Richard “Dick” Yates is what all those David and Goliath sports stories are made of. Like most underdogs, he displayed a little of both David and Goliath on the athletic fields.
As a competitor, Yates backed away from no one. He weighed all of 135 pounds his senior year at Denver South High School and was chosen All-City as an offensive guard in 1944. “I only weighed 95 pounds as a junior,” adds Yates for good measure.
At the University of Denver, there were the same obstacles. Yates was larger at 160 pounds, but so were the opponents and he still made All-League in football as an offensive lineman in the old Skyline Conference. Yates earned four letters in football, three in basketball and one in baseball during a collegiate career that was crowned by the All-Conference selection in football in 1949.
While he was a David in stature, Yates had a Goliath heart. He played like a giant, and later as a coaching legend in Denver, his teams played with the same defiant style. The Yates trademark was “most people lose because they don’t play hard enough to win.”
“My first love was football”, said Yates who wanted to be a football coach after college. “I started out coaching the Roughriders in the Young America League in north Denver.” But after joining South High’s faculty in 1950, Yates became a head baseball coach four years later. What followed was a change in loves and one of the best prep coaching records ever in Colorado. Yates figures his victory totals in baseball go well beyond 300 in high school and Summer Legion competition. His South teams were city and state champions in 1958, 1959 and 1960 and they won 44 straight games at one point. The Rebels were city champs in 1961 and Denver Prep League co-champions in 1955 and 1957. “Probably my biggest strength as a coach was that I could motivate people,” said Yates.
Yates left baseball briefly to coach football at South in 1960-64, where he led them to a city-co-championship in 1960. In 1966, Yates left South to join Kennedy High School’s faculty where he also coached baseball. The Commanders were city champs and state runners-up in 1973 and city champs in 1974.
Yates American Legion teams were also devastating, claiming city championships from 1957-61 and state championships from 1957-60. After his move to Kennedy, Yates’ Legion teams won city titles in 1967, 1970 and 1973.
Yates retired from the Denver system in 1980. Scott, his middle son and head coach at Kent Denver High School, got Yates back into coaching in 1982 as his assistant coach. “I don’t have a specific coaching assignment,” said Yates. “I basically go around and help individual players with their assignments.”
Most people lose because they don’t play hard enough to win.