Upon retirement, Skinner savors her softball coaching career with memories
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
Cindy Skinner can’t immediately reel off every happy memory she’s had coaching the Rifle High School softball team. Because of that, her team decided to make a reminder for her.
That reminder came in the form of a quilt, which had parts of T-shirts from each of the 19 years she coached the team. It served as an all-encompassed reminder of a coaching career that spanned nearly two decades and included memories that extended beyond wins and losses.
“There’s a lot that I remember,” said Skinner, who on Nov. 3 officially stepped down as Rifle’s head softball coach. “I remember successes and all kinds of challenges that we overcame with every team, girls who started when they were young and excelled when they got into high school, and all of the camaraderie that they built. There’s just so many fun things you remember that make you laugh when you look back at them.”
The 56-year-old Skinner, who is also a counselor at the school, has decided to retire following a career in education that has spanned more than three decades. She’s spent 26 years at Rifle High School, which came after she’d spent seven years working for Garfield Youth Services (now known as YouthZone).
It’s the 19 years she spent as Rifle’s softball coach, however, which earned her the quilt that served as a reminder of the success the program has had in the past, which included a 4A district title in 1997, Class 4A Western Slope League championships in 2002 and 2008 and trips to the 4A State Championships in 2002 and 2004.
And none of that would have happened if Skinner, who started the program, hadn’t gotten that ball rolling in time for the 1995 season.
Skinner coached athletes who played summer softball through the Rifle Recreation Department, and some of her players approached her about the possibly starting a high school softball program at Rifle. She then approached former Rifle High Athletic Director Ray Sigwart about the possibility, and adding the team was approved before the end of the 1994-95 school year just in time to get a team together for the upcoming 1995 fall prep softball season.
Skinner admitted that the first season was a struggle, but that only lasted one season. The Bears’ run of successful seasons came in bunches after that, including a run of five league championships in seven seasons — where the Bears also won the league title four consecutive seasons from 2005 to 2008. Ironically, skinner told The Citizen Telegram prior to the 2008 season it would be a rebuilding year.
This season was truly a rebuilding season for Rifle, however. The Bears finished with a 1-17 overall record in 2014 with a roster made up predominantly of underclassmen. Skinner — even though she won’t be there next season — was highly optimistic about their chances of improvement for the upcoming 2015 campaign.
“They always kept a positive attitude, win or lose,” Skinner said.
And that’s just one more memory that came from a career commemorated by a quilt — among other things.
“These girls were telling me that they were lucky because I inspired them or something,” Skinner said, sheepishly. “I’d have to disagree with that. I’m the one who got to spend so much time with them and make a lot of memories. I’m the one who’s lucky.”
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