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The New Mexico Activities Association announced Wednesday that longtime associate director Robert Zayas is leaving to take over the state athletic association in New York.
Zayas, who started with the NMAA — the governing body of most interscholastic prep sports in the state — in 2002, will take over one of the largest athletic associations in the country.
With the NMAA, Zayas oversaw several sports postseason events, including soccer, swimming and diving and track and field. He also helped coordinate alignment and classification of schools and was the NMAA’s main media contact for most of his career there.
“Robert has done so much for this association, but more importantly, for the youth of New Mexico,” said NMAA executive director Gary Tripp. “Although he will be missed, we are excited for his opportunity to lead and know he will do great things for the students of New York.”
Zayas started he career as a teacher and coach in Texas, then joined the NMAA and was a stabilizing force for the organization after the messy departure of longtime executive director Dan Salzwedel. He was promoted to associate director in 2010.
During his tenure, Zayas served on numerous national committees and also launched and managed the Life of an Athlete program which has brought awareness of the negative effects alcohol has on athletes to students across New Mexico.
“I am honored to have been selected as the next executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association,” said Zayas in a press release announcing his departure. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure at the New Mexico Activities Association over the course of the last 10 years. I truly value the friendships and relationships that I have had an opportunity to develop while at the NMAA and I am hopeful that I have made a positive impact upon the students of this great state.”
The NYSPHSAA Board of Directors approved his hiring Tuesday afternoon and Zayas will become the association’s sixth executive director since 1968. He succeeds Nina Van Erk who held the position for the previous 12 years. His first official day is Sept. 1.
“Robert brings State level experience, an impressive track record and a wealth of enthusiasm to the position,” said Mark Ward, NYSPHSAA president. “He clearly understands the ‘times’ we are living in and is willing to maneuver through the economic hardships our schools are facing. We are excited about his vision for our association and look forward to working with him to enhance and improve the opportunities for student athletes across New York State.”
Zayas will serve as the official interpreter for all NYSPHSAA rules, regulations, and policies, and act as liaison to the New York Education Department, its state legislature, the National Federation of High Schools and other affiliated organizations.
When he takes over the position, the 36-year-old Zayas will become the youngest person in his position in the country.