DANBURY- Immaculate High School’s first varsity football game was bittersweet on Saturday. The ATI United football team honored one of its own who recently passed – former football coach Rich Holmes of Danbury – with a touching ceremony before the game at Mustang Valley.
Holmes helped create the football co-op program named “ATI United” between Immaculate and Henry Abbott Technical High School (ATI) in 2014 and coached the team until 2019. He is widely credited with setting the right tone for the marriage of the two teams and had been a staple at its games until his death June 4.
“Rich had a huge impact here at Immaculate. He had a big heart, always cared about the kids and always wanted the best for student-athletes,” remembered Athletic Director Nelson Mingachos. “He was always the first one here and the last one to leave every night.”
Holmes’ family accepted a plaque from Immaculate as ATI United players stood behind a memorial tribute to his time coaching the team (which the family also took home). Holmes was an educator in the Danbury School System for over 30 years, coaching there and also at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury and Notre Dame High School in Fairfield before coaching the Abbott Technical football team. Longtime Immaculate Coach Bobby Plumb read reflections about Holmes at the ceremony from his former players and mentees – all cited his sense of humor, encouragement as a teacher and coach plus his ability to serve as a role model for many.
“Even after he retired, you’d find Coach Holmes in the stands rooting for our ATI United team,” Mingachos said. “He was here all last year cheering on the ATI football team. We will definitely miss seeing him in the stands – but we know Coach Holmes’ spirit will always be with us.”