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Stromberg is one for the ages

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Rick Stromberg gives the Blue Devils some advice during a time out. He coached the boys junior varsity and varsity teams from 1970 to 1992. Courtesy photo

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From page A1 | August 30, 2013 |

Join the fun

What: Davis High School Hall of Fame 2013 induction ceremony

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14

Where: Freeborn Hall, UC Davis

Tickets: $65 each; visit www.dhsblueandwhite.org

* Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories profiling the 2013 inductees to the Davis High School Hall of Fame.
No coaching stipends, no assistant coaching positions and, comparatively, little to no budget to speak of.

Mentoring sports at Davis High in the ’60s and ’70s wasn’t — and still may not be — about the luxury. It’s the getting out there, the helping young athletes that motivated Rick Stromberg, former Blue Devil coach and athletic director.

But Stromberg has always been a hands-on guy, as evidenced by what it was that first brought him to DHS in 1965: impressing on a malleable cast of students the ways of architectural drawing, and later, woodworking and driving.

So began his 38-year-long Blue Devil career, which upon his retirement in June 2003 was the second longest of any teacher in the school system. In that time, he worked alongside ambitious coaches and, as he remembers most fondly, coached his son.

Not long after his initiation to a DHS teaching position, it was time for the selection of a mandatory “extra duty assignment,” which Stromberg chose to coach junior varsity football.

There was only one problem: He had, up to that point in his life, never picked up a football.

“In high school I was 130 pounds and 5 foot 7,” he admitted, laughing. “Since it was the beginning of football for most of these kids, it allowed me to learn the systems easier.”

That same year, 1965, he aided the coaching of the Blue Devil track and field squad. This was a sport he was familiar with, as he ran on his Arcata High School track team.

Stromberg continued until 1970, when he moved on to basketball mentoring. He served at the helm of the DHS junior varsity team under Les Curry for the next 14 years, and then took the reins as the varsity coach.

Among his most memorable experiences upon reflection of that time was coaching his son, Craig, as a Blue Devil.

“I still remember one game where we were playing against Valley (in 1988),” he said. “They left Craig alone out front, top of the key, and he ended up scoring 20 points.

“The coach at the time of Valley High School was a good friend. He came up to me at the end of the game and said, ‘Craig sure had the game of his life, didn’t he?’ ”

And along with the moments of pride were some memorable, but not so positive moments, of having to play diplomat with parents who claimed favoritism.

“There were some good things, but there were also some difficulties,” he said. “There were some who felt I gave him more attention, which I actively tried not to do.”

He also reminisced about 1989-90 and 1990-91, the two seasons in which he led his squad to Delta League championships.

The rewarding campaigns neared the terminus of the coaching portion of his DHS career, which came in 1992. He spent the remainder of his 38 years at the school acting as athletic director, a responsibility he accepted in 1983.

The passage of Title IX, which ensured equity for boys and girls in sports, came several years before. He spoke of its implementation being the most significant shift in the landscape of high school athletics:

“That was a big change, and a great one for girls athletics and so forth — to become competitive teams instead of just having to play in a recreational setting.”

He added that just sustaining on a small budget, and not dipping into the red, was an accomplishment in itself. A large part of that was facilitating fundraising activities.

And for his many years of ensuring that the Blue Devil athletics remained a strong part of the community, he will be inducted into the Davis High School Hall of Fame next month.

Stromberg is going to be honored, alongside four other inductees, for his individual efforts. But, as a modest soul, he preferred to speak more of the coaches who made strides under his reign as athletic director.

“Surely, if it weren’t for the talent of some of those coaches, we never would have brought the programs to the high level that they have risen to,” Stromberg said.

He’ll also be accepting the recognition during next month’s ceremony with the memory of the many students he taught and coached in mind.

“Still to this day I can remember many of them,” he said, “and how much fun it was to have them in class and on the team, and sometimes both.

“That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve missed in my retirement, not being with the students. I think they keep you young.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett

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