So Ricky Albus is leaving. Packing up. Moving on. When Martin High School bid adieu to the school year last month, so did Albus, walking out with no intentions of returning. He did it like anyone else would after 25-plus years toiling away in the same vocation – with some trepidation, some heartache, an assortment of fond memories, eagerness, and a rather weird sense of freedom, humility and gratification.
“Yes, sir,” he said the other day, looking unperturbed, untroubled and undisturbed in a long-sleeved shirt, shorts, and wide smile. “It’s time to go.”
Outside his own inner circle, few might know who Albus is or what he has achieved, this inquisitive, wide-eyed boy from Johnson County who just wanted to leave whatever he touched a little better than how he found it.
Thing is, we never know the kind of legacy we are going to leave because we have our versions, and life has its own version.
When Albus arrived in Arlington in 1994 he was a football guy, taking over Martin as head coach. He did that successfully for years until Seguin opened and he signed on as the school’s head football coach and athletic director.
“The first time I pulled up to Seguin when it was still being built,” Albus said, “I just sat there and said to myself, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I’m the head coach of this place? Like, seriously? They are about to pay me to teach these kids football? Crazy.”
Once Albus’ own kids enrolled at Martin he returned as an assistant football coach. That changed, too, over time, and soon Albus was no longer the football guy but the Outdoor Adventures instructor, looking for his next thing.
It came when one of his students asked him about starting an archery club, and another nudged him about it and then another. Archery is part of the Outdoor Adventures curriculum, a kind of elective physical education course. As an avid hunter of white tail deer since his mid-20s, Albus knew his way around a bow, and he thought an archery club would be beneficial.
Yet, “the hardest thing about archery is that most of the information has been primarily one-on-one as private instruction,” Albus says. “There’s really nothing out there that talks about teaching it to 80 kids at a time” … as a former football coach.
“When I coached football, I always approached it from what I called a whole part methodology,” he says. “It’s where I teach the full concept once so they get a general idea. Then I break it into its pieces until you get to your final product.”
In football, you prepare each week for a new offense and different defense. In archery, it’s the same target at the same distances.
“Golf and pitching in baseball are the only two sports I can come up with that are even remotely close to the mental challenge involved with archery,” Albus says. “It’s tremendously cerebral and psychological. It’s a target-related issue where they are so caught up into the end result of trying to hit a bull’s eye that the brain can sort of short circuit and forget the steps in order to go from the shooting line to the bull’s eye.”
In time, Albus adapted, and the Martin club thrived, winning a state championship.
Better yet, Albus convinced Arlington ISD to open archery to all six high schools; practices are in their own building, off Little Road. At the end of this final Albus season, close to 400 kids are involved in AISD Archery, with each school having its own squad – with Albus as coach. Martin, with its head start and proximity to home base, has had the most team success, but individuals from the other schools have reached all-state status and even competed nationally.
“It makes me feel better knowing that whoever sits in this seat next year will have some pretty good kids coming back,” he says.
Not that he’s completely done with archery. In retirement, he wants to lobby the University Interscholastic League about making archery a certified sport. He also plans to write a book on how to teach archery to the masses.
So the legacy, the one he never really envisioned, goes on.
“It’s all been amazing,” Albus says. “Just an amazing career for a dumb ole’ Johnson County kid” who simply wanted to leave whatever he touched better than how he found it.