Steve Anderson remembers when East Ridge High School was just an idea.
The Woodbury resident was part of the planning committee that helped shape East Ridge before it first opened for students in 2009. But until recently, Anderson watched from afar while he was the head coach of the North High volleyball team.
Anderson will now return to the school he helped plan after recently being hired as the varsity head volleyball coach at East Ridge. While Anderson works as a school psychologist in School District 622, which includes North, one of the reasons why he applied for the new position is its location near his home in Woodbury.
"I think there were a lot of factors," Anderson said about his move to coach at East Ridge. "Proximity to home is definitely a nice benefit. I also see a growing community with huge potential to be a successful program. I've always had interest in the East Ridge program."
Anderson's teams at North showed consistent success during his tenure as head coach. He coached North to seven consecutive 20-win seasons, two Metro East Conference titles and a career record of 195-90.
Anderson worked to increase the number of youth club volleyball teams from two to a peak of seven during his time as the head coach at North. He credited the strong youth programs for helping him build a winning high school volleyball team.
"We started to really see the benefits once those kids started reaching the high school level," Anderson said. "They kind of knew coming into the high school program what to expect from the junior program."
East Ridge activities director Joel Olson said Anderson's work with youth programs is one reason why the school chose him to be the next head volleyball coach.
"He had another long run there as an assistant and a head coach," Olson said about Anderson's time at North. "Part of his strength is also investing in the youth. To me, that has a lot to do with building a program."
East Ridge is coming off a 2016 season where it finished in the top half of the Suburban East Conference and posted an overall record of 21-10. The Raptors also won more than 20 games in 2015.
While doing research into the program before applying, Anderson mentioned the talented players who are returning next season. Now the first step for the new head coach is to develop a working relationship with those players.
"I know they have a lot of strong athletes in their program that are competing at high levels outside in the club volleyball world," Anderson said. "A lot of young girls coming up, too, even in the middle school levels. I just did a little research into what was there and liked what I saw."