Ask any Colorado Academy student from the last 26 years what their favorite game in P.E. is, and they can rattle off a number of top contenders: Alligator, Scooter Highway, Hunger Games, and Jurassic Park will fondly be shared. That’s testimony to the creative genius of P.E. instructor, Master Teacher, and coach Marcia Richards. After more than a quarter of a century at CA, Coach Marcia announced her retirement this year.
A quiet top athlete in her own right, Richards is a nationally ranked racquetball player and holds the distinction of being in the National Masters Racquetball Hall of Fame. In fact, she was playing racquetball at a tournament in Houston when then-Head of School Chris Babbs reached out to offer her a chance to coach basketball and teach P.E. more than two decades ago. Richards was working at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, and she saw first-hand how challenging school and sports could be for some students. She loved connecting with those kids who were experiencing real hardship.
That nurturing came naturally for the Air Force kid who always had to work to fit in.
“I was always the new student,” she says, describing how her longest stay in any city growing up was just four years. Her nomadic life ended when Richards landed her first teaching and coaching job. Few can say they’ve worked at just two schools for more than 40 years.
Kudos from her colleagues
One of the gifts of working at CA is the length of time some teachers and coaches stay, offering many the chance to create longtime friendships with colleagues. Fellow P.E. teachers and coaches Bob Ulrich and Beth Folsom, and First Grade teacher Diana Giarusso, have watched how Coach Marcia’s connection with students, through sports, has made her so valuable to our school. It’s impossible to just talk about her teaching or her coaching because she so effortlessly blends her talents on the courts with those needed in the classroom.
“She is one of the few teachers who is actually connected to students in all three divisions either by her coaching or teaching. Her expertise as an instructor in her field is exceptional. She has worked closely with her colleagues over the years to develop a strong physical education program for our young students,” says Giarusso.
It’s that commitment to her students that earned Marcia the 2018 Yoeman Fisher Award—CA’s highest honor for teaching excellence and one of Coach Marcia’s proudest moments at CA.
“Marcia’s instincts, intuition, and professionalism in the field of physical education are extensive and serve her well when in the role of coach,” says Giarusso. “Her teaching skills make her an incredibly talented fundamentals coach. It is not easy to break athletic skills down and to effectively teach them—it’s an art, just like in the classroom for teaching reading or math.”
Richards also has advanced to the faculty rank of Master Teacher.
Initially having coached varsity sports, Coach Marcia’s true calling is helping student-athletes, no matter their level, to develop their skills. Through four decades, she has coached Racquetball, Tennis, Basketball, Golf, and Softball (at her previous school).
“I realized over time that being a skills coach is my strength,” says Richards.
Stepping away from varsity coaching and turning her attention to lower level teams and younger athletes, she enjoys helping them elevate their game and find their potential, adding, “I enjoy meeting kids where they are at, and, through skill development, help them reach the next level, and I ask kids to always encourage each other.”
Proudly calling her his friend, fellow P.E. teacher Bob Ulrich has coached alongside Richards for as long as she has been at CA.
“I have never seen a better coach working with lower level teams. She is patient, a great motivator. Her forte is working with beginner- to medium-skilled students. Our programs are so good because of how she develops athletes.”
It’s no surprise that Richards was instrumental in adding competitive racquetball to CA’s sports mix, giving her a chance to share the game she loves with her students. For the past two years, the Mustangs have competed at the National High School Racquetball Championships. Off campus, for more than 20 years, Richards was part of Racquet for The Cure. An original board member, this small fundraiser has had a big impact for women racquetball players in the Colorado community, bringing in more than $100,000 before the pandemic interrupted its run. Coach Marcia says, with a little more spare time, Racquet for the Cure may again find its footing.
“She cares about people,” says fellow P.E. teacher and coach Beth Folsom. The two have worked at CA together for 20 years. Coach Beth has watched Coach Marcia share her expertise with every age of student—young kids up to high school.
“Athletes who have been coached by her know she really cares about them—she can be demanding while developing skills, but cares about the whole person. She has a special knack for enjoying working with developing skills and making every kid feel like part of the team,” says Folsom.
For now, it’s back to focusing on her own racquetball game and the chance to compete again.
Coach Marcia may be stepping away from a daily routine at CA, but she says she hopes to be available when needed to teach, coach, and even collaborate on the next great game for kids. It’s that creativity while collaborating with her fellow P.E. teachers that Coach Marcia says she will miss the most.