“When I got the call from Jay Black at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, it was very emotional because you don’t realize it until it sinks in,” said Rita. “I’ve been inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame and San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame, but when it’s your state – it’s Texas — and to be recognized as one of the best athletes and ambassadors to come out of this state is huge. There are so many great athletes, and I can’t wait until the day that we all get to be together and celebrate this as a group.”
Rita also played professional volleyball in Japan, Italy and Switzerland, then returned to the U.S. to play in the then-new Major League Volleyball league from 1986-87, earning the Most Valuable Player award. In 1989, she teamed with Volleyball Hall of Famer Jackie Silva to win the World Beach Volleyball Championship, becoming the first African-American woman to earn this title. Her indoor playing career continued in Italy with Matera and Rome from 1988 to 1993, where she earned another MVP award in the Italian League in 1991.
Although her playing career ended in 1998, Rita continued her contributions to the sport through coaching, first as Iowa’s head coach from 1998 to 2004, and then as the associate head coach for Florida State in 2004-05.
Rita was named the 2015 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Coach of the Year as she led the Florida International University (FIU) Panther Beach squad to back-to-back AVCA National Championship appearances in the program’s three-year existence.
"I have always felt that volleyball completed me; I love the indoor game. I love the beach game and throughout my whole career I had the best coaches, which is very rare,” noted Rita. “I have found that volleyball is a sport that brings people into your life to help you understand how what you are doing is valuable. When I was on the U.S. team I felt that responsibility of representing the United States of America, and learned that it’s not about me anymore. I still feel that way now as a coach.”
Presented by Texas Farm Bureau Insurance, Rita will join other inductees at the February event including former Texas A&M & Los Angeles Rams defensive back Dave Elmendorf, Texas A&M University track & field coach Pat Henry, former Houston Cougars NCAA women’s volleyball player Flo Hyman (deceased), 2008 Olympic all-around gymnastics champion Nastia Liukin, University of Texas track & football star Eric Metcalf, Denver Broncos football defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and former Dallas Cowboys All Pro safety Darren Woodson. This class joins a long list of Texas sport legends forever being honored as a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
The February 21 event will begin with a reception at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame at 4 p.m., with a 6 p.m. banquet at the Waco Convention Center. Combination Reception/Banquet tickets are $200 each or $1,400 for a reserved table of eight. Banquet-only tickets can be purchased for $75 each, or $600 for a reserved table of eight. To purchase tickets, please call the museum at 800-567-9561 or follow this link to purchase tickets.
For additional information on Rita or any of the other inductees, please contact Liz Hilton, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jay Black, email@example.com.
About the Texas Sports Hall of Fame
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, located in Waco, Texas, chronicles the heroes and legends of the Lone Star State sports at all levels, including high school standouts, Olympians and professionals. Established in 1993, the organization’s mission is to preserve the legacies of all inductees and the history of sports in Texas to educate and inspire guests of all ages. Home to over 300 Texas Legends, the museum houses the Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame and Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is located at 1108 S. University Parks Dr. Waco, Texas 76706. For more information, please visit http://www.tshof.org/.