RIP, Sticks: a Video Tribute to Coach Ballatore

  7 Braden Keith | April 28th, 2012 | Featured

The video above comes from swimmer and filmmaker Dan Kutler, a 1996 Olympian for Israel who once swam for the legendary coach Ron “Sticks” Ballatore.

Ballatore passed away last night at the age of 71 after a long battle with bone cancer.

He was a 5-time Olympic coach for three different countries (including the 1984 and 1988 games for the United States), and among others coached Tom Jager and Brian Goodell. He coached for 16 years at UCLA, leading them all the way up to the program’s demise in 1994, at which time he took over at the University of Florida, where he became a fixture in Gainesville even after his retirement.

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7 Comments on "RIP, Sticks: a Video Tribute to Coach Ballatore"


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Jeanne Hallock Craig
4 years 25 days ago

I was a member of the 1964 US Olympic swim team, swam for Rosemead Swim Club and City of Commerce Swim club under Don Gambril. I remember when Sticks came to be the assistent coach under Gambril, he was an amazing person, an amazing coach…..a true man among men. We had a great time with him. This is a great tribute to him. May he rest in peace.
Thanks Sticks for all you gave us……

From all in the swimming community, there will never be another…. The man, the myth the legend…. Ron “Stix” Ballatore. RIP my friend.

Greg Fink
4 years 25 days ago

Ron was a unique person. He was an inspiring coach and although he was not my coach, I had a lot of respect for him. Ron was one of those unique coached who “got” more out of his swimmers than other coaches. He will be missed.

John Leonard
4 years 25 days ago

Rest in Peace Sticks. A man who stood for all the good in our sport,
and his love of his teams and athletes was only exceeded by his love
for his family. Thank you Sticks. JL

Matt Jones
4 years 25 days ago

Swimming for Sticks at UCLA was one of the major influences that shaped my life. He had what today is the rare characteristic of being an advocate of truth and fairness, even if it was politically incorrect. He often took the heat for standing up for his swimmers and his sport, yet in the process taught his athletes lessons that would carry them beyond their years in the water. Thanks, Sticks. You will be will be missed, but not forgotten.

Bill Sullivan
4 years 24 days ago

My brother Pat and I spent the weekend with Sticks and his family recalling many stories about Ron and his career. He was very happy and somewhat humbled by his recent awards from the NCAA Coaches Association and particularly greatful for his induction into the UCLA Hall of Fame. Looking forward to the ceremonies he was working on his acceptance speeches and noted that “there have been many stories told during my career but you’ll have to ask Skip Kenney about them.” He was the same old stubborn yet caring man, demanding yet thankful for all the attention he had received during his battle to beat the illness that eventually took him down. He was definitely one of a kind. A caring and gentle man inside.

Bruce Furniss
4 years 22 days ago

Even for a former Trojan it is not hard to admit Ron’s positive impact on our sport, and his profound influence on those who knew him and on the Southern California swimming community at large. We have lost a favored son and a wonderful person loved and adored by many. Ron’s mannerisms were classic and his humor pricelss…always placed at just the right time. I have known Ron since my Phillips 66 age group days when he ran our team’s Pasadena sattelite (which later became PASASA) and have been close friends with many of his club and college swimmers through the years. He was also my USA team coach at the 1975 World Championships, a fond and fun memory for those of us with him in Cali, CO. I have said many times to my Bruin friends that the unfortunate, and senseless, demise of UCLA’s men’s swimming program in 1994, after 25 straight years of national top 10 finishes, hurt not only UCLA, but USC and Southern California swimming as a whole, as well…a blow from which we have yet to recover. It is not a coincidence that the last men’s collegiate swimming team champion, by either Los Angeles-based University, was UCLA in 1982, now 30 years ago. Ron’s first year at UCLA was my last at USC, a year his Bruins whooped us in our annual dual meet at Sunset Canyon. It remains a stinging defeat soothed and assuaged only by time and perspective. It heralded in a sign of good things to come in Westwood under his tutelage. “Sticks” was a great coach and an even better man, husband and father. He will be missed greatly by all he touched. R.I.P. Ron.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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