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Athletic director Michaels pioneers unique system at River Ridge High

Jim Michaels, athletic director at the new River Ridge High, continued the building process Wednesday of a program that is unique in Pasco. Michaels hired assistant coaches for boys high school soccer and middle school football, and co-head coaches for high school swimming.

Michaels said that Steve Swensen, formerly a teacher at Gulf High, will be an assistant boys soccer coach and that Walter Rice, formerly of Pine View Middle School, will be an assistant football coach. Also, Darlene Cooper, formerly of Land O'Lakes High, and Karen England, formerly of Seven Springs Elementary, will share the head swimming coach position.

What is unique about River Ridge is that Michaels is the athletic director for both the middle school and high school, and the school will be guided by a single administration.

The high school and middle school are located on the same campus and will share many of thesame facilities. More importantly, Michaels said, there will be one athletic staff, and coaches will interchange between the high school and middle school levels.

This will allow River Ridge students to begin learning the systems of the high school programs when they begin sports in middle school.

"It is certainly to our advantage compared to the other schools," Michaels said. "It will allow our young students to learn about coaches and their programs and decide what they want to participate in.

"And in turn, our coaching staff can begin guiding these kids so that when they get to the high school level they will be totally familiar with our programs.

"It will absolutely be a key to the success of River Ridge's program. It will take a little time, but we expect to have an outstanding program."

Individual sports, such as wrestling, should benefit the most, Michaels said.

"When you hear about the great amateur wrestlers, they all began in elementary school and had years and years of training," Michaels said. "Now, we will get kids in the sixth grade and they will have direct exposure to our program and will benefit from it.

"We expect wrestling to be one of our big, successful programs. We hope to establish a tradition where we have large crowds and it becomes a real revenue producer."

Michaels also expects the school to have a solid basketball program. He said that explains why the school has yet to hire a boys coach, because he and principal Robert Dorn want to thoroughly evaluate the candidates.

"We have several good local candidates and we're bringing someone in from out of state next week to interview," said Michaels, who declined to name the final candidates. "After that, we'll sit and talk and evaluate them. This has been a long process, but we expect a decision soon."

River Ridge also has head coaching openings for cross country, girls soccer and boys track, and other assistants jobs. He said the school has concentrated on the more visible boys basketball position and will fill the other openings once that decision is made.

He said most of the positions will be filled from incoming teachers who will transfer from other Pasco schools.

"Mr. Dorn's philosophy is to involve as many teachers as we can _ to have a wide span and not just a small circle of coaches," Michaels said. "The more people we have the more receptive the staff will be to the athletic program.

"It will create good feelings between the staff and the rest of the school."

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