as a student. Since I also played both baseball and basketball at UWS, I spent a great deal of time hanging around most of the coaching staffs for each program. This was a truly amazing experience that most certainly helped shape my goals and visions for what I wanted to do after graduating from UWS.
If one is extremely interested in coaching and/or athletics, it is essential that he/she is willing to put in a lot of hours working and learning from quality people. I can honestly say that I put in 60 hours/week while still completing my required coursework as an undergrad.
What qualifications did you need to obtain these jobs?
I needed a minimum of a bachelor's degree in some form of Business Administration. The coaching minor was a tremendous asset for me as well. I made it a point to become a member of every single professional organization possible to build new relationships with people that could help me in my quest to work in this field.
Athletics is generally a people industry. The more people you know always is helpful when looking to explore additional opportunities.
What personal qualities or abilities do you believe contribute most to success in these jobs/fields?
I believe the most important quality that one must have to work in this industry is the ability to communicate effectively with a variety of different people. My business background has been extremely helpful when it comes to management skills and the financial end of running a business. The more relationships that an individual can establish will only enhance his/her ability to be successful in the career.
What organizations were you involved in during your college years that helped you towards your career?
I played on the men's baseball and men's basketball teams while attending UW-Superior. I was also involved in Phi Beta Lambda which was primarily an organization for students studying Business Education at UWS.
What degrees are appropriate for this line of work?
While almost any degree will help you to get into coaching, one will need a Master's Degree to coach at the postsecondary level. Any business degree, particularly in Business Administration is a big plus while Health and Human Performance is another outstanding area of study. The coaching minor at UW-Superior is an absolute must!
Where and/or what do you hope to be in 2-5 years? 5-10 years? What are the keys to this career advancement?
I plan on being in the very same position for many years to come.I have had the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level as well as at the high school level. However, I truly enjoy running my own program and recruiting those young men which I believe fit our program the best. I value my relationship with ADIDAS as well and I plan to be even more involved with the company during the next couple of years.
In order to advance in this career, an individual must be extremely patient and put in the necessary time working required to maximize his/her options. Once again, this career is so much about people!
What was the best piece of advice you received and from who that helped you towards your career?
The best piece of advice that I ever received was from Daniel Lounsbury who was the head football coach at UW-Superior during the 1991 and 1992 seasons. Coach Lounsbury shared so many of his ideas openly with me and allowed me to pick his brain and learn from him during the entire time he was UWS. Coach Lounsbury is now coaching at Texas A&M Commerce.
Do you have any advice or "words from experience" for a college student interested in these jobs/fields?
My advice would be to get involved and to seek out individuals that are very successful in the business. There is a reason why these people are successful so try to spend as much time with these individuals as possible.
If you knew all this back in college, what would you say were the most important classes? Is there anything you would have paid more attention to? Any additional classes you would have taken?
I don't believe any one class was the most important. I think the entire experience is what allows a person to put themselves in a position to be successful upon graduation. Gregory Trudeau and Robert Beem were huge inspirations for me in regards to running a business as I do today. The close personal relationships that students are able to build at UWS are amazing! I'm not certain that every student understands what an incredible opportunity they have being at a smaller public institution and those that do are really able to create some fantastic opportunities for themselves.
In college, people claim that a bachelor's degree isn't enough anymore and that you need a master's or doctorate degree to get your foot in the door. What's your opinion?
A bachelor's degree is certainly important in this career and provides a platform for an individual to gain valuable experiences provided that he/she is willing to work hard. For those that are interested in coaching, a master's degree is a must if he/she intends to be coaching at the collegiate level. UW-Superior offers excellent choices for both an undergraduate and a master's degree program for any person wishing to work in a career similar to mine.