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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.

Robert Zayas knows about making bold moves.

Growing up in a military family, Zayas bounced between the state he was born in (Maine), Texas and Turkey.

The day after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Zayas volunteered to talk to an Austin TV station about what he was teaching his O’Henry Middle School history students about the events in New York City and Arlington, Va.

After joining the New Mexico Activities Association in 2002, Zayas remodeled its website, directed the state’s high school soccer, swimming and track meets, worked as the media relations person and established a “Life of an Athlete” program modeled after the prototype created in New York.

Now Zayas has uprooted his young family to the Capital District, where he has been hired to run the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

Zayas, 36, said being named NYSPHSAA’s sixth executive director is a “dream job” for him.

“I’m a big high school sports fan,” said Zayas. “For me, there’s nothing purer than high school athletic competition.”

Zayas said he wasn’t sure he would get the job when he applied for it.

“Coming into a state athletic association and getting an executive director’s job is incredibly difficult,” said Zayas. “To do that from 2,000 miles away is even more difficult.”

What Zayas had going for him was his work with the NMAA’s tournaments and website. He increased the net revenues for New Mexico’s soccer, swimming and track meets by lowering expenses, and he improved the organization’s web presence by redesigning the site to include more news topics and game results.

“Every time he took over a tournament … he took it to another level,” said NMAA Assistant Director for Marketing Dusty Young, who worked closely with Zayas. “Not only did he make these events first class, but he also did his best to cut costs.”

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