Schenectady’s football team had just completed its “Fall II” season with a win over Saratoga Springs, and as his players ran off Larry Mulvaney Field, Patriots coach Carm DePoalo gave high school athletic director Steve Boynton a big bear hug to go with a big “thank you.”
Boynton, you see, has been the go-to guy over the last 14 months as Schenectady teams, coaches and athletic staff members have negotiated their way through the COVID-19 era that has included four competition seasons in the current school year.
In less trying times, he led the Patriots in their their transition from the Big 10 to the Suburban Council, and with vision, decision-making and orchestration throughout his tenure, he has done everything possible to give the school’s athletes opportunities for success.
“You pull up your pants and get it done. You figure it out,” Boynton said earlier this week. “There are a lot of new curves we’ve had to adjust to. Masks and tracing. Six feet distance. Everyone with their own water. Twenty people on a bus. It’s been an interesting year and a half to say the least.”
It wasn’t the way Boynton, who will be retiring June 30 after 32 years in education, could have ever envisioned himself going out.
“Everyone wants to leave on a high note. Enjoy the ride,” the 54-year-old Schenectady resident and father of two said. “The good thing for the kids is that it looks like we’ll be back to normal next year.”
But before then there’s still more meetings, phone calls, paperwork and plans to be attended to as the spring season unfolds. There are more games and practices to show up at, too, for the man who’s been an on-site presence since he was selected coordinator of health, physical education and athletics at Schenectady in 2001. In the seven years prior he had served as assistant principal and then principal at Oneida Middle School.
“You think safety first, and everything else follows after that,” Boynton said. “It’s, ‘What can you do inside a gym, at the park and outside on a field?'”
Guilderland and Niskayuna shared Schenectady’s turf football field in the opening weeks of the “Fall II” season in late March and early April when their own grass facilities were still thawing out.
“We needed a home base, and Steve was there. In a way, he was a part of us winning the [Class AA] championship,” Guilderland athletic director Dave Austin said. “We worked together in my two years at Mohonasen and here at Guilderland, and he has been fantastic to me. I know others would say the same.”
“He is very in tune to the challenges we all face as coaches here, and his door has always been open,” said John Miller, who was first hired by Boynton to teach physical education in the district and later to lead its boys’ basketball teams. “It’s an uphill battle at times, and he’s been supportive and he listens. Having him in your corner, it’s big.”
“He’s very easy to work with, and with every request we’ve had, he’s always been there for us. He’s had our back,” said Bob Pezzano, chairman of the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame. “He has helped with everything from the trophy case to our golf tournament to driving a truck. He was on the committee for four years. His support has made life a lot easier.”
Austin and Boynton had collaborated together when the Schenectady and Mohonasen lacrosse teams and girls’ tennis teams merged a few years ago.
“We’ve done some great things,” Austin said. “The result is we ended up giving Mohonasen kids the opportunity to play lacrosse for the first time and tennis kids an opportunity to continue to play. That wouldn’t have happened without Steve. He cares about opportunities for kids, and he cares about helping others.”
Schenectady kids got an opportunity to swim, and soon after got a new pool to do it in, in the beginning of Boynton’s AD run, and competitive cheerleading and Unified sports would come later. About halfway into his term he backed the installation of turf on the football field that would in time be named in honor of Mont Pleasant coaching legend Larry Mulvaney.
More recently there was a girls’ swim merger with Colonie that Boynton endorsed, and currently, he has his hand in an upgrade project for the high school’s outdoor athletic facility.
“As we keep evolving more, there’s been more on my plate. There’s been long nights and [missed] vacations, but I have no regrets,” said Boynton, who, just out of college, worked for a couple years at Ballston Spa High School before assuming physical education teaching roles at Steinmetz Middle School, Central Park Middle School and Paige Elementary School. “Schenectady has been good to me. I have worked hard and tried to do good for the district.”
“Everyone wants to do well and wants kids to go on and be successful,” Miller said. “That’s our main mission and Steve is a big part of that.”
Boynton coached modified basketball and junior varsity lacrosse at Schenectady, and lent his coaching knowledge to its JV and varsity football teams. His football background includes starring roles at Ballston Spa High School and Brockport University and with the Glove Cities Colonials, and assistant coaching stints with the Albany Metro Mallers and New York Nemesis women’s team that played at Schenectady.
In his coat-and-tie role he’s served on numerous committees and has been a part of numerous educational organizations. The former Big 10 president will also be relinquishing the president’s spot with the Schenectady Administrators Association that he’s held for well over a decade.
“It’s been a great ride. I’ve seen a lot of great things and met a lot of great people, like Larry Mulvaney and Pat Riley,” Boynton said. “It’s been great watching some of our athletes excel and then go on to a higher level, and seeing them come back to the community.”