By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank Regional’s man of many caps, Louis ‘Del’ Dal Pra, is retiring.
This time, unlike his last attempt to leave a decade ago, it’s for real, he said.
Superintendent Lou Moore announced DalPra’s retirement at the district’s board of ed meeting Wednesday night.
DalPra, 55, told redbankgreen on Friday that with three sons to put through college in coming years, “it’s time” to take his pension and look for another job, one that’s less all-consuming than his current posts as athletic director and activities director.
“Working 70, 80 hours a week, I just can’t do that anymore,” he said. “I’m not 25 years old.”
In 2010, school officials talked Dal Pra out of leaving the school for a teaching job at Raritan High School, when they agreed to cut his heavy workload as he had asked. He agreed to a pay cut while shedding his duties as health and physical education teacher, activities director and supervisor of sports medicine and sports management in order to serve solely as athletic director.
Within a couple of years, though, those responsibilities, if not the titles, landed back on his shoulders, he said.
“This time it’s for good,” he said of his departure, adding that he’s leaving on good terms, effective August 1.
DalPra, who had taught physical education in Fair Haven schools while coaching football and baseball at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, arrived at RBR in 2008 to find a dire situation in athletic terms.
“My first September, we were so bad, in every sport,” that not one of the school’s teams posted a victory, he said.
“We were the doormat,” he said. “Every school wanted to play us for homecoming or senior night” in order to notch a sure win, he said.
The culture needed to change, he said, and he made some people mad by replacing about 22 of 27 coaches in an effort to change the culture.
It worked, he said. In the past five years, the girl’s tennis team, which had won 10 matches over the five years before he arrived, has won 70 in the past five, he said. A football squad that won six games in five years pre-2008 has racked up 30 wins and a state championship bid in the past five.
“This fall, every team was above .500,” he said.
He credits the creation of a weight training and conditioning program, as well as the work of the coaches he’s hired, many of them from the original crop he hired.
Almost as important a metric, he said, is the RBR parking lot.
“When I first got here, it would be empty by 4:30,” he said. “Now, this place is hopping with practices and games til 8 p.m, fall, winter and spring.”
In a press release, Moore said that under DalPra’s leadership
RBR has grown to have one of the largest athletic programs in Monmouth County. Not surprisingly, he has been honored multiple times for his contributions to student athletics, both at the county and state level. I know we are grateful for his work to support our programs, but what we value most about Del is his genuine kindness and commitment to young people. Whether it was a kind word of encouragement, attendance at countless games or even driving students to practices and events in the Rec Van, Del has always gone above and beyond to help everyone.
DalPra, who lives in Red Bank, said he plans to look for a less stressful career, which could include coaching at a private school, working in security or something else entirely.
“I don’t have any problem going to work at Lowe’s or Home Depot,” as long as it helps him finance college for his three sons, all RBR students: Will, a senior heading to Florida State in the fall; Gus, a sophomore; and Hank a freshman.
One of the joys of his time at RBR, he said, has been that his boys grew up on the school’s campus in Little Silver.
“It’s not just a high school for them,” he said. “It’s home.”
As for himself, “I’ll still be around, coming to games,” he said. “I’ll just be on the other side of the fence.”