His father’s uncle became a member of the National Football Hall of Fame after leading a successful high school coaching career in New Jersey.
His grandfather was an assistant football coach at Gettysburg College in the 1960s and went on to become a head coach at Collingswood (New Jersey) High School.
And his own father has been an assistant football coach at the collegiate and high school levels for programs in Lancaster County for about the last three decades.
In other words, coaching football runs through the blood of Jay Ridinger.
“It does,” Ridinger said. “It runs thick.”
Ridinger, a Manheim Township High School and Franklin & Marshall College graduate, is carrying on his family’s coaching legacy as the new defensive coordinator at Conestoga Valley High School this season.
He’s also taking the next step in his professional career, beginning his first full-time teaching gig as a social studies teacher at CV high school this week.
It’s a prospect that has come about following an unusual career path that began in accounting and took a turn to full-time college coaching before Ridinger discovered his calling in education.
“To me, teaching is coaching. Coaching is teaching,” he said. “They are exactly the same.”
Readers of LNP might recall a 2010 story about Ridinger having overcome open heart surgery at 15 months old and going on to have a successful playing career in football and lacrosse at Manheim Township and F&M.
Ridinger, 30, graduated from F&M in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in business and spent the next two years working full-time in accounting before deciding to make coaching a full-time gig. The next three years were split between F&M and Lehigh University.
“Then I came back and did a year at F&M,” he said. “That’s when I kind of figured I need to get a real job, so to speak.”
Ridinger has since obtained his teaching certification from Millersville University and served as a substitute teacher the last three school years, with stops at CV, Manheim Central and Penn Manor.
He had been in search of a full-time teaching position at a school where he could also coach football, a pairing that finally came at CV.
“My classroom is about as ready as it’s going to get,” he said. “There’s an F&M flag in the back and some football stuff on the desk.”
In case you’re wondering, former CV defensive coordinator Bob Swift is still on the Buckskins’ staff as an assistant coach.
“He (Swift) has a son who’s in ninth grade who plays football,” veteran CV head coach Gerad Novak said. “And he (Swift) just wanted to step away from being D coordinator so he could have a bit more time to be able to see his son play.”
Like other men who have come before him in his family, Ridinger hopes to become a head football coach. But that’s a story for another day, because Ridinger first wants to prove himself as a coordinator in football.
He’s already done so as the offensive coordinator for the Manheim Township boys lacrosse team the last three seasons, which includes the Blue Streaks’ 2018 state championship run.
Ridinger also spent the last three fall seasons as a football assistant at Warwick, where Ridinger’s dad, John, is the Warriors’ offensive coordinator. Keep that nugget in mind when Warwick and CV meet in Week Nine.
“Being on so many different coaching staffs and being with different people just opens your eyes,” Ridinger said. “And gives a little bit more perspective on the many different ways that you can do things.”
Similar thinking applies to the 4-3 defense the Buckskins’ will run under Ridinger for the first time this Friday when CV hosts Penn Manor to kick off the 2019 campaign.
“I coached in a 4-3 at F&M,” he said. “We were 3-4 last year at Warwick. But the year before (in 2017) we were a 4-3. So I’ve mixed and matched different things from different places and have tried to create my own defense that’s going to have my own flavor.”
What’s included in his flavor?
“I like to bring a blitz package into a game,” he said. “You have to keep the (other team’s) offensive coordinator guessing. ... So you have to be able to bring different people from different spots. And play some different coverages behind it in order to have success at the high school level.”
Football: Here at Conestoga Valley getting a jumpstart on the Week One football feature about new Buckskins' d-coordinator Jay Ridinger.— John Walk (@JWalkLNP) August 14, 2019
survived open heart surgery at 15 months ✅
became football/lax standout at Manheim Township, F&M✅
An assistant last 8 yrs at various stops✅ pic.twitter.com/WPBUdtqaSR