Eric Roberson has been part of the Alton coaching family for quite some time — 1996, to be exact.
That’s when Roberson helped resurrect the dormant Redbird wrestling program. Now he’ll throw his hat in the ring to help out in a new capacity on top of his wrestling and teaching duties. He works as a science teacher at the high school as well as head varsity wrestling coach.
Roberson recently was named assistant director of athletics, replacing Joe Hook, who retired from the position in May. Jeff Alderman remains the AHS athletics director.
“I’m going to have my plate full, for sure,” Roberson said. “But it’s going to be nice because I’m going to get the best of everything I like to do there. I still get to teach in the morning, which I like. I still get to coach, of course, and I enjoy it and now I get to be involved in all the athletic programs at Alton High, so I think it’s the best of all worlds for me. I’m going to be busy year round, but that comes with it.”
There was a slew of quality candidates for the position, but Alderman thinks at the end of the day Roberson will make a great fit.
“It was an extremely tough decision,” Alderman said. “We had six or seven qualified candidates, but in the end we felt like Eric best represented experience here and an ability to do the job and get things done. His track record as a coach and a teacher here in the district spoke volumes.”
Roberson will have numerous responsibilities, most notably helping hire and schedule officials, coordinating facilities, overseeing the student section, the Redbird Nest, and coordinating the Alton Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It’s an extensive amount of work for all of us to run a program with over 20 activities taking place,” Alderman said.
Roberson added, “Really, whatever coach Alderman wants me to do, I’m going to do. A lot of it will remain the same. I’ll be in charge of the Redbird Nest, our student organization, and I’m going to try and get them to go to a few more of those minor sports, so I’ll keep that going. The Alton Athletic Hall of Fame, I want to keep that going and then with the help of coach Alderman we will be scheduling officials, referees, umpires. The springtime tends to be a little more hectic with rainouts and stuff. I’ll be busy year round, but particularly in the spring.”
The biggest aspect of the position will be trying to fill Hook’s shoes. The 61-year-old Hook wore a lot of hats during his 30-plus years working in the Alton School District. A 1973 AHS graduate, he coached football and softball and played football for the Redbirds in the early ‘70s, so he’s Alton through and through.
Roberson knows matching the experience is impossible, but he’ll do his best and keep Hook on speed dial — at least in the beginning — if he needs some direction.
“I’m never going to replace Joe Hook,” Roberson said. “Joe was probably one of the most popular staff members that we’ve had. He has done it all in the district and I’m just proud and honored that I’m in the position that he occupied for so long. He’s helped me quite a bit already; we’ve talked and he’s got me going in the right direction. He’ll be on my speed dial and be my first phone call if I have a question and he’s willing to help. When you think of Alton, you think of Joe Hook.
“Joe was wonderful. He’ll be missed.”
Alderman added, “There’s not a more respected teacher or person in our district than coach Hook.”
So the big question: is this a stepping stone for Roberson? Is the next step being groomed to be the next AD? He was quick to quell that notion.
“At this time, that is not in my future plans,” Roberson said. “I got my master’s in administration at McKendree back in 2011 thinking that down the road that might be something that might help me and something I may be interested in. I didn’t intend to use it right away. I did it to bump up the pay scale and have it on the back burner in case something came up I was interested in. That helped me get this position, but at this time I’m not really interested in being an athletics director. That may change 5 to 10 years down the road, but right now I still really like coaching wrestling and I think it would be really tough to coach and be an athletics director. This job just fits well with what I’m doing at the high school.”
And Alderman noted that he’s not ready to give up his AD title at the moment anyway, so there’s no more job shifting in the near future due to Roberson’s hire.
“I’m in this for the long haul,” Alderman said. “There will come a day where I’ll know, but today I don’t feel that day is too close. If you’re hinting at an heir apparent, there’s no doubt Eric could do the (AD) job as well and step into it.”
For now, just get used to seeing Roberson around Redbird athletics a little more, helping continue the legacy of coach Hook and those before him. He’ll be a welcome sight in his new capacity.
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