Ridolfi’s Looks Ahead After 1st Year as Hopedale High’s A.D.

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
July, 2019
Article Body: 

When Stephanie Ridolfi became Hopedale High’s athletic director a year ago, her goals were to sustain the school’s success and to build on it. After eight Dual Valley Conference championships and a plethora of appearances in post-season tournaments, it was mission accomplished in terms of team success for 2018-19.
The Blue Raiders, for example, dominated the spring season in a big way, winning the boys tennis Sectional title over Bromfield, 5-0, and the softball team also captured a Sectional crown, downing Millbury, 3-1. Two other teams almost made it four Sectional championships — the baseball team lost to Tahanto, 7-4, in the final and the girls tennis squad lost to Advanced Math and Science Academy, 3-2, in the final.
At Local Town Pages deadline, Hopedale was competing for State championships in boys tennis and softball.
Ridolfi’s first year on the job at Hopedale has been a smooth transition but now the 41-year-old administrator is eager to get started on her second-year objectives that focus on leadership and upgrades on uniforms, equipment and facilities.
“I want to implement a Hopedale High leadership program,’’ said Ridolfi, who previously was Marian High School’s athletic director for three years. “It would provide students an opportunity to meet in small groups and to evaluate themselves. Coaches would definitely be involved. We sent student-athletes to three MIAA seminars on leadership last year and there also was a session offered by the DVC. The seminars were designed to sharpen leadership skills, especially among underclassmen.’’
Ridolfi also wants to develop a “consistent rotation’’ for new equipment and uniforms and she’s hoping there’ll be facility improvements. “There’s a study underway for a turf field,’’ she said. “Last September, a committee began investigating that possibility. I hope it becomes a reality because there is interest in the school and in the town. It would benefit the school by lessening cancellations and it would be available for youth sports. There likely will be a progress update in the fall.’’
Teams that would compete on turf would be the boys and girls lacrosse teams and the field hockey squad. The field would also include a track. “It’s important that we keep building our relationship with the Parks and Recreation Director (Don Howes) and the administration at the Community House,’’ Ridolfi said.
Ridolfi faced situations and challenges at Marian that definitely correspond to Hopedale’s athletic program. She dealt with facilities that were off-campus and she also was well-versed in dealing with co-op teams. Hopedale has four co-ops — football, ice hockey and boys and girls lacrosse. Seven Hopedale football players competed with Blackstone-Millville last year and the ice hockey team is linked to Milford, Millis, Douglas and Whitinsville-Christian. Boys and girls lacrosse players team up with Sutton and Blackstone-Millville.
“We’ll continue to provide co-op teams,’’ Ridolfi said. “It gives students an opportunity to compete at the varsity level in a sport they might be able to,’’ she emphasized. “And, a co-op situation gives a student-athlete a different take on a team. The players mesh and mature with kids from other schools socially and in sportsmanship and leadership.’’
Ridolfi, who resides in nearby Milford with her husband and two children, indicates that the status-quo will be in effect for seventh and eighth-grade students. The junior high athletic menu will continue to offer cross-country, girls and boys basketball and track and field. “Students in those grades can still compete on the jayvees or even the varsity,’’ Ridolfi said. “I didn’t have those grade levels at Marian but I like having them here because students learn about commitment.’’
Ridolfi indicated that athletic participation rates remain on par with a year ago. For the spring season, however, there were 220 athletes participating out of a student body that numbers about 500. “I’d like to see more one-sport athletes compete in two sports,’’ she said. “By adding a sport, they maintain good conditioning.’’
Ridolfi was a three-sport athlete at Mount St. Joseph’s Academy outside Philadelphia. She played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. Getting a scholarship to play lacrosse at UMass-Amherst, she graduated in 2000 and was hired to coach women’s lacrosse at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. After two years there, she joined the staff at Holy Cross as its women’s lacrosse coach and led the Crusaders to a pair of Patriot League titles and two NCAA Tournament berths in her 13 years at the helm.
The native of Philadelphia is delighted with Hopedale’s affiliation and membership in the DVC. She was warmly welcomed by all the circuit’s A.D.s and she enjoys the collegial atmosphere. “The A.D.s know my constraints and I know theirs,’’ she noted. “A good example is Whitinsville-Christian’s dismissal time. It’s 2:45. So, we schedule games with them later in the day.’’
Of the 13 sports offered at Hopedale, Ridolfi will be filling only one varsity coaching position before the fall arrives — girls soccer. Having coached in college, she’s acutely aware of how valuable that experience has been in her role as the athletic chief. “It’s prepared me more than I could imagine,’’ she said. “I learned how to deal with little things as a coach. Now, those things are second-nature because I’ve handled them at a different level.’’
What makes Ridolfi so polished in her role as A.D. is her sports philosophy and being aware of the life lessons that can be learned through athletics.
“Winning is only part of the process,’’ she said. “Sports help students to reach their potential and to enjoy their efforts. Leadership and character are learned. But, students also have to evolve. Issues are different from one era to another. There was no social media years ago and now vaping has become an issue. Sports are a great way to learn valuable life lessons.’’
Ridolfi handles budgeting, hiring, scheduling, purchasing and evaluations in unsung fashion. She gets some assistance from the front office in purchasing and some classes help spread necessary news via social media.
Handling complaints isn’t new for Ridolfi because she dealt with them at Marian. “Coaches and I try to instill that kids have to take ownership of their skills,’’ she said. “Coaches need to be approachable and have concrete things to reveal to student-athletes. Honesty is the best policy.’’
Admitting that Hopedale pride does indeed exist and “I’m glad to be in the thick of it,’’ Ridolfi says the best part of her job is going to as many games as possible and building relationships with students. “What I worry about is seeing a student-athlete pulled in so many directions,’’ she said. “They’ve got homework, tests to prepare for and some have to work. They do things in some cases at 75 percent when it would be nice if they could be at 100 percent. I can see the stress level.’’
Stephanie Ridolfi is tuned in to today’s youth. She knows what makes a student-athlete tick and she strives to be supportive. She’s at the right place at the right time, and more importantly, she wants to make Hopedale High a long-term relationship.