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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Sports > General

‘You have to work for it'

Ellison has developed strong values in hundreds of athletes

Jul 17, 2020

By Joseph Abraham - co-editor

Ricky Ellison speaking at a Ride2Survive dinner at the Villa Roma in 2018. Throughout the years he has coached and taught generations of young people the importance of a strong work ethic.
LAKE HUNTINGTON -- Some people don't plan to be a coach. But for Ricky Ellison, who recently hung up his playbook and retired after over three decades in the classroom, he always knew it was something he wanted to do.
“One of the biggest joys I get from coaching is seeing an athlete accomplish something they didn't think they could do,” Ellison said. “That look of joy on their face means more to me than winning championships.”
Several athletes at both Jeff-Youngsville and Sullivan West have benefited from his tutelage.
“I just wanted to instill a work ethic in them,” he said.
“If you really want something you have to work for it. Goal setting was a big part of my program. In order to reach those goals you have to put in the time and work, and I think that helped motivate them.”
Before his coaching days, Ellison was a student at Liberty High School (Class of 1978), where he played football, baseball and basketball. He then attended SUNY Sullivan for a year where he played baseball before transferring to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to study hotel management. However, while at RIT, it was the first time in his life he wasn't involved in athletics and he missed it greatly.
He realized RIT wasn't for him, and would later earn his Bachelor's Degree in K-12 Physical Education from SUNY Cortland, before earning his Master's Degree in Elementary Education from LIU Post.
After a few years working for the YMCA in Liverpool, Ellison took his first teaching job, starting at Jeff-Youngsville in 1990.

What hasn't he coached?
At JYCS, Ellison immediately began coaching the junior varsity football team with Anthony Durkin under athletic director Dave Franskevicz who was at the helm of the varsity program. He also was the head coach of the varsity boys basketball and junior varsity baseball team in his first year at JYCS. Over the years there, sports he coached included varsity golf, modified golf and JV girls soccer.
After the Sullivan West merger, sports Ellison coached included varsity and modified golf, JV girls soccer, modified boys basketball, modified girls basketball, varsity boys basketball, and this past winter, he was the head coach of a Lady Bulldogs JV basketball team that went undefeated.
Reflecting on the success of the 2019-20 JV girls basketball team, Ellison said, “It was truly rewarding to have everything go right,” adding that the kids all bought in, there were no injuries or academically ineligible players. “You need luck too and we had it.”
In 2004, Ellison was the coach of a very good Sullivan West Varsity Boys Basketball squad which won the Section 9 crown. While they lost in the final to Burke Catholic, it was later discovered that the Eagles had an ineligible player, therefore, they were stripped of the title, which was awarded to Sullivan West. Ellison said the situation was unfortunate as they didn't get an opportunity to compete at the state tournament.
Ellison's coaching and ability to get the most out of his athletes has yielded several division titles, including the JYCS boys basketball team winning the Western Sullivan League (WSL) in 1993, and the SW boys basketball team winning their division in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
In regard to the 1993 JYCS boys basketball title, Ellison said, “Your first is always special. We worked hard to get that. We beat a well coached Eldred team. I had players like Robert Hubert, Brian Bury and John Bernas.”
Ellison coached Bernas daughter in JV girls soccer last fall. “You know that's when it's time to get out, when you coach the kids of your former players,” Ellison joked.
He's also had several successful varsity boys golf teams. The Trojans won a few WSL titles in the late 90s and the Bulldogs won a share of the division title in 2016, along with Tri-Valley.
Ellison called the Trojans' boys golf teams of the late 90s which included Gregg Semenetz Jr. and Jared Kubenik -- winners of the 2017 Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man Better Ball Golf Tournament -- and a trip to the State Championship at Cornell University, a great experience.
Also while coaching golf at Jeff-Youngsville in the late 90s, Ellison noted that there were no girls' golf teams in the WSL, and instead, the girls played with the boys. As interest started to grow among girls, coaches in the league organized a tournament in Roscoe and invited girl golfers they knew from across Section 9. According to Ellison, that didn't fly too well with the section, but the next year, girls golf was made an official Section 9 sport.
“I believe we played a prominent role in starting girls golf in Section 9,” Ellison said.

What he cherishes most
In addition to the joy of helping athletes accomplish something they didn't think they were capable of, Ellison also cherishes the relationships he's made along the way, both as a coach and in the classroom.
“There's such a social aspect to teaching and coaching,” Ellison said. “I'm so lucky. The relationships I've made with different coaches, athletes, referees, reporters, fellow teachers … has been incredibly rewarding.”
Some of his mentors were his own high school coaches such as Floyd Emery, Ed Riente, Harry Rapenski and the late Ron Francisco. Later on at coaching clinics, he met the likes of Dick O'Neill, Glenn McGuiness, Fred Ahart and Rob Gravelle, all of which have influenced him.
Another influence was Bob Menges. The two started around the same time and coached together for years at both JYCS and Sullivan West. They've become close friends and Ellison calls him a brother.
“The two guys who were the most influential to Bob and I when we came on board at JYCS were Ron Bernhardt and Jerry Davitt,” said Ellison. “They literally sat down with us because we had never coached at that level and we talked about building programs and philosophies of coaching. They gave good advice, were a huge help and very supportive.”
Ellison had high praise for fellow retiree Dave Franskevicz who was his athletic director at JYCS and Sullivan West.
“I can't thank him enough,” Ellison said. “He was such a supportive athletic director. Anything we needed or wanted to try, he was all for it. It made it easy to coach when you had an AD like Dave who had your back.”
In retirement, Ellison who plays in the Tuesday Night golf league at Swan Lake Golf and Country Club, expects to spend a little more time golfing, camping and maybe a little hunting. He won't completely shut the door on coaching again, but wants to get away from it for a while.
Spending time with his family is certainly at the top of his to-do list.
He notes that he is grateful for the support of his wife Glorianne and his children, Lauren (30), Chris (26) and Luke (18).
“Anyone who coaches knows the importance of family support,” Ellison said. “My family has always been supportive of my coaching and without their encouragement I wouldn't be able to coach as much as I did.”

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