So much for easing into retirement.
Nina Van Erk, who earlier this month retired after 12 years as executive director of the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), will become executive director of Nassau (Section VIII) effective Sept. 1.
Van Erk replaces Todd Heimer, who served as Section VIII executive director for 18 years until his death from a heart attack Feb. 7.
"After I decided that I was going to retire from the state association, I was asked if I was interested in the Section VIII job," Van Erk said Friday in a telephone interview with Newsday. "I thought, 'What a nice way to continue to provide opportunities for student athletes.' It's probably the only position I haven't held. I'm thrilled about getting back to the day-to-day operation of interscholastic athletics and continuing the good work that Todd Heimer has done."
Van Erk, who grew up in Manhasset and attended St. Mary's High School, served on the National Federation of High Schools board of directors for three years and was the 2010-11 president of the NFHS. She spent 35 years as an administrator, teacher and coach in Section I (southern Westchester) before working for the state federation.
Included in that experience was her role as director of health, physical education and athletics at Katonah-Lewisboro school district (including John Jay High School) from 1995-2000.
"When someone transitions from one job to another, you need to do a lot of listening to find out what the concerns are of the people you are serving," said Van Erk, who expressed interest in re-examining some of the policies and procedures that have been on the books for years to make sure "they meet the needs of student athletes in today's world."
Pat Pizzarelli, athletic director at Lawrence and a past president of NYSPHSAA who worked with Van Erk, called the hiring "a home run. She's very smart, very hardworking and she loves kids. She brings an athletic administrator's background to the job. She knows what we go through every day."
During Van Erk's tenure with NYSPHSAA, she saw boys volleyball and girls golf evolve into state tournament competitions. One issue she'll likely address in her new role is that of L.I. possibly hosting some state tournaments.
Suffolk's executive director Ed Cinelli told Newsday in March that the county is considering pulling out of some state championships because of travel expenses. Pizzarelli said at the time that Nassau wasn't considering such a measure, though he acknowledged the rising cost of travel. With the exception of boys lacrosse, in which Long Island hosts the semifinals every other year, state tournaments are held mostly near Albany, Syracuse, Ithaca and Rochester.
But Cinelli indicated that if Long Island could get into the rotation for hosting some other state events -- he cited girls lacrosse -- such drastic action might not have to be taken. He may have an ally in Van Erk.
"I believe that Section VIII and Section XI will work collaboratively on putting in bids to host state championships," Van Erk said.