Ridolfi Selected as Hopedale High’s Athletic Director

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
June, 2018
Article Body: 

​Stephanie Ridolfi, Hopedale High’s new athletic director and the former sports chief at Marian High (Framingham) should be a dynamic fit — for the department, the student-athletes and the coaches.
​Ridolfi was Marian’s A.D. for three years, taking the reins after a lengthy and successful career as Holy Cross’ women’s lacrosse coach. The 40-year-old Milford resident faced situations and challenges at Marian that correspond to Hopedale’s athletic program. She dealt with co-op teams and she also had all but one of Marian’s sports facilities off-campus.
​But, there are other facets of Ridolfi’s experience that led to her being the choice to succeed Bill Gaine Jr., who resigned for medical reasons. Ridolfi, a mother of two, relates well to youths, knows the value of athletic participation and leadership, and she embraces a philosophy that fosters reaching one’s potential and enjoying an athletic experience.
​“Winning is important but it’s also important not to lose sight of the process,’’ Ridolfi said. “Part of my job is to help coaches and players enjoy that process. At Holy Cross, we had women on the lacrosse team who rarely played but they stayed with it, had fun and enjoyed the spirit of the locker-room and the relationships they built.’’
​Ridolfi also is excited about working with two additional grade levels. Marian is a Grade 9-12 school but Hopedale High houses Grades 7-12.
​“Living in Milford for the last 13 years, I’m familiar with Hopedale High and its success,’’ Ridolfi said. “What I like about the students and athletes is their high character. They’re more than just athletes. They’re committed to the classroom and their community. And, I think it’s wonderful for seventh and eighth graders to experience athletics at that level. They’re capable of understanding commitment and I like the concept of students in those grades being mentored by upperclassmen.’’
​Ridolfi’s goals are “to sustain the school’s success and to build on it.’’ One of those building blocks will focus on leadership. “I would like to see an emphasis on student-athletes developing more leadership qualities and character development,’’ she noted. “I also want to work closely with the coaching staff. I want to help them in whatever their needs are and to see them develop into quality leaders.’’
​The timing couldn’t have been better for Ridolfi’s arrival at Hopedale. Marian, a private Catholic high school, is closing its doors later this month after 60-plus years. Leaving Marian, nevertheless, is a chapter that involves some sadness for Ridolfi. “Marian was awesome,’’ she emphasized. “I owe the school for helping me start my career as an A.D. They took a chance on a lacrosse coach from Holy Cross. It’s sad to see the school close and it’s an emotional time for staff and students. Marian provided me with the experience to be able to do what’s needed in Hopedale.’’
​And, Ridolfi will be very familiar with what’s needed and required at Hopedale, especially in terms of co-op arrangements and facilities management.
​“At Marian, we had only the gymnasium on campus,’’ she said. “I often dealt with the Parks and Recreation Department on field availability. So, not having fields and the gym on site in Hopedale isn’t anything new for me. And, at Marian, we had co-op teams in ice hockey and football. Keefe Tech joined us in football and was with us for two years in hockey. Co-op teams can be a plus because they give student-athletes a chance to compete in a sport that’s not available and it helps youths build relationships with students outside their school.’’
​As for the usual duties of an A.D., things like budgeting, scheduling, purchasing, evaluating and hiring, Ridolfi is well-versed in those areas. “An A.D. has to arrive at work every day with a plan or list of things to accomplish,’’ she said. “The day may go smoothly and things get accomplished. But, there are days when the plan has to change and you focus on some unexpected event or situation. It’s all about setting priorities.’’
​Ridolfi will officially report for duty on July 1 but she’s already taken the opportunity to introduce herself to the Hopedale community. She attended the booster club’s 5K road race in May and plans to be at the School Committee’s meeting this month. “On July 1, I’ll try to meet as many coaches as possible, even though it’ll be summer, and I’ll set up a meeting in August with students and parents,’’ Ridolfi said.
​Ridolfi hopes to quickly learn more about the Dual Valley League and to work closely with its A.D.s. At Marian, she scheduled several games with Hopedale and Whitinsville-Christian. “I want to learn more about the league,’’ she said. “I know it’s involved in helping students-athletes learn more about leadership.’’
​Increasing students’ participation in athletics is an area where Ridolfi will work diligently because “I want kids to say it was important to be part of something for four years.’’ Ridolfi also says she’ll instill participation on and off the field. “Numbers will increase if everyone is having a good experience,’’ she noted. “That’s the key.’’
​Few would doubt that athletics teach valuable life lessons — like overcoming adversity, teamwork, setting goals, time management, accountability, responsibility and leadership. Ridolfi agrees wholeheartedly. “Sports help kids to be better students and to be better in their community,’’ she emphasized. “It’s why I do what I do.’’
​Ridolfi was a three-sport athlete at Mount St. Joseph’s Academy outside Philadelphia. She played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. Gtting 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.
​Ridolfi’s husband, Chris, coached volleyball at Milford High and worked as an A.D. at Norton. He’s currently working at the Fay School in Southboro. The couple has a daughter (Emma, 10) and a son (Michael, 7).
​Hopedale High’s new A.D. obviously is well-suited for the post. While one chapter is concluding at Marian, a new one is beginning at Hopedale. And, it should be long-lasting.
​“I was comfortable and loved my role at Holy Cross,’’ Ridolfi said. “I stayed there for 13 years. I like to stay at places where I’m comfortable.’’
​Hopedale High should be a venue where Ridolfi finds comfort and an opportunity to excel and achieve her objectives.