RBR players try to catch a Jackson Liberty player in a rundown in the NJSIAA Group III Central quarterfinal on May 22. The Bucs won and later advanced to the championship game, but came up short of the trophy.
What a season it was for Red Bank Regional sports.
The boy’s baseball team, led by pitching standout Jake Kalish, won the B North division and made it all the way to the NJSIAA Group III Central championship before falling to West Windsor-Plainsboro North. The team also made it to the quarterfinals of the Shore conference tournament. The girls’ softball team also won the B division and made it to the state section semifinals. The girls’ and boys’ lacrosse squads each made it to the state Group III quarterfinals. The boys’ tennis team qualified for both state and Shore conference tournaments for the first time in a long time.
Forty-four-year-old Louis Dal Pra, a Red Bank resident who last fall became the school’s athletic director, isn’t taking the credit. But he wants the local “movers and shakers” to know that RBR, which has had a reputation as something less than a sports powerhouse, is on its game.
redbankgreen bagged del Pra recently for a recap interview. We sat in the golf cart he uses to get around the RBR campus, and which he positioned strategically so he could keep his eye on a baseball game while talking.
What did you do before you came to RBR?
I was the head baseball coach at Ocean Township High School for the past 10 years, and I was a health and phys ed teacher for 15 nine at Ocean, and at Fair Haven before that. Here, I’m the athletic director and supervisor of health and phys ed.
You had a good first year.
We’re pretty excited. It’s been a very successful season. All five teams have had great years.
Is that just a coincidence that so many of your teams did so well this spring?
Our coaches work very hard in all three seasons, but I’ve noticed our spring sports have worked extra time. They’re here on Saturdays, they’re here on vacations, they’re here until six, seven o’clock at night. I think they’re just getting that extra practice out of the kids, and the kids are pretty enthusiastic. They go into every game not thinking they’re going to win they know they’re going to win. They have that confidence.
So these teams are getting more practice? Simple as that?
I’ve just noticed the teams are working a lot harder.
So it’s not attributable to the fact that we have a new athletic director?
No. I’d like to take credit, but all our sports, in the fall as well as the winter, will feed off of this spring, and learn that good things can happen when you work hard.
What are your top two or three goals as athletic director?
Well, I guess its to have all the kids be proud that they play for Red Bank Regional. That would be number one.
Number two of course is to have the coaches get these kids ready for life when they leave here. I think sports is a great way to be challenged and to get ready for the business world or the real world. There’s nowhere else where they can see that life isn’t always perfect and the have to work hard to make it better.
What about participation? Kids advocate David Prown has compiled some figures, and he says it appears only about 10 percent of the kids playing sports at RBR are Red Bank kids. Is this something you’re focused on?
Definitely. During the winter, we actually had a shuttle during tryouts to make sure the kids could get here and back home. I’m trying to see the kids who are athletic and could compete here physically, but for whatever reason financial, time, whatever it might be to find ways that they can get here.
Is that the biggest issue, then transportation?
I would think so. A lot of people think it’s because they don’t have the money for equipment. They can always get the equipment, but number one is getting them here, and number two is that a lot of the kids, Red Bank kids in particular, have jobs that help their families, and they can’t miss being a person who brings that money home, whether it be babysitting or full-out 40-hour jobs.
So you and David put your heads together on the tryouts issue. Is there anything systematic about it, that you’ll be doing it all seasons?
I think so. I’m also on the recreation commission in Red Bank, and we’ve noticed that a lot of West Side kids are in recreation and playing Pop Warner because we’ve made changes in our system to make sure those kids are out playing. The kids, whether it be the African-Americans or the Latinos, are coming out and expressing interest again. They’re playing on the teams and they’re sticking it out.
It’s not perfect. Field hockey, we only had one Red Bank kid, but with Coach Wendy Turnock [of the Red Bank Middle School], we’re working on it to find out how we can get three next year, and maybe six the next year.
So how does it feel at the end of your first year? You’ve got teams in tournaments all over the place.
People tell me about how around here, usually by Memorial Day weekend, all the athletics shut down, but as you can see, all the fields are covered and we’re playing. So it feels good to play a little longer and to play meaningful, championship-type games. Hopefully, we can keep it going.