Former Saratoga Springs coach and athletic director Bob Stulmaker is retiring next month from his role as assistant director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.
In his job with the state association, the 1973 Bethlehem Central High grad wore a number of hats. His responsibilities ranged from serving as the liaison between the NYSPHSAA and the coordinator of the various high school sports offered in the state, to being the point man for securing sites and contracts for state championship events.
A 1977 graduate of Ithaca College, Stulmaker taught, coached and was an administrators for 30 years at Saratoga Springs High School, and was a 2013 inductee into its Athletic Hall of Fame. He recently sat down with the Daily Gazette:
Q: When you got out of college, what was your plan?
A: What I really wanted to do when I graduated from college was coach college baseball. I said, ‘I’ll stay at Saratoga for three years, then go get my master degree at a Florida school and coach baseball.’ Thirty years later, I was still at Saratoga. If you told me in 1977, when I went to Saratoga, that 38 years later I would be with the NYSPHSAA, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Q: What were the most significant changes during your time at Saratoga?
A: When I arrived at Saratoga in 1977, Saratoga was a member of the Foothills Council. The enrollment grew, the programs grew to the point that we joined the Suburban Council. Ultimately, we became one of the largest schools in the Suburban Council, and one of the more successful programs in the Suburban Council.
Q: You coached wrestling, football and baseball programs, and then served as the director of Physical Education, Athletics and Health at Saratoga. Any favorite players or teams?
A: When I see my former athletes go on and become positive, successful, contributing members of society, that’s the best. I’ll be some place and I’ll see an athlete I coached that I haven’t seen for years, and I ask them how they are, and I find out they’re doctors, lawyers, teachers.
Q: How did you become part of the NYSPHSAA staff?
A: When the opportunity presented itself to come here, this was a job that intrigued me. I thought it would be an honor and a privilege to work for the state athletic association. Thirty years in one place [Saratoga], there are people I miss. No question. But this was a challenge, something new, something I wanted to do.
Q: Was the position with the NYSPHSAA what you expected?
A: It’s expanded, no question about it. The state tournaments have expanded in every sport. The visibility of the tournaments have expanded. When I got here, the tournaments were not televised. The marketing of the tournaments has expanded. It’s a major, major event now.
Q: What was the best part of the NYSPHSAA job?
A: Helping to promote the terrific student-athletes we have in New York. One of the programs that I oversaw that’s really taken off is the Scholar/Athlete Team Award Program. It’s an opportunity to showcase not only their talents on the playing field, but also their talents in the classroom.
Q: How much traveling did your job with the NYSPHSAA entail?
A: I don’t know, but I’ve been to every section in the state multiple times. I knew it would be part of the job, but you don’t realize it until you do it. Until you get in your car and you drive in bad weather, and you drive all hours of the day, you don’t know what that’s like.
Q: What did you learn from working with each section?
A: Every section has its own dynamics. Every section has different issues. An issue and a hot topic in one section could be mundane in another section. That’s the interesting and fascinating part. You don’t know, philosophically, what will work in each section, so you learn that.
Q: As a major player in securing sites for state championships, what did you look for from potential hosts?
A: All factors are looked at — location, facilities, hotel accommodations, seating capacity. Everything is taken into account when the decision is made as to where a tournament is going to be. There are a lot of dynamics regarding the colleges. Their own teams are part of that dynamic. I wouldn’t expect them to bump their own team for us.
Q: What’s in your future?
A: I’ve got a lot of experience, and what I want to do is share my experience, share my knowledge, with other people. And I want to go to games because I want to, and I can be a spectator. I don’t have to worry about what’s going on.