50 Influencers: Dave Ellingsworth, Warrior hero

INA, Ill. (Oct. 14, 2017) – There are few names on Rend Lake College’s campus that transcend the person and represent an entire part of the RLC culture. When people hear the name Dave Ellingsworth, it’s impossible to not instantly think of the college’s softball program.

Dave Ellingsworth 2017 18 1WDave Ellingsworth

But, Ellingsworth didn’t get his start at RLC on the softball diamond. In fact, he was a 17-year teaching veteran in the Mining Technology program before he took over the softball team from fellow legendary coach Hummer Waugh. Officially taking the head managerial role in 1994, following six seasons as an assistant under Waugh, Ellingsworth got things started with a bang, going 14-1 in the conference (27-8 overall) and notching a GRAC championship and Coach of the Year honors.

It wouldn’t be the last accolade earned by an Ellingsworth team.

All his third team did was go 31-13 in the spring and 46-21 overall, earning Ellingsworth Region XXIV “Coach of the Year” laurels and the team’s first Region XXIV title. That was followed by an appearance at the NJCAA Women’s National Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., in May 1996, where they finished ninth.

In 2000 the team posted a conference 12-2 mark (34-13 overall) to become GRAC co-champions. The Lady Warriors also earned Region XXIV runner-up showings in ’02, ’03 and ’07, and five third-place finishes in the Final Four between 1998 and 2008.

EllingsworthCoachingWEllingsworth hard at work coaching the 2016-2017 softball team

Perhaps just as, if not more, important than his team’s on-the-field success is the fact that 10 of his squads were honored with NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year distinctions.

“Dave Ellingsworth is one of the finest people with whom I have ever had the pleasure to work.  His record as a softball coach speaks for itself, however, his character and caring attitude toward his players, fellow coaches and people in general are what separates him from other successful coaches.  I have learned a great deal about coaching and life in general from having the opportunity to work with Dave over the past 25 years.  I am grateful to have him as a friend and value his advice and counsel,” expressed Rend Lake College Athletic Director Tim Wills.  

Ellingsworth800winssillystringEllingsworth's team celebrates by shooting their coach with Silly String to celebrate his 800th coaching victory.

To further reflect that dedication to students and everyone else around him, in 2009, Ellingsworth was given the first Fellowship of Christian Athletes Scott Tickner Huddle Coach of the Year Award.

Named after Mt. Vernon Township High School Wrestling Coach and longtime local FCA representative Scott Tickner, the award was created to honor individuals and coaches who have demonstrated a passion for FCA’s faith-based values through years of dedication, action and leadership.

In the interest of historical accuracy, Ellingsworth was involved with Rend Lake College before he (or anyone else for that matter) knew that RLC was even going to exist. In 1963, he prowled the halls of Mt. Vernon Community college as a student-athlete. In fact, he was the ninth-leading scorer for the Warrior cagers in 1963-64 when he scored one point on 1-of-2 shooting from the line.

Following his time at MVCC, he spent four years flying helicopters as an Army pilot in Viet Nam and teaching Aviation Technology at his other alma mater, Southern Illinois University from 1971-77.

Truth be told, Ellingsworth is a true blue American hero to boot.

As a U.S. Army Gunship Pilot from 1966-67 – his call sign was “Firebird 93” – Ellingsworth became a decorated war hero. He flew countless missions into enemy territory, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism in aerial combat.

He was honored with the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross by Vietnam Premier Nguyen Cao Ky and was presented with the Vietnam Air Service Medal that features 21 oak leaf clusters.

In the July 23, 1967 edition of The Sunday Ledger-Enquirer out of Columbus, Ga., Staff Writer Charles Black wrote about U.S. forces sinking a North Vietnamese trawler on July 15 off the coast of Chu Lai. It was reportedly carrying enough weapons, ammunition and explosives to refit two regiments and sustain Viet Cong fighting for a year.

Ellingsworth Chief Warrant OfficerWChief Warrant Officer Ellingsworth during his time in the Vietnam War.

Black explained how the trawler was followed by radar for 200 miles and nearly got away. After it was spotted, the Navy’s swift boats intercepted the trawler and two destroyers moved in to hem it off, Black stated.

“The desperate voyage of the trawler, all of whose crew escaped except three left behind dead, was ended by a 23-year-old Army Warrant Officer named David A. Ellingsworth . . .” the report reads.

In addition, He also received a Purple Heart for being wounded in action. When his helicopter was taking on enemy fire, an automatic rifle round went through his wrist, glanced off of a metal plate worn by pilots under their uniform and smashed into his instrument panel.

In a previous interview, Ellingsworth said that time in his life imparts valuable perspective for his role on the softball diamond.

“I know exactly what I’m capable of,” Ellingsworth said. “And as far as coaching, I can keep things in perspective. If I make a bad decision on the field, I get someone thrown out at the plate. At that particular time in my life, if I made a bad decision, someone somewhere in the world would lose their most precious possession.”

In 1969, fresh out of the Army, he went back to school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Maintenance Control. He stayed at SIU after graduating and taught in the School of Aviation from 1971 to 1977.

That was the year he accepted a teaching position in the Mining and Industrial Technology departments at RLC. By the mid-1980s, Ellingsworth was on the softball field as a Lady Warrior Assistant Coach under Jim Waugh. He took over head coaching duties in fall 1993.

23 Seasons / 856-688 (.554)

Season Fall Spring Overall
2016-17    37-21  37-21
2015-16   *37-17 *37-17
2014-15   29-20 29-20
2013-14   23-30 23-30
2012-13   25-26 25-26
2011-12   17-38 17-38
2010-11   12-24 12-24
2009-10 12-6 24-25 36-31
2008-09 13-9 15-30 28-39
2007-08 16-9 24-26 40-35
2006-07 18-8 36-23 54-31
2005-06 10-15 25-28 35-43
2004-05 *11-15 *26-33 *37-48
2003-04 10-19 23-29 33-48
2002-03 *17-10 28-24 *45-34
2001-02 19-8 28-18 47-26
2000-01 *14-11 *28-22 *42-33
’99-2000 24-12 34-13 58-25
1998-99 16-9 *20-20 *36-29
1997-98 16-11 27-20 43-31
1996-97 29-5 32-16 61-21
1995-96 15-8 31-13 46-21
1994-95 12-9 25-12 37-21
1993-94 8-9 27-8 35-17
  260-173 596-515  

* Ties

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.40 GPA)

Softball ~
Coach Dave Ellingsworth – 800th Win in 22 seasons
NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.45 GPA)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.31 GPA)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.55 GPA)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.26 GPA)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.28 GPA

Softball ~
Coach Dave Ellingsworth – 700th Win in 17 seasons
NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.25 GPA)

Softball ~
Region XXIV Tournament Runner-Up (37-24)
Coach Dave Ellingsworth – 600th Win in 14 seasons

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.04 GPA)

Softball ~
Coach Dave Ellingsworth – 500th Win in 12 seasons
(W, 7-6 vs. Jefferson Davis C.C. March 11, 2005)
NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.40 GPA)

Softball ~
Great Rivers Athletic Conference Co-Champion (12-2)
Dave Ellingsworth / GRAC Co-“Coach of the Year”

Softball ~
9th, NJCAA Fast-Pitch Championships (46-21) (1st, Region XXIV)
Dave Ellingsworth / Region XXIV “Coach of the Year”

Softball ~
Great Rivers Athletic Conference Champion (15-1)
Dave Ellingsworth / GRAC “Coach of the Year”

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