As Robert Siracuse, Scarsdale High School's new athletic director, attempted to make his way into his office, his entrance was obstructed by open cardboard boxes and a net bag of soccer balls just in the way of a flat screen on a cart. A few desks were squeezed into the room, and a wall of trophies loomed over the whole thing. Siracuse, 44, was trying to back through the door and negotiate a space for the flat screen.
A new addition to Scarsdale High School's faculty, Siracuse doesn't officially start his new job until September 1st, but he's nevertheless been working four days a week. Football and cheerleading began on August 19th, and Siracuse is trying to start off with a lead.
Siracuse lives in Goshen, N.Y., a small town in Orange County, where he served as athletic director and director of physical education. He was also the local high school's assistant principal, a title he gained when the Goshen Central School District had to get creative with its budget. He commutes an hour each way every day.
"Most people know this is a top level high school," Siracuse said. "You want to be part of something great like Scarsdale."
Siracuse started out in Goshen as a student athlete playing on a championship high school soccer team, winning a county title in tennis and also playing basketball. Following graduation, he attended Bonaventure University in western New York and played soccer there before graduating with a degree in physical education. He then attended Indiana University, where he studied kinesiology and received his master's, and SUNY New Paltz, where he received a master's in educational administration. He's used to winning.
"Academics is first," Siracuse said. "The coach's role is to ensure that kids to do well outside their academic day."
But the value of athletics, of competition, is in the competition itself. When Siracuse went to Bonaventure, his team struggled against better funded programs that drew better players.
"Trying to maintain .500, I had to change my mindset from an individual to a team perspective," Siracuse said. "Now, we had to figure out how to compete. It's a big life lesson; it makes you learn how to persevere. It brings out the best in you. You learn a lot about yourself when you're not doing well."
Siracuse left Goshen after his job as athletic director was cut in half and he had to work as the assistant principal. "That's not going to change up there," he said. "It'll be interesting to see how schools react to the tax cap."
"The value here at Scarsdale," Siracuse continued, "is they want what's best for their kids. The goal is to keep programs for kids. Some schools, the programs are going to start to be cut. Hopefully, Scarsdale's won't."
Siracuse doesn't plan any changes in Scarsdale's athletic programs. "The big thing to do is getting to know people: students, faculty, parents. Before you go making changes, you have to know the existing culture," he said.
Besides, many of the sports are thriving already.
"They've built something good over the last four to five years," Siracuse said about the school's football team. "Boy's soccer's coming off a great year; tennis keeps spitting out good players, and wrestling is looking good. Sports like crew and boys' and girls' swimming are new to me. I'm excited about them, as well as lacrosse."
Siracuse's desk was covered with papers and open files. A framed photo of his family, his wife Jackie, daughter Julia, 15, and sons Robby, 10, and David, who is 22-months-old, sat on a small refrigerator near the desk. Siracuse mentioned that he spent the weekend looking for a house closer to Scarsdale. "Not in Scarsdale," he laughed. "But closer."
Visiting Siracuse at Scarsdale High School, he seemed to be getting acquainted with his new surroundings as he navigated the hallways to the gym, where a girls' volleyball practice was occurring. "I'm still learning the layout of this place," Siracuse said.
When he arrived at the gym, one of the players was standing outside the door. Siracuse pushed on it, but nothing happened. "I've got the key to that," he said to the girl, smiling. He jammed the key in the lock and opened it for her, then followed her in after she ran to the net.
No one recognized Siracuse as he surveyed the gym, but he seemed to be at home.
The original article stated that that football and cheerleading began on the 19th--meaning August 19th--and the line was incorrectly revised to read "September 19th."
Patch regrets the error.