About Pat Riddlesprigger
Pat Riddlesprigger (@PRiddlesprigger) was born and raised in Fresno, California. The youngest of 2 boys, he is a product of the Central Valley. Pat has spent the majority of his personal and professional life attending or employed by Fresno Unified, the third-largest school district in California.
After graduating from Hoover High School in 1988, Pat accepted a full athletic scholarship to California State University, Fresno to play basketball. Appreciating the opportunity to play for his hometown team, he took complete advantage of the pursuit of higher education and walked away with BS in Business Administration. He would continue his education further- receiving his teaching credential and administrative credential through CSU Fresno and his Master’s in Educational Technology through Fresno Pacific University.
Over 2 decades, Pat has been in the educational profession as a teacher, department chair, coach, and athletic director. As the athletic director, he served as league president, league representative and board of managers representative. Each stop along the way has prepared him for his current position as the Athletic Manager for Fresno Unified School District within the Student Engagement Department. As the Athletic Manager, as well as, a member of the Student Engagement Team, Pat provides support to teachers/coaches, site administration, and the Fresno Unified community to ensure that our students engage in the arts, activities, and athletics.
Pat believes in order to be successful in life, you must possess the following characteristics:
Desire: oneself having a strong longing for a certain action;
Dedication: oneself committed to a certain course of action;
Determination: oneself focused on that action;
Sacrifice: oneself willing to give up something for the sake of that action.
He has modelled and demonstrated these characteristics throughout his lifetime. Pat is married to his high school sweetheart Cathy and has 3 daughters- Mariah, Makayla, and Maya and three grandchildren- Zaveah, Liam, and Maverick.
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high-performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Pat Riddlesprigger. Pat Riddlesprigger is the athletic manager of the Fresno unified school district. He also runs the goals-2-team athletics department, and what you will very quickly notice in today’s interview is that Pat uses sport as a way to transform young people’s lives.
Sam Demma (01:07):
Being an athlete growing up, he was a former Fresno State basketball player himself, Pat knows what it means to pursue an athletic dream, but he also knows how important it is to ensure that these students, whether they become professional athletes or not become holistic global citizens – good-hearted human beings. And you will see in Pat’s perspectives in his ideas and his personal experiences and insights that he shares in today’s interview, that he holds that the center of all he does. I hope you enjoy this amazing conversation with pat and I will see you on the other side.
Sam Demma (01:46):
Pat, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself to the audience?
Pat Riddlesprigger (01:56):
Hey, good afternoon, everyone. My name is Pat Riddlesprigger. I am the athletic manager here in Fresno unified. I’ve been in education for approximately 20 plus years in some form or capacity, starting from coaching to teaching, to athletic directed to athletic administration. So it’s been a journey has been, has been fun and I think I’ve learned quite a bit along with that, that role.
Sam Demma (02:23):
It’s amazing. And what got you into athletics? The position of being an athletic director. Were you always the athletic director, did you start out as a teacher? Tell me more about your journey in education.
Pat Riddlesprigger (02:35):
Yeah. Yeah, it’s funny because you know, sports have always been a huge portion of my life. I started off playing in high school was fortunate enough to earn the scholarship here at the local college Fresno state played basketball there. And then I continued on, so, so, you know, I always knew I wanted to have something to do with athletics. Just didn’t know what it was. When I got my degree, got my major moves, still searching, trying to find out exactly where, what I wanted to do. So, you know, you, you always go back and seeking that advice. So, you know, I knock on my mom’s door and they say, you know what? I just don’t know exactly what I want to do just yet. And they know she kind of pushed me to go back and to take the California CBEST test.
Pat Riddlesprigger (03:27):
And I went back and I took it. And, and then at that moment, I, I started my journey of actually getting my teaching credential and the world of education. So it was, it was an interesting, I guess it was about a three-year window when I was doing all of this still working in my previous job, still doing and still doing my student teaching here seeing if I like this, even if I didn’t like it. And it was, it was interesting. It was it was, it was a lot but I, think I, truly made the right decision to become a teacher. And then once I started teaching, I always knew I enjoyed the game and the one that did the coach and my first teaching job, I also got a coaching position with it. And next thing I know I started one day at one high school.
Pat Riddlesprigger (04:18):
My third day, I was at a new high school and I was the head coach of a program. And then I just kept on parlaying from that. I went from coaching basketball to actually now what was it about eight years later becoming the athletic director stayed in that position at that particular site for about six, seven years. And then then this position opened up. So, you know, along the way you kept on trying to further my own education putting in a little bit more keys on my key ring so I can open up some doors. And when the time came available and lo and behold, the right door opened up and I had the right key. So I was able to get this position as athletic manager.
Sam Demma (05:03):
It’s funny when you mentioned your own experience as a basketball player, you know, back in high school and college, I noticed that there it is, again, I noticed a big smile on your face. Tell me, bring me back there for a second. What did sports mean to you growing up and tell me the pivotal role play in your development?
Pat Riddlesprigger (05:20):
You know sports was always a way that you can go out there and you can let those and relax and play and, and, and do something that you’re passionate about. I mean, it was something I was introduced to with the boys and girls club a long time ago stayed with me. I found out that I was pretty good at it. I was fortunate enough, like I said, to earn a scholarship. And it brings back some of the fondest memories. You know, sometimes I may not even remember my fourth grade teach it, but I do remember my, my sixth grade coach who was my teacher. So, so those things are the things that I knew, what brought a smile to my face and a smile to my heart. So I wanted to actually try to do that. And later on in my life, I just didn’t know exactly when and how I was going to do it until you have that, that conversation with your parents. But it was it’s, it’s the best time. I mean, high school athletics. I mean, it’s a true, true time when kids can go out there and have fun. Ms. Probably the last time that they will chop probably play. Cause there’s only a select few that get opportunity to continue on. It’s only get to go out there and enjoy and try and try something new. I mean, sports are a really life-changing and they can provide you a lot of discipline that you, you apply at the Roger your entire life.
Sam Demma (06:43):
I couldn’t agree more. I was actually a soccer player growing up and my coach has actually didn’t even want me to play for my high school. Cause I thought I might get injured or hurt. But yeah, sports so pivotal in my own journey. You, you mentioned remembering your, your grade six teacher who is also your coach. Why do you think you remembered him aside from of course, because you love basketball and he enabled you to play. But why do you think you stuck out in your mind? Do you think that coaching allows you to build deeper relationships with students or
Pat Riddlesprigger (07:14):
I think it’s that connection without a doubt. I think that connection that you established at an early age besides a classroom, I mean, we establish a relationship inside the classroom but I think it was outside the classroom where he, I got to meet him on a different level. He got to meet me on a different level. We both share something in common that we liked. We both enjoy the process as far as this is where you were when I first met you. This is where I, I, I see you when that halfway during the season, this is where I see you at the end of the season. And I think that was the connection that we we had. And it was just one of those things that just, you know, it was, it was fun. And I think that that was each one of my coaches along the way, not to mention that also he was probably the first male teacher that I had that, that I had actually up until that point.
Pat Riddlesprigger (08:08):
So, so keep moving forward. I mean, coaches and it’s kind of ironic coaches made the connection I met with all my coaches. Actually, I think was, were greater than, than the teachers that I had at certain times. I remember a lot of my teachers, but majority of all my coaches, cause we spend, I mean the classroom, you may, if you’re not on the black schedule, you may spend maybe 54 minutes in the class average class time. But in practice you may spend two hours to three hours during that time. So I think you’re going to build a stronger connection in that time.
Sam Demma (08:45):
I couldn’t agree more. And you also mentioned you know, when you were growing up and playing sports, you know, your teacher had a big impact on you, are teachers and coaches, sorry, you coach had a big impact on you. Are there coaches that you still stay in touch with to this day?
Pat Riddlesprigger (09:02):
You know what I have several my former high school coaches, I still speak to ’em. We still reach out, still seek advice. I’m fortunate enough to actually play and play in the same school district. And now work in the same school districts and passing out. I will see him are a hair. Mar if I have a question I can always know I can reach out to him. But it’s just one of those things. I mean, I think that is the, the, the human connection. I may not be able to come back and talk about the quadratic equation, but I can come back and talk about the time that, you know, I didn’t hustle. And he had to remind me what hustling meant, but that was one of those things. I mean, it’s just a different form of connection and it, it is always been an add on that is one thing about athletics, right? There is instinct correction still. If we had that connection, if I don’t do something right, that coach can sit there, take a time out, correct. That behavior and correct that action. And then we can put it in, put it in place. Okay. Yeah, you got it. Or no, you didn’t and we can keep on doing it, but it’s, it’s just an unbelievable feeling that and be connected with a coach or a teacher. And that inspires you to be much more than what you’re capable of being at that time.
Sam Demma (10:13):
I agree. It’s it’s unlike any other relationship you build, you like look out to that person, not only for athletic advice, but sometimes you feel so comfortable. You ask them about personal things, right. Forget coach, you know, forget coach Carter, you got coach riddles, Springer. That’s awesome. So, okay. So you’re you knew from a young age that you wanted to coach, or was that something that as you progress through your journey, as a teacher, people started tapping you on the shoulder and saying, you know, you should start coaching basketball.
Pat Riddlesprigger (10:46):
You know what? I, I didn’t know. I knew I enjoyed athletics. I know I enjoy playing sports no matter what it was. Basketball was just the one that I landed on. I enjoy playing all sports at an early age, try soccer. Wasn’t as good you know, as you do that one early on the foot foot coordination and the head that or the foot, and then that head coordination wasn’t quite there yet. But I got started in there, played basketball, played a little bit of football, but basketball is what I landed on. Tried baseball, but football and did track. Once again, basketball was the one I landed on. And then during that whole entire time, I, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed, I enjoyed every part of it. The practices, the games just every part of it. But it did not necessarily know I wanted to be a coach.
Pat Riddlesprigger (11:37):
I knew I wanted to stay around athletics. I just didn’t know in what capacity. And I just once I finished playing college ball still had an opportunity to stay around it and, and coach some, some kids I started that actually got actually I got hooked on coaching. When I was in, in high school. Our high school coach used to have a a developmental league for all our neighborhood kids. And, you know, back then you get to teach them the drills, walk them through. We had the little ramps and they would, they would come out there and play. God kinda kinda got the field bill of it, then left it for awhile. Then when I was finished, I contacted my high school coach and asked, Hey, do you need some help? I still want to, I still enjoy the game. So want to be around it. And next thing you know, coach coached high school ball, coached a new ball. It’s, it’s been a blast.
Sam Demma (12:38):
How do you think we know you’re good. How do you think we make connections with kids? So that they feel like it’s a safe enough space to share things that they might want to talk to you about not only as coaches, but also as educators.
Pat Riddlesprigger (12:51):
You know what I think that’s the most important part. I always use that. I had a phrase. If you can’t connect you, can’t correct. If you can not can make a connection with a kid, I can care less. I can care less. What, what subject or what sports you’re trying to teach them. They’re not going to sit there and get it. So you have the, you have to do your best to, to get, get to know that individual, not only on a professional, but on a personal level, find out what they like to do short conversations and build that trust between the two. And then I think, I think at that point there’ll be willing to do anything or listen to something that you have to say or whether it’s a player, whether it’s a quadratic equation. I mean, you have to be able to connect with kids. I think kids learn from people that they enjoy being around. So if they don’t enjoy being around or don’t enjoy your conversation or don’t enjoy you, they’re not gonna, they’re not gonna sit there and learn or take that information in the way it could be taken in.
Sam Demma (13:55):
And how did coaches and teachers growing up create that safe space for you? Like if you had to pinpoint a couple of things you think past coaches did, or even mentors that you had what do you think they did that made that space safe for you to share and open up and talk in conversation?
Pat Riddlesprigger (14:10):
They took time. I think time is always one of those things you can never get back. And I think by them giving up their time by them opening up their door say during the lunch, Hey coach, I’m having a such and such a problem. And given their ear just to listen time listening and making themselves available. I think those are all key Greenies that, that actually build that trust and build that relationship. That, that connection that can be a life-changing. I was extremely enough to have a lot, a lot of coaches and a lot of teachers in my life that, that did everything. I mean, they, they gave their time, they gave their, their attention. They gave their advice and, and it kind of worked out pretty well for my stuff. So i’m extremely blessed in that part.
Sam Demma (15:11):
And right now specifically is one of those maybe not specifically right now, but over the past two years has been one of those moments in history where a lot of student athletes have been disappointed. I’m not sure what to do with their life because they attached her whole self worth to this game of soccer or to this game of basketball and football. I’ve remembered myself, you know, growing up. It was, so it was so clear that that was my entire life, that my email address was soccer, Sam 99, you know, at hotmail.com. And you probably see this with a bunch of athletes. You know, how do you kid walks into your dressing room and says, coach, what are we doing? We can’t even play right now. We can’t even practice is everything we’ve done a waste. How do you, how do you navigate that conversation these days?
Pat Riddlesprigger (16:02):
This is a very loaded, tough question. How do you, it just depends on, I guess it depends on the kid or the student that’s coming in. I mean, once again, I said, get open and having the open door policy and then listening, I think, by listening to their frustrations, cause I know how I feel and now I will be frustrated if I was in a position, but at least giving them the time and the ear that allow them to vent and have that conversation. And then just ask some probing questions along the way. So I don’t know. I mean, I understand that stuff. So what are we doing in order? Cause we’re going to come out of this eventually. What are we doing in order to when we come out of it, what are you doing? Or what are we doing in order to get better?
Pat Riddlesprigger (16:44):
We not, we may not be able to play games right now, but we can improve our game in order to play. And just keep on talking. I mean, I think we just, at this point in time in situations like this it gives you ample opportunity once again, to make that connection with the kids. I mean, it may not be in person. It may be on a situation like this where it’s zoom and we just have a, you know what, let’s come to a meeting and let’s just have a conversation. Let’s talk a check-in how, how are you guys doing? How are you doing? How can we, how can I help support you at this time? Is it something that can help with you when your, your family is as something that I can help with you? Pers, are there some other battles?
Pat Riddlesprigger (17:31):
I think it’s just, I mean, every obstacle gives you an opportunity to work on something else. I think you can’t use it as a roadblock. You just use it as a speed bump and you just find a way to make a way out of nothing. I don’t know if there’s a clear, cut answer. I don’t know if there’s and I’ve thought about this quite often. I don’t know if there’s a I know there’s not a handbook. Cause if there was, I think everybody would be having the handbook and going to that specific plan on the handbook they get over this. I think you just have to feel your way out. No, no, your kids are no, your students had that conversation with them. Let them know that you are here as a resource a friend a person that they can count on and then go from there. I think that would go a long way with them.
Sam Demma (18:26):
I think you’re right. And the reason I ask the question is because there might be some educators or guidance counselors who don’t have an athletic background. So can’t really relate to the situation, but have kids walking into the room saying I’m an athlete. It’s my whole life. I was going to go pro I was going to go D one, you know what? Now? And those teachers don’t really know what to say. You know? It is a tough situation. I saw a really awesome motivational little clip on social media from Deon Sanders. I don’t know. Maybe, maybe you saw it. It came out recently and he was saying, you gotta have a purpose for practice. You know, I showed up every day and he said, my purpose was to be the best and that drove me. Right. And I think something that’s so important is okay, we can’t play as a team right now, but what’s, what’s your purpose for training? Well, cause I want to get better. Well then how can we keep doing that? And like you said, kinda asking problem questions and going down that path with the, with the athlete and hearing them out and their frustrations and seeing where you can help. I think it’s so important to listen.
Pat Riddlesprigger (19:25):
And I th I, I think a lot of individuals want to want to want to play one, to go to division one, but then again, are we putting the work into it? So, so a kid like that who says basketball is their life or football or soccer, whatever the sport may be is a life. Okay, what are we doing then if this is your life, and you want to pursue this at a professional level, what are we doing right now in order to recycle later on? I mean, this may be a little roadblock you’re eventually going to continue. You’ve mentioned going to get opportunity to play. You’re going to get the opportunity to do all that, but what are we doing to, to improve ourselves? Not only physically, but mentally. I mean, a lot of individuals are gifted physically. I think the ones that separate themselves from one another, as the ones that are from here on a so-so, therefore you have to take care of your body. You have to take care of your mind and your spirit to make sure everything’s all aligned. And I think you should be all right.
Sam Demma (20:26):
No, you’re is a great point. It’s so true. It’s so true. And it doesn’t only apply to athletic dreams, applies to everything you want to do in life. Whether you’re a kid who plays a sport or an educator who wants to move up from being coached to athletic director, you have to start with the angle in mind and kind of reverse engineer that thing back and then embrace reality. And the reality could be, you’re not doing, or you’re not doing what you need to, or the reality is you’re doing it, but maybe you could do more, right?
Pat Riddlesprigger (20:53):
Yeah. Everybody can get 1% better each day.
Sam Demma (20:56):
I call it a small, consistent actions.
Pat Riddlesprigger (21:01):
That’s awesome. I like that small, consistent action. I’m going to, to hold on one second. I have to write that one down.
Sam Demma (21:06):
I’ll send you some resources after I’ll send you some resources after this. I it’s actually a TEDx talk. Yeah, we’ll talk after, and I have some things I wanna share with you, but yeah, this has been a great conversation. I know educators are listening and hopefully they’re bridging the gap between coaching and how they can use some coaching ideas with their students. You mentioned correction, I think is really interesting. It seems like athletes are sometimes on the field, more open to correction and they are when they’re in the classroom or, or when they’re in other areas of their life. How do you effectively, in your opinion, as a coach, correct somebody without embarrassing them? You know what I mean?
Pat Riddlesprigger (21:46):
I think once again, we talk about that connection. So if I have a connection with a student, if we can see eye to eye, I don’t think anything that I say will embarrass them because we can sit here and we can talk about, okay, you did this particular thing wrong. So how can we fix this to move forward? They, tint is never to embarrass to any kid or any student whatsoever is they, they tend to, is to make sure that you’ve got the proper steps. Even if you’re learning once again, a math equation, learning the proper steps in order to get to the end result. So what can we do to make sure we, we, we get there what we want get to the end, like we should. And that’s just having that conversation. I mean, once again, it’s not saying, oh, stop, you did it wrong.
Pat Riddlesprigger (22:36):
It’s Hey, what can we do better? Or where did we miss and have them do the, self-reflection have them sit there and think about it. Okay. Yeah, this is what I did wrong. Okay. So how can we improve it? Or how can we get better? And I think it’s, it falls back on the onus, putting it back on the kid, give them a question. Okay. What did you notice? Was that correct? Or could you have done this better? Have them sit there and think about it, do some self reflection and then point them in a direction or guide them in the direction. Let me put it that way. That could improve the work that they’re putting up.
Sam Demma (23:12):
I love that idea of just asking questions instead of pointing out things, right? Yes. That’s such a hard thing to remember when you’re in an emotional situation and you’re amped up, but I think it’s so important because it, it almost helps the student, even if it’s not a sporting situation, clarify their own thinking. Right. by asking them all these different questions ah, I like it. I’m not thinking to myself, I can ask other people more important questions or impactful questions.
Pat Riddlesprigger (23:45):
I think, I think we can always get the answers in that I remember in the class at in the classroom, always sitting here saying, why should I give the answers when I think that the way to the actual answer is in questioning the kid? And how did you get there if you have someone? I mean, I’m not going to give you the answer. The answer is there. So, but how do we get to get into the answer? Is can I ask you a more in depth question to make you make a pivot in order to get to the, the answer you need to, and I, and just stay with them on that subject. I mean, we’ll pivot, we’ll pivot as much as we possibly be used in the basketball analogy, we’ll make as many pivots as we need to in order to get to the, to the answer. But I’m not, I, I tried not to provide an answer. I tried to provide a question that would actually lead to the answer
Sam Demma (24:37):
As long as you don’t pivot it for more than 24 seconds. Right. Exactly. That’s amazing. That’s awesome. Awesome. Well, pat, this has been a great conversation about questions, coaching life teaching. I thank you so much for spending some time on the podcast and sharing some of your own philosophies and ideas. If another educator is in their first year of education, it feels a little bit lost. I’m going to ask you a tough question to wrap up here.
Pat Riddlesprigger (25:06):
I think these are all kind of tough, haha.
Sam Demma (25:09):
If you could kinda take your, you know, you think, I think you said 20 plus years of experience in teaching, kind of bundle it up and then, you know, travel back in time and walk into the first classroom you ever taught in and kind of hand this bundle of wisdom to your younger self, knowing what you know now, what would the piece of advice be that you’d hand to your younger self?
Pat Riddlesprigger (25:30):
You know what I’m be okay with with learning along the way with your students? Don’t be, don’t think that you have to know everything right then, and there be a constant learner girl, as they grow. There’s a lot of things I was telling myself use your resources of mentor teachers. They’re more often lean on support ask as many questions of your kids that you possibly can get to know them. I mean, it’s, it’s so much in such a godly. I mean, there’s a lot that you learned in this world of education. I don’t know if you can wrap it up in just one little complete sentence, but I think the biggest thing is be a constant learner lean on on the support that you, that you you have learned to walk alongside your students not in front of them.
Pat Riddlesprigger (26:38):
To me, this is a position where we’re servant servant leadership, where we’re actually there, they sit there and help these kids become productive citizens. So and don’t be afraid to fail at the end of the day. I mean, I think it’s, it’s one of those things that every, every day, a new lesson that you’re trying to teach us a new lesson, that you’re also learning. There’s going to be some of those hit and miss miss lessons take the good as well as the bad and just try to build off of it, of that.
Sam Demma (27:12):
Awesome. And if another educator is listening and love, the conversation wants to reach out, maybe ask you a question, what would be the best way for them to get in touch?
Pat Riddlesprigger (27:23):
My first name pat, then I put the period in between pat and my last name Riddlesprigger. Pat.Riddlesprigger@fresnounified.org. Hopefully you can see my name on there cause it’s long. Okay, good.
Sam Demma (27:38):
Yeah. There’ll be able to see that. Also put the email in the show notes of the podcast. Pat again, thank you so much. This has been a great conversation. Really appreciate you making the time. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.
Pat Riddlesprigger (27:50):
Sam Demma (27:52):
And there you have it, another amazing guest and amazing interview on the high-performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
Join the Educator Network & Connect with Pat
The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education. By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators. You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.