Allison Slysz named athletic director at Smith Academy


Published: 6/28/2018 9:19:28 PM

Sixty people applied for Smith Academy’s athletic director opening when the school posted it in February.

They sent in from all over the country, some expecting a different position than they thought.

“There was some confusion with people applying thinking it was a full-time gig,” Smith Academy principal Andrew Berrios said. “People just assumed it was like this Chicopee deal where you’re the AD and that’s it and we’re gonna pay you six figures, and it’s not that at all.”

Berrios posted the position as after school and listed the salary as “stipend,” because the position isn’t part time or full time.

“We’re a very small district,” he said. “I think some people missed that and we got a lot more applicants than we would have gotten if people read between the lines.”

Allison Slysz needed no introduction to Smith Academy. She went to the school there and played field hockey, basketball and softball from seventh grade on. Slysz spent one high school summer as a custodial assistant and six summers between high school and college as a clerical assistant.

After playing field hockey at Mount Holyoke and earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees there, Slysz taught for one year at Ludlow High School before returning to Smith Academy last year to teach biology and be an assistant coach for her three sports.

She applied for the available athletic director position with the pending retirement of David Keir, seeing the position as a logical step since she was already a teacher at Smith Academy and knew the coaches and administrators so well.

“I thought it would be a great way to give back to the school and the town and the community who made me who I am. I figured I would throw my name in and see where it would go,” said Slysz, 24.

The posting closed at the beginning of March, and Smith Academy formed a seven-member committee to help choose its next athletic director. It included Berrios, a PVIAC executive board member, two student athletes, a Smith Academy teacher who is also a coach, a school committee member who is a parent of a student athlete, a community member who has had four athletes go through Smith Academy and longtime former athletic director and field hockey coach Sherry Webb.

“We wanted to have a comprehensive group that would get the best candidate,” Berrios said.

The committee selected two finalists: Slysz and someone from outside the community. They hired Slysz in late April.

“She shined through the interview process because she knows this athletic program probably better than anybody we interviewed,” Berrios said.

Slysz is organized, responsible and committed to the community of Hatfield, Webb said.

Coming back to Smith Academy was always a priority for Slysz. She made sure she did her student teaching there when she was still at Mount Holyoke.

“I knew in my heart I would end up back there, but I didn’t know how soon or how it would work out,” Slysz said. “It does seem a little quick and sudden, but I knew it was where I was going to end up anyways.”

Slysz will continue to teach biology and will dial back her assistant coaching. She was an assistant field hockey coach, the junior varsity girls basketball coach and an assistant softball coach.

“I really want to focus on being a good athletic administrator and working out all the kinks,” she said.

She understands there will be challenges as an administrator at a small school. Some people won’t take her as seriously at first because she is young and doesn’t have as much experience as some of her peers.

“She will have to earn respect. Her youth may cause people to question more of the decisions she makes,” Webb said. “As she gets her feet underneath her, people will understand she’s a reasonable person and has good ideas.”

She won’t have to do it alone. Keir and Webb will be there to provide advice and guidance whenever she wants it.

“I hope she gets the support of the teams and the community,” Keir said. “That’s something I always felt that I had and Sherry always felt that she had.”

Slysz is grateful for their support and is comfortable reaching out to them.

“I’m going to have him (Keir) on speed dial all the time,” Slysz said. “They’re empathetic and know what I’m going through so they’re right there for me and have vocalized that this whole time.”

Slysz is only the third athletic director since 1983. Webb was hired as a teacher in 1974 and coached a number of different teams before her retirement in 2011. She served as AD from 1983-2011. Keir was hired as a physical education teacher in 1983. He coached the golf team for the last 29 seasons and has served as the athletic director since 2011.

“There’s always some resistance to change. I’m not looking to make any waves or make any drastic changes, I just want to continue the legacy that’s been set and maintain that,” Slysz said. “Looking at the great athletics program they ran, I’m excited to meet them at that level and continue what they were doing. It’s not intimidating to me.”


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