By JOHN GORALSKI
On Tuesday, Oct. 22, Tim Connellan spread the news on social media about the town’s new athletic director like a proud friend announcing news about his neighbor. But, in a way, that was exactly what he was doing.
“I’m pleased to report to you that at the board of education meeting this evening, the board appointed Steve Risser to the position of athletic director of the Southington Public Schools,” the superintendent wrote in his post on Tuesday. “Steve comes to us with a great deal of experience and a varied background. In addition, Steve is a Southington resident, as some of you know.”
For Risser, the Southington position is a sort of homecoming. His wife, Rosemary, has been a Southington school teacher since 1982 and has taught kindergarten at Kelley school for more than 20 years. Now, he will join his wife as a Southington faculty member, the first Southington resident to hold the position since Dr. Robert Lehr retired in 2007.
“My wife and I have been in the Southington community since 1993,” Risser said. “This is about coming home. Rose was a big supporter for me to look at this. We both know what it takes to do this job.”
In fact, Risser is no stranger to Southington athletiics. After retiring from ESPN, he worked for the Blue Knights as a volunteer coach and as an announcer in the press box before starting his career as an athletic director.
“I did my administrative internship in Southington when [former principal] Kathy McGrath was here with [former superintendent] Dr. Joseph Erardi and [former AD] Eric Swallow,” Risser said. “I’ve been connected to the Southington community for a long time. I used to help out with the girls soccer team. When I first left ESPN, I volunteered as a coach for them.”
But for the past 10 years, Risser has been serving as the athletic director in Windsor, and he’s grown that program into a state juggernaut. Since Risser joined the Windsor program in 2010, the Warriors have won 30 state championships in track, volleyball, hockey, basketball, and football (accounting for almost half of the school’s 67 state championships since 1963). In additon, Risser’s Warriors have been runners up during another 25 postseason runs.
“It’s been fantastic there. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of exciting things done from a facilities point of view, and I’ve put a lot of things in place in Windsor that I’m proud about,” Risser said. “This is something that I love doing.”
According to Risser, the transition from Windsor to Southington won’t be immediate. Because the job opening came during the school year, Risser will need some time to make sure that Windsor’s athletic program is in order, so that they can also make a smooth transition.
But it won’t be long before Risser is a fixture, once again, on the Southington sidelines. He should be settled in well before the winter season gets underway. In the meantime, he said that he was looking forward to being at the Southington-Cheshire Thanksgiving Day football game, since Windsor plays their regular season finale on Wednesday night.
Howie Hewitt will continue to act as interim AD during the transition.
“The good news is that it’s not like I’m coming into a place that has to be rebuilt,” said Risser. “Things are good here, so my mission is going to be to serve the student-athletes for all the sports and keep in mind that academics come first.”
According to Risser, the student-athlete has always been his top priority. He has a sign that he keeps in his office that reads, “Academics plus athletics equals success.” That sign will soon be hanging on his wall at the high school.
“That’s really sort of been my mantra,” he said.
To comment on this story to contact Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.