As a child, Martha Richards played every sport her friend Grant would play. But when it came to hockey and football, two of the most popular sports in her Midwest hometown of Hudson, Wis., her father would not let her join in.
“My dad crushed my dreams,” Richards said. “I wanted to be the first female NFL quarterback.”
That was the attitude Martha Richards, head coach of the Texas women’s golf team, had throughout her childhood and later throughout her career as a collegiate athlete: a curiosity that knew no bounds. It was because of these traits and an outstanding basketball talent that she was recently inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association’s hall of fame for her playing days at Hudson High School in the 1980s.
She first picked up a ball in second grade, playing with her brothers in their driveway and later with other boys in Little League.
“[The] boys were just players,” Richards said. “I just found different ways to score due to their size.”
Despite the stature difference between Richards and the guys she still managed to lead her league in scoring through eighth grade using her patented Bob Cousy-esque shot, a dribble to the left coupled with a pull-up jumper.
“[I] shot the shot all the way out to the three,” Richards remarked with pride.
When she moved up to the girls varsity team in ninth grade, Richards continued to be extremely successful as she led the conference in scoring throughout high school. In 1988, her senior year, Richards was awarded the Miss Wisconsin Basketball award, and was a USA Today All-American.
“She was a phenomenal shooter, so far ahead of the time as a girls’ basketball player,” said her high school coach Dave Johnson.
However the accomplishment she is proudest of in high school was leading her team to its first ever state championship tournament. Along the way, Hudson beat arch nemesis Durant and broke its 63-game home winning streak.
“I’ve never seen so much hype over a girls high school basketball game, they had to turn people away from the doors,” Richards said. “We got to sign autographs for little kids after the game. It was really neat.”
However basketball wasn’t the only sport that Richards excelled at in high school. She was a four-letter athlete who competed in track, tennis and golf as well.
“I was passionate about sports. No one forced it on me, it was just fun,” Richards said. “I worry when kids specialize today — last time I checked it was just a game.”
She was great at all the sports she competed in and even won a golf state championship her senior year, despite only playing the game for two years and practicing sporadically because of the Wisconsin weather.
“She was very talented athletically, she used to compare shooting free throws to putting, and the rhythm that both take to do well,” Johnson said.
Her athletic abilities earned her a basketball scholarship to Stanford, and the option to walk on to the golf team. According to Richards, the golf coach told her, “We’ll just see how good you can get.”
Richards continued to light up the basketball court at Stanford and as a sophomore helped the team to its first ever NCAA championship, plus another Final Four appearance her junior year. Richards also turned into a very successful golfer at Stanford, red shirting her freshman year and learning the nuances of the game. In her four years at Stanford Richards transformed into an all-round golfer, earning All-American honors in 1993 as a senior.
The next step for Richards was the LPGA tour, which she played on from 1995 to 1996.
“It was the natural evolution to see if I was good enough to play on tour against the best players in the world,” Richards said.
After leaving the tour in 1996, ‘The Runner’ looked toward a new field: coaching. She accepted her first job as head coach of the women’s team at Boise State in 1997.
“I always knew deep down I wanted to coach,” Richards said. “I just got to be the boss sooner with golf than with basketball. Can’t see myself being a third assistant.”
She moved on to be an assistant at Texas in 1998, and in 2000 she took the Vanderbilt head coaching job. However in 2007 she returned to Austin, this time as a head coach.
“I’m fortunate and blessed to be doing what I’m doing. It’s an awesome time to be a Longhorn,” Richards said.
Richards doesn’t have much time to get out on the course or the court these days, but whenever her players doubt her abilities she likes to remind them that it doesn’t take a long time to warm up a Rolls-Royce.