For Alden Foster, the decision was the easy part.
A chance to coach and serve as athletic director at a Class 5A school like East St. John was perhaps a no-brainer.
“It’s a top-of-the-line program,” Foster said on Wednesday after being named the school’s head coach and A.D. “They have a rich tradition. And I think I can go there and help young men and women into productive citizens.”
The hard part was telling his players at Amite, his alma mater, that he was leaving after seven seasons.
Foster had that tough task Wednesday.
“It was very tough,” he said. “We have a good group, and a lot of them are my nephews and cousins. It was tough because we are a close-knit group. It’s not something I would wish to have to do again. But in life, sometimes you have to do some things to satisfy you as an individual. You have goals. I have been coaching for 18 years. I am coaching at the highest level now.”
Foster replaces Phil Banko, who coached for the past four seasons before the school decided to replace him in November.
“This process produced an excellent coach that we believe will produce victories on and off the field,” said Kevin George, superintendent of The St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District, in an emailed statement.
Banko was 26-20 in his four seasons, including a 6-6 record last season and 4-3 in District 7-5A play. The Wildcats beat John Ehret in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs before falling to eventual runner-up Destrehan.
East St. John went to the playoffs in each of Banko’s four seasons.
Foster hopes to continue that postseason run.
“We are going to play physical and be exciting,” Foster said. “My big thing is discipline, discipline, discipline. We want to play hard and play with good sportsmanship. We are going to play like a champion. And even if we happen to lose, we are going to lose like a champion.”
Foster guided Amite to the Class 3A state championship game this season where they lost 43-14 to Livonia. It was Foster’s third time taking a team to the title game, falling short each time.
“I hope we will be able to cross that mountain with this group of kids,” Foster said.
In addition to his three trips to the title game, Foster has won nine District Coach of the Year awards, two Louisiana Sports Writers Association Coach of the Year Awards and a Louisiana Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award. His Amite team was district champion six of the seven years.
But Foster, who will officially take over on Feb. 2, knows that he will be in an even more rugged district now.
“It’s a very tough district,” he said. “But with the right discipline and right structure and right strength program, we can compete with anybody in the district. They have proven that in the past. I respect that district to the utmost, but at the same time, I feel that we can be very successful. And if you can compete in that district, you can compete with anybody in the state.”