During a 50-plus year high school coaching career, Ron Holtman has garnered numerous wins and countless respect in the St. Louis athletic community. After coaching a variety of sports at Saint Louis University and Marquette (Alton) high schools, Holtman came to Saint Louis Country Day School (now MICDS) where he spent 39 years as the head football coach. Over that span, Holtman’s teams reached the Missouri state football playoffs 16 times, winning seven championships. When he stepped down from the position in 2004, his 382-101-8 career record (321-69-5 at MICDS) placed him in the top ranks of coaches with the most victories and highest winning percentage in Missouri prep football history. Holtman also taught history at MICDS, and has coached golf there for more than 40 years, winning five state titles. Today, he works with the alumni and development office and is preparing the golf team for the upcoming season.
Recently, Holtman was honored for his impressive career with the Metro Legends Award at the St. Louis Hall of Fame enshrinement dinner. LN caught up with Holtman to talk about that evening and his success through the years.
Congratulations on your award from the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame! What did it mean for you receive such an honor?
I was rather astounded, and at the same time, very pleased to accept it personally and on behalf of MICDS and the other schools where I’ve worked. It’s an accumulation of years getting to do what I enjoyed: coaching and teaching. But the idea of ‘living legend’ is pretty difficult to grasp. I qualify for one half of that—I’m still living!
What was your favorite part of the evening?
There was a large group of supporters from the school—alums, parents, students I coached and taught—who attended the event, and that meant a lot to me to see them there. At one point during the evening, I was being interviewed by a former student of mine, Tom Ackerman, and suddenly a song broke out. In the audience, former players and students were standing up, singing the Country Day fight song. That really registered with me because they know how much that song and being involved with the school means to me.
What is it about coaching and teaching that you love?
The most gratifying part is being able to develop a relationship with the kids you’re working with. I don’t think there’s any difference between coaching athletics or teaching in a classroom—you have to use the same principles. I realized how lucky I was to be involved in this profession.
With seven state football championships and five state golf titles, what is your secret to success?
I was very fortunate that MICDS and every school I’ve worked at had a very strong program, and the schools appreciated both athletic and academic excellence. I just made sure I maintained the integrity and quality of those programs. It was my job, but I never looked at it as hard work.
Do you have a favorite memory from your career?
One of my most happy, gratifying achievements was winning the state championship in 2004 in double overtime over a very strong Harrisonville team, which also was the last football game of my career. That was one of the better ones.
What have you enjoyed about coaching golf?
It’s different from football. With golf, many of these kids come in prepared and know how to play the game. Sometimes, instead of coaching, you’re just managing the game and making sure the kids stay on track, and the rest is up to them. The opponent is the course and yourself, rather than some tough guys on the other side of the field.
Do you have any advice for high school coaches today?
I think the majority of people who go into this profession do it for the reason that they love it and they’re going to do the best job they can. They may have different approaches, but they have a real zeal for what they’re doing and a sense of fairness. There’s no magic formula—I’ve just been very fortunate, and I’ve had a lot of fun.
The St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame also inducted or presented awards to the following individuals and groups: Bob Costas, Glenn Hall, Don Coryell, Jim Edmonds, Al Trost, Harry Gallatin, Bill DeWitt Jr., Orlando Pace, Ken Boyer, David Gall, Jim Hanifan, Ellen Port, Dr. Stan London, Dr. Richard Lehman, Teri Clemens, Bill Seebold, Tom O’Toole, the Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis and the Webster University baseball team.