Beginning in 1948, John and Pioneer athletics were synonymous. He coached in virtually every sport during a 50-year career and even in retirement directed the men's soccer program and his beloved Pfitsch's Pfishes. In addition to many seasons, records, and championships in basketball and soccer John also was justifiably proud of his role in instituting women's sports during his long tenure as athletic director.
After graduating from the University of Texas Pfitsch earned his M.A. in physical education and assisted famous Coach Phog Allen at the University of Kansas before and after service in World War II. At Grinnell he helped obtain a $2.2 million federal loan and headed the planning committee for construction of the former Physical Education Complex, where the fieldhouse was named in his honor.