Rick Armstrong is no fan of retirement. He gives polar vortexes and sub-zero wind chills a big thumbs down, too.
“I’m excited and I can’t wait to get started, but this weather’s been awful. Just terrible,” he said.
After 22 seasons and 390 wins at Fairmont, the Ohio High School Softball Coaches Association hall of famer was forced to look for a new job last spring when his supplemental contract wasn’t renewed.
“I retired after 38 years of teaching (elementary physical education) and they non-renewed my (coaching) contact,” Armstrong said. “They decided they wanted somebody in the building. I didn’t even get an interview. It’s happened with other coaches in other districts and that’s just the way it is. I knew that, unfortunately, I’d have to live with it.”
Kettering’s loss has been Enon’s gain. Recently named head softball coach at Greenon, Armstrong hopes to revive a once-proud program whose school-record seasons date to the early 1980s.
“I knew I was going to end up somewhere – either I’d be a head coach or I’d help somebody out,” said Armstrong, who spent last season assisting Charles Tackett at Tippecanoe.
“I really enjoy softball – working with the girls and watching them develop. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to apply, but there are a lot of positives there. I figured we’ll just go ahead and keep those positives going.”
The Knights flashed moments of brilliance last spring, handing state-ranked Tippecanoe a 9-6, late-season loss before ousting Tecumseh, 5-3, in the Division II sectional tournament.
“I think the program has made a turn for the better and I want to keep it going,” Armstrong said. “I want to make sure the younger kids are playing. Several of the girls are working with (area pitching coach) Pete Cook and they need to do that. They need to put in the time nowadays.
“It’s all about attitude and effort,” he added. “Those are the only two things you can control in this game. If you put the attitude and effort in you’re going to see the reward.”
The 2004 OHSFSCA hall of fame inductee amassed a 390-169 career record at Fairmont despite fierce competition from both the Greater Western Ohio Conference and the now-defunct Western Ohio League.
The Firebirds won outright or shared seven GWOC Central Division championships over the past 12 years, including four straight from 2003-06 and three of four from 2008-11.
“The way I look at wins – if you stay in the game long enough you’re going to accumulate them,” said Armstrong, who’ll be assisted by longtime friend and current Greenon boys basketball coach Todd Shuttleworth.
“I’m pretty proud of what we accomplished at Fairmont. Thirty-eight girls have gone on to play at the next level. I’ve got a lot of girls coaching now, too. That’s good. That’s rewarding.”
Though Tippecanoe finished 19-9 last year, Tackett’s decision to step down and devote more time to family solidified Armstrong’s move to Greenon.
“I was looking for someplace else,” Armstrong said. “I thought, Hey, the program’s starting to turn around a little bit. I still want to coach. It looks like a good opportunity.
“The (Central Buckeye Conference is) a very tough league,” he added. “I was in the GWOC – that’s big schools and a tough league – and the CBC is no cakewalk.”