By Steve Ruman
The longtime coach will take over the girls basketball program.
MINERAL RIDGE — Del Ruiter is living proof that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
In Ruiter’s case, being away from the basketball court for two seasons only reinforced his love for the game and his desire to return to coaching ranks. Ruiter did just that Wednesday when he was hired by the Mineral Ridge Board of Education to take over the Rams’ girls basketball program.
Ruiter replaces Jerry Postlethwait, who retired at the end of the last season. Postlethwait coached the Rams for the past four seasons in his second stint with the program. He previously guided the program from 1989-99.
Mineral Ridge finished with a 2-19 record this past winter.
“It’s exciting to be back. After being away from the sidelines for one year, I realized how much I missed it,” Ruiter said. “It’s especially rewarding to be able to get back into the game while remaining right here at Mineral Ridge.”
For Ruiter, coaching girls basketball brings him back to his coaching roots. He began his career as a Rams assistant from 1981 to 1984.
He also worked for years as a Mineral Ridge boys junior high coach before taking over the boys varsity program in 2000. In six seasons at the varsity level, his teams compiled a 77-56 record.
Ruiter has been teaching in the Mineral Ridge school system for 31 years.
“I love the kids here. As both a coach and a teacher, I’ve always had a great relationship with our students,” Ruiter said. “The one thing I can be certain of is that I’ll be dealing with a bunch of hard-working, disciplined girls who are good kids and solid students.”
Ruiter stepped down from his position as boys varsity coach following a memorable 2005-06 season which saw the Rams win a district title en route to a 21-3 finish. He spent the following season working as a color commentator for the Fox 17/62 Game Of The Week broadcasts.
“That was an enjoyable adventure that kept me close to the game, but it also made me realize that I was probably going to miss coaching a lot more than I thought I would,” Ruiter said.
Ruiter spent last season, “taking in as many games as my wife would allow.”
Despite being away from the girls game for more than two decades, Ruiter does not view the absence as a hindrance.
“The speed of the game might be a bit different between boys and girls, but the game itself is the same, and it still comes down to the same fundamentals no matter who you are coaching,” Ruiter said. “Next year, we’ll be focusing on the same basic concepts of the game that we were focusing on in 1981.”
Still, Ruiter admits that the girls game has evolved greatly over the past 25 years.
“Girls are beginning to play at such a young age, and they are very experienced by the time they reach the varsity level,” Ruiter said. “Plus, the experience within the coaching ranks is so much more advanced. Right now, there are a great number of women coaches who are former players. You didn’t have that twenty-five years ago.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I look forward to. I’m just excited to be back.”