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Ritter joins FDA as head softball coach

Students returning to Fort Dale Academy in the fall will notice a new face among its faculty.

Josh Ritter has traded in his Dothan High School Tiger stripes for wings, and will be joining Fort Dale Academy in the fall as a social studies teacher, an assistant football coach and head softball coach.

Ritter has five years of experience coaching softball as a volunteer at Manassas Park High School in Virginia, in addition to three years of coaching travel softball.

He also spent those same eight years coaching football.

But Ritter insists that his most valuable years were those serving in the Marine Corps.

“I served in the Marine Corps for four years, which I believe helps me in the classroom and in coaching,” Ritter said.

“It helps me keep a very disciplined team and classroom.”

A resident of Andalusia, Ritter said that Fort Dale Academy proved a tempting move because it was closer to home and provided an opportunity to be closer to his family.

What he didn’t expect, however, was to gain another family so quickly on the job.

“When I interviewed for the job, Mr. Brantley and Coach (James ‘Speed’) Sampley made me feel like I was at home,” Ritter added.

“The administration and coaching staff were great people, and I felt like I wanted to be a part of their faculty and coaching staff.”

Coming from a Class 6A school in Dothan High School to Fort Dale Academy will likely prove a jarring transition for Ritter, though in a positive way.

Dealing with so many students and personality types has helped him to identify with students to understand how they can respond in a given situation.

These skills, Ritter said, are invaluable both on the field and in the classroom.

“It has also helped me adequately determine a student and a player’s learning style, since I have seen every type of learning style at a larger school,” Ritter said.

“This will help me in the classroom and on the field, whether its material in the classroom or mechanics on the field.”

Ritter said that he would prefer to employ a balanced approach to softball, using some power game, some short game—bunts, slap hits, hit-and-run and bunt-and-run—and some speed game.

But his coaching philosophy will ultimately depend on the personnel he has in the upcoming season.

Regardless, there are a few core tenets that must be followed no matter what.

“We will work on fundamentals,” Ritter said.

“My goal is to be great on defense, hitting, pitching and smart base running.  My goal at Fort Dale is to improve year after year, to coach the girls to be successful on and off the field and to give the girls the best opportunity to win.”

Though many coaches often juggle responsibility in coaching multiple sports and teaching, Ritter maintains that there’s a reason why student comes first in the term student-athlete.

“I believe an athlete is a student first,” Ritter said.

“Therefore, I will not shortchange my classroom due to my coaching responsibilities. I do believe education comes first.

“With that being said, I will be able to juggle both responsibilities, and neither will be neglected.”