For new Springfield AD, a ‘bittersweet change’

Mike Dellapina said he had not considered leaving his job as athletic director at Hamilton High School. But when the same position came open in his hometown his mind changed.

Dellapina, a 1983 Springfield South graduate, was hired as the new AD at Springfield High School on Thursday to replace the retiring Mark Stoll. Dellapina has worked as an AD for 20 years and at Hamilton since 2005.

“It will be a bittersweet change for me,” Dellapina said. “But you can’t put a price on having the chance to return to your hometown and help to do some positive things here, and provide some leadership for a program that you’ve certainly admired and have such great affection and respect for.”

When Dellapina was named one of three finalists for the position, he called someone who would understand how he felt. That was Hamilton Superintendent Janet Baker, who works in her hometown.

“What she said to me was, ‘You don’t have to explain to me the appeal of your hometown. Nobody knows that more than I do. But you don’t have the opportunity and luxury to pick when these opportunities present themselves.’ ”

Dellapina said his wife Ann, who is not a Springfield native, has fully supported the return home. But Dellapina said that won’t make it any easier to leave Hamilton.

“My experience in Hamilton has been so rewarding, so many wonderful people, so many similarities to the Springfield community that the only place I would ever consider leaving for would be the opportunity at Springfield,” he said.

Dellapina returns to a different Springfield than he left after attending Wittenberg and working at South as a wrestling assistant coach from 1988-89 and as a football assistant in 1991. North and South merged into Springfield High in 2008, and there have been some athletic growing pains.

“You celebrate the history, you celebrate the past successes,” Dellapina said. “You use those as things to help engage the kids, but this is their time. So it’s imperative that people that were North High products and South High products get behind and use their own experiences to help motivate our kids.”

Dellapina, whose parents were both teachers in Springfield and still live in town, said his biggest first-year challenges will be to get reacquainted with the city, learn what students want, learn what the needs are, unite people around a vision and then be strategic about improving the program.

“We want to create programs at the high school that people and parents want to be a part of, that kids are attracted to,” Dellapina said. “I want coaches to understand that it really falls upon them to really try to get kids involved and excited about the programs we have.”

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