Maitland Middle School is seeking to recognize one of its most storied and respected coaches.
The basketball court at Maitland Middle is in the process of being dedicated after former basketball coach Dale Rider, who was at the school for 35 years when it was Maitland Junior High.
The coach led the basketball team to three county championships (1973, 1979, 1984) during his tenure and helped build the character of young athletes. He also was known for promoting school spirit, having his players stand together and sing the alma mater after every game.
A dedication — which would include a plaque courtside with Rider’s name and likeness — was spearheaded by current Maitland Middle Athletic Director and coach Kevin Neff.
Naming the court “Coach Dale K. Rider Court” would be a fitting tribute, he said.
“Championships are great, but he did great things while he was here too,” Neff said. “If we’re building for the future, I think it’s important to honor those that have done great things in the past. I just thought it would be great to honor someone who put in so many years here.”
Principal Andrew Leftakis said it was easy to see how much Maitland Middle’s former student athletes loved Rider. Leftakis recently attended a 85th birthday celebration for Rider, where he got to meet the coach face-to-face.
The mayor of Maitland, company executives and former professional athletes all were in attendance.
“To see the community come out and support this gentleman and see them come out for his birthday was something else,” Leftakis said. “You can clearly see that he had a huge impact on countless lives of young people over the course of while he was here. I think that’s really what we’re looking at. Because he crafted and molded the lives of so many people, I think that’s why we want to give back.”
The journey to the court’s dedication is on the home stretch. The school’s advisory council unanimously approved the decision, while about 70 parents and residents had the chance to respond “yes” or “no” to the concept.
Almost every response was “yes” except one, Leftakis said, adding that the court as of today has no official name.
The final step is a vote of approval from the Orange County School Board, although a date has not been set for when it will appear on an agenda. Leftakis said the school hopes to have the court dedication ready in time for the start of basketball season in January, so a ceremony can be held at a home game.
“He speaks about Maitland how it’s very personal to him and his home,” Leftakis said. “He’s still very in touch with former players and students. He’s very much a part of what this school was and still is. You don’t see that a lot anymore. Unfortunately, you don’t see people who’ve spent their whole careers in one place.”