Whether the Newman Jets are swinging their tennis rackets, shooting the soccer ball or swishing the basketball through the net, chances are local photographer Richard Rico is there to capture the action.
Rico isn’t a current student, alumni, staff or faculty member — but that doesn’t stop him from photographing Newman athletics events out of the kindness of his heart.
Get to know Richard Rico
Originally from Mulvane, Kansas, Rico grew up in a Catholic family, graduated from high school in 1970 and attended trade school at Pittsburg State University. When he left home, his interest in film photography peaked and he found himself photographing his younger brother’s football games.
“Back then, it took a lot of film to get the photos and took a lot of mistakes to get the result,” Rico said. “I did sports photography around Mulvane over the years and when I married in ‘79, my picture-taking slowed down. I retired a few years ago, and reached that age when I was asking the Lord what direction he is leading me.”
Rico added, “I think he was telling me, ‘It’s time for you to do what you like to do.’”
The pandemic limited Rico’s travels to Oklahoma, where he had spent time photographing athletic events for Northern Oklahoma College. Rico paused his interstate travels and instead looked for sports photography opportunities closer to home in Kansas.
That’s when he thought of Newman University.
“When Newman came to mind, I was really excited about it, and excited to support the players, especially being Catholic,” he said. “Photography gives me a lot of energy. It’s something I do for fun and I love to share it with others. I had parents who were really giving people, so that desire to give came naturally for me.”
A friend to Newman Athletics
What started out as photographing Newman softball and baseball games eventually led to photographing soccer, basketball, wrestling and tennis — even to the point of traveling out of town for matches.
“I thought tennis would be a good challenge for me, so I went to Riverside where the team was playing and I met Shella (Augspurger) right away. I asked her what the rules were, and she and the team really took me in. I fell in love with the teams, players, coach — I follow them quite a bit.”
Augspurger, Newman’s director of tennis, was immediately struck by Rico’s kindness, sense of humor and willingness to photograph tennis when he had never before captured the sport on camera.
“Tennis photography is so difficult and after one match he was amazing,” Augspurger said.
Several Newman tennis players are international students, so Rico’s photos give the players’ families the chance to cheer the student-athletes on from all around the world.
Sophomore Marie Brunet traveled more than 4,700 miles from her home in Paris to play tennis at Newman. Seeing the photos Rico shares means a great deal to her and her family.
“I never had a photographer taking photos while we were playing, so when Richard first took pictures of me and the team during my first semester, I was really impressed and loved getting those pictures,” Brunet said. “When I told Richard I was very interested in photography, he even let me shoot a basketball game at Newman. I loved doing it and thanked him very much for the experience.”
Not only does Rico act as the team’s photographer, Brunet described Rico as the team’s “best supporter.”
“He is always motivated to come take pictures of us, even when traveling hours away,” she said. “Richard is doing amazing work, and we always love having him with us during our matches.”
Beyond the lens
Rico holds the Newman tennis teams close to his heart due to the early connections he formed while photographing the team, but he also believes in leaving a positive impact beyond just the finished photos.
“These are 18- to 21-year-olds, away from home for the first time and they need mentors, whether it’s in the form of coaches or teammates,” Rico said. “So I try I look at myself as trying to be a mentor if I can. I’m shy so I don’t go running around, but if we cross paths during a game or before a game, I try to give them support.”
He added, “I care about their spiritual welfare as well as their physical welfare, and I depend on the Holy Spirit a lot. If God calls to say something, I try to share it if I can.”
Augspurger is always grateful to see Richard with his camera, but especially appreciates his efforts that exceed expectations.
“Richard travels to our away matches and is the nicest, kindest person I have met in a very long time,” she said. “His dedication to his faith is so awesome and he fits right in with the mission of Newman University and the athletic program.”
She added, “I’m so proud to say he has become a friend of mine and of the Newman tennis team.”
Follow Richard Rico’s Snapshots Facebook page for his latest photographs and adventures with the Newman Athletics teams.