When Dane Street applied for Ridgefield High School’s athletic director opening a year ago, it was the opportunity at one of the state’s plum jobs. More fields, better facilities. The assets needed to allow teams to achieve success.
Street had no idea that the latter would be concurrent so quickly. Now, there is an unexpected capital expense.
“The trophy cases are getting pretty full, which is a good problem to have,” Street said yesterday, two days after the school won its second conference championship in 48 hours.
Trophies located near the gym may have to go into storage. The three cases outside Street’s new office have had shiny additions in the past four months.
Certainly overseeing the Ridgefield athletic department is one of the top administrative positions in the state. It is a vibrant town that supports its sports, has top youth programs and great fields, many newly renovated. Tiger Hollow might win a poll for the best FCIAC football stadium.
So far this school year, Street can brag as much as any athletic director in the state. The girls cross country team won FCIAC, Class LL and State Open titles. The girls soccer team won the conference title and advanced to the Class LL championship for the second straight year. The girls swimming team won an FCIAC championship and was Class LL and State Open runner-up. The football and volleyball teams reached state finals.
It might not match what Darien accomplished last spring, but it was a remarkable feat nonetheless. Then the boys basketball team last Thursday won its first FCIAC title in a double-overtime classic over rival Wilton that is still being discussed because of the atmosphere, with hundreds of students from both schools helping to sell out Fairfield University. Many of those fans were in Stamford on Saturday when the hockey team won the FCIAC title. It is very much in play to add a state championship next week.
“It’s always fun,” Street said. “Winning is great. It’s what we look for at the varsity level, and seeing the coaches doing what they do day in and day out, and seeing the result on the field or the basketball court, the cross country course, whatever it is. It has been rewarding to see the fruits of their labor.”
Street grew up outside of Pittsburgh. His wife is from upstate in Watertown, where in 2000 Street started coaching and teaching. He was the athletic director at the school for two years before moving to take the same job at Simsbury, where he served for four years before coming to Ridgefield.
Street had to teach and coach besides his administrative responsibilities in Watertown. In Simsbury he was the AD and director of student activities. Proms and homecoming were under his purview.
“One of the biggest things that really drew me here, first the way the job was structured,” Street said. “This is AD only. Being truly focused on athletic director and all the work that entails. Then the second piece was the facilities, quite honestly. One of the biggest frustrations in Simsbury I had was we were trying to get some things done to improve the facilities, but it was a LL school running on facilities that made it difficult to get a place for everyone to practice and compete.”
Street lives in Watertown, which is a 45-minute commute. So far the hours and length of seasons have been longer than anticipated. but Street is hardly complaining.
“It’s been great,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun getting to know the teams and certainly with the amount of success we’ve had, I’ve had a little more time with those teams each season. Usually the regular season is filled because you have so many teams playing each day that as an AD you are trying to get around to keep touch with those teams. Once you get into the postseason and the subvarsity wraps up, that’s when I feel I really get to know those teams and spend a little bit more time in the gym.
Street is still in the acclimation process. He inherited a special senior class that will be sending a number to compete at the college level in almost every sport. Last summer he held a captains’ council to offer his philosophy on leadership. Students recognize him in the hallways. He is an active presence and, as one of the younger athletic directors, cognizant how social media can be an asset. He constantly tweets updates from games.
The seniors at the school have said this is a more close-knit class than most, and that has been an intangible benefit.
“I can’t say with 100 percent certainty, but I sort of go back to that old adage that success breeds success,” Street said. “Once the ball gets rolling on that, and you have teams that are doing really well and have other kids in the school who see that and want that same level of success, maybe they work a little bit harder to prepare for their upcoming seasons. And when you talk about some of our sports more than others, where the crowd is involved, we have a great student section. As they come out to support their fellow classmates it sets up a great atmosphere to put their best effort out there and achieve a high level. I don’t know if there was any unifying link that would spark that.”
Ridgefield this year has proved a winning lottery ticket for an athletic director at a new school.
“I’ve certainly never experienced this level in terms of championships,” Street said. “If you told me on July 1st we’d have this many championships and this many teams making deep runs in the states I would have jumped at it. Every AD loves to have that. It certainly has been unprecedented for me. To have such a high level of success in the same year.”
Which brings Street back to the storage problem that has now been created with the trophy cases outside his office.
“So far there’s a little bit of room,” Street said. “Hopefully by the end of the winter and spring we will fill it up.”