Tom Sarkovics is no stranger to awards and accolades.
The Starpoint director of athletics was recognized by the Buffalo Bills with the Touchdown for Teachers Finalist Award in 2009. He received the Gordon J. Bukaty Award for his dedication to youth and high school athletics in Western New York in 2007. Starpoint’s varsity baseball field was named in his honor in 2004.
Sarkovics added Section VI Athletic Director of the Year to his long list of distinctions on March 16 when he was honored at the New York State Athletic Administrators Association’s 35th Anniversary Conference Awards in Saratoga Springs.
It’s never been easy for “Sark,” as friends call him, to accept the recognition. He’s not someone who embraces the limelight.
“I didn’t have any idea. It was quite an honor,” Sarkovics said. “I feel that quite a few people were more deserving than me, but I guess I’ve put a few years in.”
Forty-seven to be exact.
The North Tonawanda native joined Starpoint in 1970 as a health teacher after graduating from SUNY Brockport. He coached 81 sports teams over the course of the next three decades, including football, basketball, baseball and field hockey.
He retired from teaching and coaching in 2004 to assume the athletic director post, a part-time position in the district. That coincided with the opening of Starpoint’s new high school.
“I think they thought I had a feel for the position.” Sarkovics said. “It’s been rewarding. I like what I’m doing. I get to be involved with whatever’s going on. It’s all about what we can do for the kids.”
Don’t let the part-time status fool you. Sarkovics has been heavily involved the past 14 years improving the student-athlete experience at Starpoint.
“He’s part time but he’s there full time,” Starpoint principal Gil Licata said. “He’s just there all the time. You can’t beat that. He definitely puts student athletes first. He makes it easy to coach because he’s been one himself and was a great athlete in his day.”
In his first year as AD he was the driving force in bringing the school from the Niagara-Orleans League to the Erie County Interscholastic Conference (ECIC). He also immediately began working with the Board of Education to add modified programs to all sports. Boys volleyball and bowling programs were implemented, and the boys club hockey team is joining the Western New York Federation next season.
“We expanded all the different programs,” Sarkovics said. “Having all these modified programs added helped get the kids involved from a younger age.”
It comes at a time when it seems like more schools are having to combine to field teams because of a lack of numbers. Starpoint hasn’t had to face that problem.
“Our toughest issue is having to cut kids because there’s so many that want to be involved,” Sarkovics said. “I always like to say the best students in the class are the best athletes, student athletes, in the play ... just involved with everything.”
Sarkovics has also been instrumental in organizing and securing funds for a multitude of facility upgrades at Starpoint.
He contributed to efforts to build dugouts on the baseball, softball, field hockey and soccer fields, as well as a solar scoreboard. Championship banners were added to the walls in the high school gym during the summer of 2008.
Last summer he oversaw the new turf, track, lights and multivideo scoreboard projects at the stadium, which allowed the school to host its first-ever night football game. The construction of a new weight room will start next month.
“It’s easy for them to say no, but they’ve been real supportive,” Sarkovics said of the administration. “Anything I asked, they come through for me.”
“He makes my job easier because he handles almost everything,” Licata said. “He always comes with a solution. Never a problem.”
Among other duties, Sarkovics heads the committee for the Athletic Wall of Fame and organizes alumni games for football, basketball and baseball. He holds special promotional nights for the students and also started honoring male and female athletes of the week.
“Anything we can make better for the kids is what I’m looking for,” Sarkovics said.
Whether he likes it or not, Sarkovics is the face of Starpoint athletics. He’s synonymous with the program. Its history cannot be told without him.
“He’s been there so long that everybody knows him,” Licata said. “He’s really big in the community and a very honest, sincere person. He’ll support the kids no matter what.”
But, as expected, he’s quick to point out that none of the success would’ve been possible without the help and support from his colleagues.
“My secretary, Jane Wilson, when I’m not there she runs the show,” Sarkovics said. “I couldn’t do any of this without her. The administration has been awesome. We have a new superintendent who’s all involved. I couldn’t have better people to work for.
“I’m going year to year, seeing how things go. As long as they want me around, I’ll be there for them.”