After building one of the top girls lacrosse programs in the state, Stillwater’s Rick Reidt is ready to divert more attention to his family.
Reidt, who is the only head coach for the Ponies in their 13-year history, informed Activities Director Ricky Michel on Dec. 23.
“It takes a lot of time to coach a team like we’ve had at Stillwater,” Reidt said. “When I first starting in 2008, both daughters were in college so I had a lot of time to get the program started. Just getting a little bit older, it’s time to focus more on my family. I want to spend more time with my family.“
After coaching in the youth program for two years during the sport’s formative years in the St. Croix Valley, Reidt took over as head coach for the Ponies in their inaugural season as a varsity sport in 2008.
“I was a lot younger then and didn’t have any gray hair,” Reidt quipped. “I never thought about how long I’d be coach. I enjoyed it so much and every year was enjoyable and we really worked hard to build up our program.
“The girls in the program would leave, but they were still really tied to the program and it was just fun to keep things going and watch young kids come up and they’d learn from the older kids. There’s a lot of really positive memories, but not all of them have to do with winning and losing.”
Reidt led Stillwater to a 159-50 record, including 86-5 in the Suburban East Conference since the league added lacrosse in 2009.
“He’s built an excellent program,” Michel said. “There’s no question about it, he was a transformational coach and that’s what people look for in high school coaches. He was a very good role model and great as far as following what education sports entails. He worked very hard at his craft and built one of the best programs in the state — and for sure on the east side of the metro.”
Stillwater won the inaugural SEC title in 2009 and continued with nine in a row until having the streak snapped in 2018. The Ponies reclaimed the conference championship in 2019 when it also captured the program’s ninth straight section crown. The team carried high expectations into last spring before the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Reidt said the disappointment of last spring’s lost season didn’t directly impact his decision to step down.
“We’ve had good teams over the years and every so often you get a really mature team that had a lot of maturity and that would have been one of those years with a lot of people coming back,” Reidt said. “It was just a strong class. A lot of those kids were starters for two or three or four years and I knew them very well and they were hard-working kids. You miss that opportunity, but it wasn’t a factor in my decision.”
The team began training again during the summer and was also allowed additional practices during the fall — at which point he was still planning to continue as coach.
“I had been thinking about it, but I never really thought about stepping aside,” Reidt said. “It was a really difficult season, but that’s not why I decided to step aside. The season was canceled, but we had a fairly robust season. We tried to meet with zoom meetings and tried to keep the girls engaged. I also had more time at home doing things I hadn’t done in 12 years, so maybe that triggered the idea that there’s another life out there other than girls lacrosse. When I look back on 13 years, I always scheduled my family life and work life around lacrosse to make it work for everyone. I look forward to scheduling around my family life.
“We had a very nice summer season and we practiced four days a week during the summer contact period and played in two tournaments. We played a lot of lacrosse and it was a very enjoyable. We had some official fall practices, probably eight or nine practices. It was after that in November I started thinking about that and the whole time commitment and I sort of accelerated that (decision) before Christmas.”
Stillwater finished as high as third at state in 2014 and 2016 and also placed fourth four times in nine state appearances. Last year’s team featured equal parts talent and experience as the Ponies expected to add to add to those totals.
“That 2020 class was very strong,” Reidt said. “We had four or five returning all-state players and they were a really strong, mature group and I felt bad they didn’t get to experience that.
“You can wish all you want that you had that season, but there’s nothing you can do to change it. All the years we had were great and fun and that would have been another great season.“
He always tried to schedule as many of the state’s other top teams outside of the conference whenever possible.
“One thing we tried to do early on was find the toughest competition we could find during the regular season and that really helped our program improve quickly,” Reidt said.
The Ponies were stopped by Centennial in the section tournament in the program’s first two seasons and then advanced to the section finals in 2010 before falling to Mounds View 12-11. The Ponies finally broke through in 2011 and added section titles in each season that followed.
Clearing that Centennial hurdle was one of the more memorable moments for Reidt.
“We never lost a section championship after that, but we had to work very hard and some of our section championships and semifinal games were very close,” Reidt said.
Reidt, who has served Minnesota Girls Lacrosse Coaches Association Advisory Board, draws many lessons and philosophies from legendary UCLA basketball coaching John Wooden.
“I think the success has come from the buy-in from the team,” Reidt said. “My philosophy is focus on effort, not outcome. The Stillwater girls work very hard and many of them work year round and in conditioning programs. Our successes came from hard work with enthusiasm. We didn’t walk about winning the games, we just talked about focusing on our effort and out-fighting our opponents and it seemed to work out.
“We’ve had great support at Stillwater. We’ve had really good assistant coaches and really involved parents that let us do our job with their kids and that’s a big part of it. When you have good kids all you have to do is look at their parents because they’ve done a great job parenting them.”
Michel said he hopes to have Reidt’s successor in place by the end of February.
“With all of his success and the conference and section championships, he built a very successful program and we’re going to miss him,” Michel said.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org