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Robert Zayas takes charge

New executive director learns job as he settles in to unfamiliar territory

New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Robert Zayas is looking to implement some of the changes he brought to the New Mexico Activities Association to his new post.

New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Robert Zayas is looking to implement some of the changes he brought to the New Mexico Activities Association to his new post. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— Zayas said he would like to implement those ideas with NYSPHSAA, but his first task is to learn as much as he can about the organization’s 11 member sections and their needs.

“I want to do three things. I want to listen, I want to learn and I want to evaluate,” said Zayas.

Before Zayas officially took over as executive director Sept. 1, he spent the previous week working closely with his predecessor, Nina Van Erk. The two traveled to western New York for meetings with the Section V and VI directors, and Zayas went over the rules and regulations with Van Erk.

“I have incredibly big shoes to fill in replacing Nina,” said Zayas. “Just in the past four days, I’ve learned the amount of knowledge she has about rules and regulations is incredible.”

Van Erk, who is taking over as Section VIII (Nassau County) executive director, said there are certain aspects of running NYSPHSAA she will miss.

“The day-to-day interaction with the athletic directors of the state and the various sport coordinators,” she said.

One thing Zayas is learning is the financial challenges member schools and sections are facing with funding their sports. With less state aid and cap on raising property taxes, school districts across New York are spending less on extracurricular activities such as sports. And earlier this year, NYSPHSAA addressed concerns about travel costs to state tournaments – even floating the idea of a two-year moratorium on state championships.

Zayas said his goal is to make certain student-athletes continue to have opportunities to play for their schools.

“High school sports are an extension of the classroom,” said Zayas. “You can learn lessons on a football field that you can’t learn in math class. If you eliminate sports, you’re making the life of a student-athlete more difficult.”

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