Born: November 6, 1957 in San Antonio, Texas (United States)
Country: United States
Category: Female Indoor Player
Considered as one of the best all-round volleyball players ever in the world, Rita Crockett has been a trailblazer in the sport of volleyball for parts of five decades and continues to be active in the sport today.
After earning AIAW All-American honors in 1977 as a part of the legendary University of Houston volleyball team along with the late Volleyball Hall of Famer Flo Hyman, Rita turned her skills to the international volleyball scene and helped put the United States among the world’s elite. She was selected to the 1980 U.S. Women’s Olympic Volleyball Team, which was among the favorites to win the gold medal at the Moscow Olympic Games. However, Rita and her teammates were denied the chance for Olympic stardom in 1980 due to the United States boycott of the Moscow Games.
Despite the disappointment of not competing in Moscow, Rita continued channeling her energies into her volleyball career. In 1981, she was voted to the All-World Team as one of the top six players as she played a key role in the U.S. placing fourth at the FIVB World Cup in Osaka, Japan. One year later, Rita and her American teammates captured the bronze medal at the FIVB World Championship in Lima, Peru. That momentum carried over into the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles as the U.S. reached the medal round with victories over West Germany, China and Brazil. Team USA reached the gold-medal match with a four-set victory over Peru in the semifinals, guaranteeing the Americans their first-ever Olympic Games volleyball medal. In the gold-medal match, a Chinese team led by Volleyball Hall of Famer Lang Ping earned the title with the U.S. taking home the silver medal.
Outside of the U.S. National Team program, Rita played 16 years of professional volleyball in Japan, Italy and Switzerland. From 1982 to 1986, she honed her skills in Japan’s V-League playing for Daiei. In her final season with Daiei, she helped lead the squad to the V-League title.
Rita returned to the United States to play in the new Major League Volleyball league from 1986-87, earning the league’s most valuable player award in 1987. During this time, she moved into the coaching field serving as an assistant with Long Beach State University from 1986 to 1988. While not competing in the MLV or coaching, Rita took to the sand and became an accomplished beach volleyball star competing on the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association Tour from 1988 to 1996. In 1989, she teamed with Volleyball Hall of Famer Jackie Silva to win the World Beach Volleyball Championship to become the first African-American woman to earn the title. The following season she was the league runner-up with Angela Rock.
Rita’s indoor career continued in Italy with Matera and Rome from 1988 to 1993. In the 1989-90 season, Rita doubled as Matera’s head coach. During the 1991 season, Rita was named the most valuable player of the Italian League and would later help Rome win the European Club Championship in 1993.
Rita transferred her skills to the Swiss League from 1993 to 1998 as she played for RTV Basel, doubling as the team’s head coach. RTV Basel won the Swiss Cup from 1994 to 1996, the Swiss Championship from 1995 to 1996 and participated in the European Cup of Champions in 1995. Rita, who also served as the Swiss National Team Head Coach in 1995, was named most valuable player of the league four times.
After her playing career ended in 1998, Rita continued to coach back in the United States. She served as the head coach at the University of Iowa from 1998 to 2004 before taking on the associate head volleyball coach role at Florida State University in 2004 to 2005. From 2000 to 2002, she was active within USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline coaching youth volleyball players.
Rita, who was named to USA Volleyball’s Women’s All-Era Team for 1978 to 2003, established the Rita Crockett Academy in 2005 and serves as the director and head court trainer for the North Florida Volleyball Academy.