While the Alton Redbird athletes take a hiatus for the summer, the school’s brass remains hard at work filling coaching vacancies.
Since the completion of the spring season AHS girls’ soccer coach Laura Ridolfi and boys’ track and field head coach Eric Dickerson have stepped down from their positions. Boys’ tennis head coach Jesse Macias announced his retirement prior to the season, so the Birds are also searching to fill that position.
On top of that there are a slew of assistant coaching vacancies to be filled in the coming months for girls’ volleyball, football and softball.
Dickerson’s resignation wasn’t a huge surprise after he accepted the football head coaching job for the Redbirds, vacated by Jeff Alderman to concentrate on being athletics director, prior to the spring season. Coaching both was going to be a huge task.
Ridolfi, on the other hand, wasn’t expected. After two years directing the Alton lady booters, she has accepted a full-time position with the Scott Gallagher Soccer Club. She worked part time for Gallagher and with accepting her new role she also leaves a teaching position open in District 11.
“With Laura stepping down as a teacher, that creates a P.E. and health opening that we have at the high school,” Alderman said. “Obviously when you have multiple coaching openings you want to try and match those up with teachers, but you’re not going to be able to fill all your needs with that, so we’re looking at the best combination of things. It’s awfully important and I think over the last three years we’ve been able to get more and more people in our district as coaches.”
Alderman said the district is accepting applications for the open positions, but it’s still very early in the process. It also helps that both head coaching vacancies are for spring sports.
“Right now we’re in the infancy stages because we’re only a couple weeks into this,” Alderman said. “We’ve got to keep collecting a pool of candidates of qualified people that will fill the needs that we need. Obviously you’re looking at next spring, so we do have a little bit of time, but we would like to have someone in place by the start of the school year.
“We’re starting to get candidates showing interest and I feel we’ll be able to get a good, qualified coach in both positions.”
In her two seasons with the Redbirds, Ridolfi, a 2006 Marquette Catholic grad, posted a 15-21-2 overall record. The Birds were bounced from the playoffs in the first round of the Class 3A Edwardsville Regional by eventual regional champ Granite City this season.
She does leave behind a youthful team with some valuable underclass pieces returning in 2016. Alderman wished Ridolfi the best in her endeavors with Gallagher.
“We didn’t really see it coming, but you have to admire how she’s a young coach with aspirations of coaching at the collegiate level and she feels that working through the Gallagher Club will afford her that opportunity,” Alderman said. “Obviously we understand and support that.”
As for boys’ track and field, Alton would love to revisit the sport’s heyday in the 1960s when the program won three state championships (‘63, ‘64 and ‘69) and was one of the best in the state.
The Redbirds were last at the Southwestern Conference Meet this season and finished 15th out of 16 teams in the 3A Normal West Sectional as a team.
Finding someone who can concentrate on increasing the numbers and getting top-notch athletes out is crucial. With Dickerson’s focus on the gridiron that was going to be a tough juggling act.
“There’s such carryover with track and football and obviously you’d like to get somebody who can fit both those needs,” Alderman said. “The fact that we have a couple of assistant jobs open in football that Eric is looking to fill, hopefully we can create some kind of match there because to be honest we’d like to have a lot more of our football players out for boys’ track. There is a natural connection there we’d like to be able to fill and we’ll keep plugging away at it and see what we can do.
“You start with your football and basketball programs and get those athletes and hopefully we’ll be able to find somebody who is able to do that.”
With all those hirings ahead Alderman understands it doesn’t make much of a summer break.
“It’s going to be busy,” he said.