By Mike Deak
NAPPANEE – Even though he is just shifting down the hall, AJ Risedorph is preparing for an entirely new outlook within the building and students to which he serves.
For the first time ‘in a long time’, if not ever, Risedorph was hired on as assistant athletic director at NorthWood High School. The position was created to assist Roman Smith, who was tabbed to replace departing Norm Sellers, who announced his retirement from the athletic director’s role following the 2020-21 school year.
Risedorph’s shift to the athletic office is a change from the classroom to which he has manned for nearly a decade as an instructor of world history, government, and community service through leadership, but he will continue on as baseball head coach for the Panthers. He resigned from his assistant basketball coaching position as well as the student council rep to make the jump to athletics full time.
The change is both super exciting for Risedorph, but certainly uncharted at the same time.
“I’m definitely excited about the new role and possibility of supporting all the programs here at NorthWood,” Risedorph said. “We certainly have a proud tradition here at NorthWood, and those come from our values as a community. I don’t think those will waver with the changes in the department. Us advancing through some new programs will be an exciting venture for me personally. Allowing me to dive into some of the student leadership avenues, as a coach and a teacher, those are the foundations of what we are trying to do here.”
Risedorph had served as an assistant basketball coach with the NorthWood boys hoops program for nine years and including the past season, the baseball head coach for the past four years. He was also an assistant in the baseball program the four years before that. His attachment to the NorthWood student athletes was the biggest draw to jump to the athletic office, and should give him a good perspective to help Smith settle in after coming to NorthWood from Warsaw.
“To be able to walk out to a practice and know that you are watching some of the best coaches in the business, and some of the best programs in the area, that’s exciting for me,” Risedorph said. “I think that will help me in my role as a coach, but from a different perspective.”
Risedorph’s success as a coach is also a driving force to his vision. In his coaching run with NorthWood, Risedorph has been a part of five Northern Lakes Conference baseball championships and five sectional titles, as well as six sectional titles in basketball in both head and assistant coaching roles. With Risedorph’s experience with a pair of perennial title contending teams, the aim of the office is to further that amongst all of the programs, whether they are competing at a high level or ready to make the jump.
“Roman and I are very similar, which is exciting for me because the transition should be much easier in that regard,” Risedorph said. “He never shuts it off. We had an eight-hour work session one day, we had no idea we went that long, but we were super productive. I think it seems like who is going to outwork who right now! We both went and worked out afterwards. But it’s been good, I’m really anticipating this coming year.”
For now, Risedorph is getting used to his new desk, situated with a door buzzer and a phone that will likely ring constantly.
“I’ve noticed that already in my first couple of weeks that I’ve sat more than I ever did,” joked Risedorph about the change to the front office from his own classroom setting. “That’ll be a big change, maybe a standing desk. I know that would be the biggest undertaking, the social environment you get with the kids every day. Now, you’re isolated and dealing with adults for the most part and worrying about whether it’ll rain and having to call more adults. That in itself will be the challenge.”