Schimke’s path to Paso is as compelling as any game
“May 1st, 1973: Dear fifth grade teacher…when I grow up, I want to be a math teacher…Your friend, Ritchie Schimke.”
Forty-two years after writing that small, cursive letter to his future fifth grade teacher, AP Statistics teacher and head football coach, Richard Schimke has achieved his ultimate goal. His math teaching spans 27 years, and has made him well-known for his passionate, humorous flair. He has additionally ascended to the throne of high school football, earning 2015 CIF Coach of the Year and a 2015 CIF Championship. His achievements on the field and in the math room have not happened without a story.
At Atascadero HS–yes, he started there–Schimke lettered in both basketball and football. He passed on acceptances to his dream school UCLA and to Pepperdine to stay close to home at Cal Poly due to a family issue difficult to discuss.
And further hardships ensued.
“You know, it’s tough. In college, my sister died when I was 19; she was 18. I got a scholarship taken away from me,” Schimke said. “But I kept on going to school through that time, and in retro[spect] it was probably the best thing that I could’ve done, and it taught me to persevere and to prove people wrong.”
He calls it a path that led him PRHS. It was shortly after that Schimke discovered his fondness for coaching while still attending Cal Poly, starting out at Atascadero High School in 1983 with football and basketball, the same sports he participated in during high school.
A 20 year stretch of coaching has not faded his passion.
“I like chess matches. I like to strategize. I like to think ahead. I like to think outside the box. Anybody can call plays. Anybody can coach. But it’s something that evolves in people,” Schimke said. “I like challenges. When people tell me that I can’t do something, I like the challenges. And a lot of times you’ll find kids shy away from challenges. I like challenging people.”
In 1988, he started teaching at Paso Robles High School, and in 1989 founded the girls freshman basketball program that he coached for 11 years. “Boys had it for years prior to that, but girls didn’t, so I guess you could say it was fun getting that started. Equity in sports back then was big,” Schimke said.
Current girls basketball head coach Heidi Sill was one of his players. “She was a four year starter for me. It’s nice to see your ex-players coming back and doing stuff like that,” he said.
Another constant through the years: his girlfriend and future wife, Erin Sherman–eventually Schimke.
“My wife Erin and I started dating when we were 16, and we got married at 28,” Schimke said. Erin’s father, Dr. Sherman, was a physician for William Randolph Hearst’s son at the castle in the 40s and the 50s.
“He was ailing in that period when we were finishing up college looking to get married. We put it off until after he passed in ‘88,” Schimke continued.
After Dr. Sherman’s death, the two got married, and one tumultuous time turned to another: the Schimke’s faced challenges having a child. Difficulty preceded the birth of their first child Tyler, who is now fourteen, and continued in having a second child. The Schimkes turned their attention towards adoption and the Family Care Network agency of SLO.
After a period of uncertainty, an adoption call interrupted a Lakers game, as the Schimkes shifted quickly from watching Kobe Bryant to a name that would soon become much more important: Sarah.
“‘Mr. Schimke, you fit the criteria for a little girl that was born just a little bit ago, and you’ve got a half-hour to make up your mind,’” a doctor explained.
For Schimke, the decision seemed to be an easy one, as he ultimately put it in another’s hands. He sat Tyler down by the family fireplace and asked him a question that turned out to be quite simple.
“‘Tyler, do you wanna have a little sister?’ He was seven years old at the time, he goes ‘Yeah Dad. It’s just like a sleepover right?’ I go, ‘Yeah, something like that’, and the rest is history,” said Schimke. He has been the proud father of Sarah for six years now.
Schimke’s path to PRHS was anything but normal, but in the end, he realized his childhood dream, an achievement few reach. Nowadays, Schimke speaks of the fulfillment it brings him when he gets emails and calls from former students and players and of the power of Paso. For him, these moments are what makes it all worth it, and while he realizes he can’t reach everybody, he takes great pride in being a Bearcat.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s fun seeing Paso go from the hardships that we’ve had the last few years to getting that lifeblood back into this school. I hate it when people say that Paso High is this and that. I talk to people and say we’ve got a great school. This school offers so much, so much, and has so many great teachers. It’s a pleasure to be with,” said Schimke.
His advice is both ironic and perfect for the path he has walked. “Explore the world,” he said.