Know Your Neighbor: Eric Ringdahl
The Legacy of Oak Hall School’s Beloved Basketball Coach
by Victoria Atterberry
Eric Ringdahl recently retired as the head girls’ basketball coach at Oak Hall School in Gainesville after 31 seasons. Leading his team to win the district title in his final season of coaching, he achieved his eleventh district win as head coach.
“I get a little emotional because it’s been a fabulous ride,” he said. “But I didn’t want to be that guy that hangs on to get another win or to hit a milestone.”
His journey at Oak Hall began in 1990 when he joined the school’s athletic program as an assistant coach for the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams. When the 1992-93 season rolled around, he began his first year as the head coach of the girls’ basketball program.
INSPIRED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Ringdahl said he always felt a calling to work with adolescents.
“I’ve just always felt that it was a very important role to be in, and especially to encourage and enhance kids’ performances,” he said. “…You teach because you think that you can make a difference. I teach kids how to play better with each other skill-wise, how to be stronger and how to take care of their bodies.”
Over the years, there have been many times when Ringdahl has questioned if he was doing the right thing, but he is proud of the accomplishments his students have made as players and in their personal lives. He noted that one of the girls he coached is now working in the medical field on a cure for Alzheimer’s, while another is working as a veterinarian and others are coaches themselves.
With a 31-season career to reflect on, Ringdahl has more memorable moments than he can count. A big highlight includes coaching his daughters.
“Katie and Abbie were awesome. They never played the dad card,” he said. In 2002, his team made it to the final four, another highlight of his career.
“It was one heck of a ride, and it was so much fun,” he said. “The kids worked so hard, and they played so well together, and that was coming after we had four losing seasons in a row.”
Another memory was when a student sustained an injury that jeopardized her chances of playing basketball again. The team prayed over her injury, and when she went to the doctor for an X-ray, the exam showed that her leg had miraculously mended.
“She was very excited. That was a real high point to see that and the look on her face and look on those kids faces and how she just really came back in at the leadership role, and it was just a high point,” he said.
Ringdahl still serves as a teacher at Oak Hall, but his days are much shorter now, allowing him to care for both his 88-year-old mother and his wife, who experienced some health concerns last year.
With a fulfilling career behind him, Ringdahl leaves a legacy of extraordinary wins and an influence that has positively affected players on and off the court. And while he has many accolades for his work, his most meaningful accomplishment is instilling confidence into teens to help them make their mark in the world.