Q&A with new WPIAL executive director Scott Seltzer

Sunday, July 24, 2022 | 5:29 PM

Scott Seltzer had decided his time with the WPIAL was ending this summer after 13 years on the board and six as board president.

Or so he thought.

Seltzer, 55, had expected to retire within a few years as assistant superintendent at Chartiers Valley, so he considered now to be the right time to step away from the WPIAL. Those plans changed in April when Amy Scheuneman resigned after two years as WPIAL executive director.

Suddenly, the WPIAL needed a new leader.

“I could see that it was time to give the (board) presidency to somebody else,” Seltzer said, “but when Amy said, ‘Hey, I’ve got another job,’ that’s when I said, ‘Well, I’ve still got some things I think I can give to the league.’ ”

The board voted unanimously to hire Seltzer, who retired from Chartiers Valley and started his tenure as the top WPIAL administrator this month.

He is the fifth full-time executive director in league history after Scheuneman (2020-22), Tim O’Malley (2006-20), Larry Hanley (1997-06) and Charles “Ace” Heberling (1976-97).

The 1985 Mohawk graduate was a three-sport athlete in high school as a point guard in basketball, a catcher in baseball and a tight end in football, the sport he later played at Westminster. There, he was part of an NAIA Division II national championship team in 1988.

A former social studies teacher at his alma mater, Seltzer later held assistant principal or principal positions at Frew Mill, Neshannock and Moon before joining Chartiers Valley, where he worked in the administration for 12 years.

He and his wife, Sandra, live in Neshannock Township. They have three children: Alex, 29, Matthew, 26, and Kaitlin, 21.

What interested you in the executive director job?

Amy was doing a great job. She really was. She took over for Tim nicely, and Tim did amazing things as well while he was here. This job gives me an opportunity to help the students of the WPIAL and the students of the state to some extent.

What’s the biggest challenge the WPIAL is facing? Public vs. private? Officials shortage?

What’s different now from even a few years ago is individual wants. Everybody has something they want. They want to see this, they want to see that and they want it quickly. One of the biggest problems is just getting people to realize these are not problems that are easily solved. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take discussion. It’s going to take collaboration.

Why have “individual wants” become a problem?

I think we’re losing the focus on what high school athletics are about. They create an emotional and social opportunity for kids to really work on skills. Under the right guidance by coaches and principals and parents, you can really give kids a resilience. We worry so much about our children becoming champions. We want them to be champions. But we’re not really thinking about the development of that person to become a champion in life.

Do you worry about the future of high school athletics?

My worries with high school athletics stem more from the funding of athletics. Districts are starting to use their fund balances. They’re starting to cut programs. When does that funding really start to hurt athletics?

When you’re not working, what are you doing?

Whatever it is, it’s usually family-oriented. I go to movies. I like golf, but I do it very little. I’m usually with my family. I really enjoy doing things with my children and spending time with my wife. Sandy gives me so much courage and support. I can spend all day every day with her.

Are you active on social media?

No. I don’t tweet. I don’t Snapchat. I don’t do any of that stuff. My family knows, “Dad doesn’t have any pictures.” When I’m at an event, I’m at the event. I’m not thinking, ‘I’ve got to take a picture of this.’ It just doesn’t cross my mind, and maybe it should.

When you accepted this job, was it a long-term commitment?

I don’t usually go too far out, but I feel as long as I can give purpose to this league, and as long as our member schools believe I can give purpose to this league, then I’ll do this for a while. I don’t know how long that “a while” is, but I’ve been blessed throughout my life with opportunities. This is just another blessing.

Are there any big misconceptions about the WPIAL?

The biggest misconception is how much control we really have. I think people view us almost like the NCAA, where we’re governing behaviors. We can get to some behaviors, but there are a lot of things parents call and want us to do that we just don’t have the power to do.

Also, 98% of the people involved in the WPIAL volunteer their time. Very few people get paid for running an event. Our committees don’t get paid. They do it because they want to help kids and provide these venues.

Do you believe it’s important to use venues like Heinz Field?

Well, it’s not Heinz Field anymore. So we’re not going there ever again.

OK, good point. How about the same question but with Acrisure Stadium?

Yes. I think it’s important. When you see kids walking through those tunnels that professional athletes, college athletes, their idols walk through, I think that gives them an experience you’re not going to get many places. I think that’s part of what sets us apart. We try to find those venues for our students to be on those surfaces that their heroes are.

Who was your favorite athlete as a kid?

Roberto Clemente, but I was very young when he passed away. (Seltzer has a framed picture of Clemente in his Green Tree office.). Probably the person I liked the most was Julius Erving. What Dr. J did on the basketball court was amazing. My brother and I had a little poster on the wall of Dr. J dunking behind his head.

What was your favorite sport?

I didn’t have a favorite, but I liked playing basketball, I think because my dad played at Duke. My dad walked on his freshman year at Duke. This was back in the ’50s. He’ll tell you they were better at football than basketball. My mother and father played for Fran Webster at Mt. Jackson. (Webster later was an assistant coach at Pitt and inventor of the “amoeba defense.”)

Does today’s trend of specializing in one sport bother you?

It does, especially with younger kids. Each sport can teach you something. I remember ending football season, going to basketball season and being sore for the first couple of days of practice because you’re using different muscles.

What is your favorite high school memory?

It’s not one event, but just being able to compete with my friends and compete against people who later became friends. I remember playing against guys like Mark Stanley and Chris Mele and others from the county. It was a battle on the court, but off the court there was a respect given to each other. (Stanley is boys basketball coach at Union. Mele coaches at Hickory.)

What makes the WPIAL unique?

There is a sense of pride in winning a WPIAL championship. Other districts have that too, but making the WPIAL playoffs is a big accomplishment. It’s tough to get through the sections. There’s an expectation by member schools, by parents, by community members that it’s going to be tough and it’s something special.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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