New softball coach, interim AD ready to make his mark at USCB

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New softball coach, interim AD ready to make his mark at USCB

By JUSTIN JARRETT jjarrett@islandpacket.com 843-706-8120
Published Thursday, July 15, 2010   |  745 Words  |  sports

Ty Rietkovich has barely had time to reflect on his first month as USC Beaufort's interim athletics director and softball coach, but his mind is already racing years into the future.
He can't help but think about what it will one day mean to him to think back on this time in his life -- to recall building the school's softball program from scratch while helping a fledgling but flourishing athletics department ease into an era of new growth.
"These are the kind of things you usually read about in history books," Rietkovich said. "It's not very often someone hands you a history book and tells you to write it."
Rietkovich is aware he isn't writing with the same pen as former athletics director Kim Abbott, who left the school in May after overseeing the rebirth of USCB's long-dormant athletics department.
Abbott held the dual roles of AD and golf coach for one semester, after which it became clear wearing both hats was too much for someone trying to build the department from the ground up.
"That's probably what this (department) needed in its infancy," Rietkovich said. "It probably would have been very difficult for Kim to build the quality that we're at right now if she would've had a ton of other responsibilities."
With a strong foundation in place, though, Rietkovich won't have that luxury. As he has quickly learned, his duties as softball coach often will infringe on his responsibility as AD -- he hasn't been able to attend any of the school's Friday orientation sessions this summer, because he has been on the recruiting trail at softball showcases and tournaments -- so he has made it a point to stress to his staff that everyone must take on additional responsibilities.
As he focuses on getting the softball program ready for its debut in spring 2012, Rietkovich has leaned on Rick Sofield's experience building the Sand Sharks' baseball team into a top-25 team in just two seasons. The two are longtime friends dating back to their days as assistant coaches at South Carolina -- Sofield as an assistant baseball coach under June Raines and Rietkovich as a graduate assistant under football coach Joe Morrison.
Rietkovich has spent much of his first month on the job spreading the word about the softball program. He said he is close to signing his first recruits and hopes to build the roster around a strong core of players from Beaufort County and the Savannah area.
He is optimistic the Sand Sharks will be competitive in the Sun Conference right away, but also feels some pressure to live up to the high standards the school's existing teams have set. In addition to the baseball team's trip the NAIA World Series Opening Round in its second season, the men's golf team has finished in the top 10 at nationals the past two years, the women's golf team matched that feat this season, and the cross country team has qualified runners for nationals the past two years.
"The question has already been asked of me: What's the athletic director going to think if the softball team doesn't make the playoffs in the first couple of years?," Rietkovich said. "They've set the bar high. The University of South Carolina Beaufort has made a lot of noise in a short period of time."
One noise everyone involved with the department would like to hear in the near future is the sound of construction equipment. One of the school's top priorities is building baseball, softball and soccer facilities on campus, though that's a dream that might be difficult to realize until the slumping economy recovers.
If the athletics department had been launched five years earlier, Rietkovich surmises, those facilities probably would have been in place from the start. As it is, the university is struggling to balance its need and desire to grow in all facets at a time when the economic climate dictates a more conservative approach.
Nonetheless, Rietkovich thinks the grassroots support from the school and the community will help the athletics department solidify its existing programs while continuing to grow, perhaps adding tennis and soccer programs within the next three to four years.
"Everyone wants to see us succeed," Rietkovich said. "There's a lot of support for athletics. If we succeed, it's because of that, and if we fail, it's probably because of our own efforts."