Robert “Bob” Zentz, whose long career in education and coaching included a string of championships with the Schalmont High School boys’ soccer team, died at his daughter’s home in Ballston Spa Saturday at the age of 81 following an illness.
Zentz taught science at Schalmont for 34 years and led its varsity and junior varsity boys’ soccer teams, while also serving as a swimming, diving, judo and karate instructor. The Brant Lake resident was also an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed camping, hiking, boating and fishing, and worked as a park ranger for the New York State Parks and Recreation Department and as an administrator at Youth Conservation Corp.
“As a coach — I played for a long time for a lot of coaches — I can honestly say he was my favorite,” said Carlo D’Ambrosio, a 1987 Schalmont graduate who played for Zentz for four varsity seasons. “On the field, he had a goal and knew how to get it. Off the field, it was, ‘How’s school going? Got plans for the future? Are you going to college?’ Off the field, he was concerned with who we were. It wasn’t just play soccer and go home.”
Zentz led the Schalmont varsity team from 1982 through 1994, and his 1983 and 1984 editions earned Section II Class B championships, while his 1991 squad was the area runner-up. That 1984 edition won the school’s first regional title, posted a 22-1-1 record and, afterward, Zentz was named the Section II Coach of the Year.
“We had a special team that year, and he was a big part of it,” said Steve Masullo, who played on Zentz’s varsity teams from 1982-84. “We built a fraternity that lasts to this day, and he pushed that. He built the team spirit up. He was good at that.”
Zentz enjoyed many types of music and had starring roles in several productions put on by the Galway Players. He would often sing on bus rides back to school following Schalmont’s away victories.
“He was an avid singer, and on the bus ride home, he would sing the theme song for Schaefer beer,” Masullo laughed. “Senior year, he sang a lot.”
Masullo said Zentz was ahead of his time.
“Looking back, we played indoor soccer before it was a big thing,” Masullo said. “He also took a bunch of us on a trip to Europe, and back then, those things didn’t happen.”
D’Ambrosio said the trip to Europe included games in several different countries.
“He [Zentz] had more than soccer as a focus for us,” D’Ambrosio said. “Soccer was a lead-in to a life experience.”
Masulla recalled another experience that took place in a classroom.
“Reading his obit brought back a lot of memories, like how he was into judo and karate,” Masullo said. “I remember when I was a junior and he was my chemistry teacher. First day, he had a couple soccer players come up. He had a board, and he broke the board before he even introduced himself. That set the tone for the whole year.”
Aside from his coaching duties at Schalmont and forays in other sports, Zentz founded the Lakehill Soccer Club and led teams in it.
“He made a big impact for youth soccer,” D’Ambrosio said.
Zentz was born in Gloversville and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Amsterdam in 1956 before earning a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport and a master’s degree from Union College. He also taught as an adjunct professor at The College of Saint Rose.
“Coach Zentz was a great soccer coach,” Masullo said. “Mr. Zentz was a great chemistry teacher. Bob Zentz was a great man.”
Zentz was predeceased by his wife of 54 years, Judith Zentz. He is survived by, among others, his son Gary and daughter Karin.