Louis “Del” Dal Pra is always out to challenge himself. It’s something he did throughout his playing career as a youth and in his 30-year career as a public school educator.
In the fall of 2008, Dal Pra had the opportunity to take on the challenge of being the athletic director at Red Bank Regional High School, Little Silver.
Almost a full 12 years later, Dal Pra, who is a graduate of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, has announced he is retiring from his post as the Buccanneers’ athletic director after helping to turn around the Red Bank Regional athletic program.
“It was a fun ride,” said Dal Pra, 55. “It was hard at first with the culture of the program being different. We changed that by getting the right coaches in place to help our athletes. It’s nice to finally see athletics being important at the school.”
Before Dal Pra made his way to Red Bank Regional, he was an accomplished coach in the high school and college ranks.
Dal Pra was an assistant coach at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in 1990 before returning to Rumson-Fair Haven two years later to become an assistant coach for the Bulldogs’ football and baseball teams.
A standout football and baseball player himself, Dal Pra is a member of the Rumson-Fair Haven athletics hall of fame and he played both sports at Glassboro and William Paterson College.
Dal Pra’s first head coaching job came in 1996 when he took the helm of the Henry Hudson Regional High School baseball program in nearby Highlands. During his two years there, Dal Pra led the Admirals to an NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 1 championship game and was named Shore Conference Coach of the Year.
Dal Pra’s next stop was back at the collegiate level, becoming the head baseball coach at Ocean County College, Toms River, for one season.
After a stop at Middletown North High School for a year as an assistant coach, Dal Pra was hired as the head baseball coach and an assistant football coach at Ocean Township High School.
Dal Pra enjoyed a lot of success with the Spartans. He led the Ocean Township baseball squad to two Monmouth County championships, two NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 titles and a Shore Conference championship.
Ocean Township won state sectional, Shore Conference and Shore Conference A North Division titles in 2006, which helped Dal Pra earn Coach of the Year honors again.
Following the 2008 season, the opportunity arrived for Dal Pra to take the next step in his career to the administrative side. He became the 10th athletic director at Red Bank Regional, which enrolls students from Red Bank, Little Silver and Shrewsbury Borough.
“I looked at it as a challenge to help change Red Bank Regional and make it a better place for athletics,” Dal Pra said. “People like George Conti, Rusty Todd and Joseph Montano, who were mentors to me, made me believe I could do a good job as an athletic director.”
It was a rough start, Dal Pra admits, as the Bucs’ sports programs had a tough campaign in his first fall season as athletic director, especially the football team, which was 0-10.
There was an uphill battle to climb, but Dal Pra did not back down and began providing the resources needed to turn around the athletic program. That started by getting the right coaches in place for Red Bank Regional’s athletes. In his first two years as athletic director, Dal Pra replaced 22 of 27 head coaches.
He then began to focus on building feeder programs through local recreation departments to build a pipeline of future Red Bank Regional athletes.
The next step was to create the Buc Backer Booster Club, which raised money to help the Athletic Department provide more up-to-date resources for the school’s athletes, including lights on the football field, a new weight room, new uniforms and a synthetic turf field that will be ready for use this fall, Dal Pra said.
“I wanted to get the right coaches and the right people involved to help turn the program around,” he said. “I helped put our student-athletes in a better situation with the resources needed for them to have a great high school sports experience.”
Dal Pra’s efforts over the past 10 years have come to fruition with the success of the Athletic Department. The past fall and winter seasons saw most Red Bank Regional teams finish their campaign with a winning record, including the girls tennis team which won the Central Jersey, Group 3 championship.
The girls basketball team turned in its second straight 20-win season (21-7), while the football team defeated rival Long Branch High School, 21-8, in the 97th annual Thanksgiving Day game on Nov. 28.
There are many memories Dal Pra will remember from his tenure as the school’s athletic director. He said his fondest memory is from 2015 when the football team rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat Red Bank Catholic, 24-21. The Bucs won the game on a 57-yard touchdown run by Jack Navitsky.
“I never experienced an electric feeling like it,” Dal Pra said.
A sad moment Dal Pra will never forget occurred on Dec. 3, 2012, when basketball player Albert Martin collapsed during a scrimmage and died. The incident was earth shattering to the school and the community.
Through the pain, Dal Pra and the Athletic Department were able to bring the community together and create the motto “Buc Pride,” which has resonated with the school ever since that tragic occurrence.
“We turned a negative situation into a positive one to help bring the community together,” Dal Pra said. “It’s kind of like what we are going through now with the coronavirus.”
What’s next for Dal Pra after he officially retires on Aug. 1 is uncertain. Dal Pra said he had something lined up in minor league baseball, but those plans changed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
For now, Dal Pra said he is looking forward to spending time with family. His oldest son, Will, is headed to Florida State University. Middle son Gus will be a junior at Red Bank Regional and youngest son Hank will be a sophomore.
From being named the Jersey Sports News Athletic Director of the Year in 2017 and the Jersey Shore Interscholastic Wrestling Association’s 2018 Man of the Year, the man known to most people as “Del” succeeded in the challenge he began in 2008 and is happy to have been the athletic director at Red Bank Regional High School.
Through the last two months, Dal Pra knew it was time to move on.
“It was the right decision for me to come to Red Bank,” Dal Pra said. “It challenged me to find other ways to help kids in athletics. I take pride in the fact certain teams are in the positions they are in and how great the culture of the athletic program is. I’m happy for all the athletes I was able to help during my time here.”