Athletic Director leaves after five years of wins, milestones, new teams

LEGACY: Under Mr. Schiff, the Firehawks moved into the new gym and hosted Glouberman tournament.

Mati Hurwitz

LEGACY: Under Mr. Schiff, the Firehawks moved into the new gym and hosted Glouberman tournament.

By Lucy Fried, Staff Writer

Mr. Elliot “Eli” Schiff, who has served as Athletic Director since 2012 and oversaw the creation of the boys flag football team and girls swim and dance teams along with the first Steve Glouberman Basketball Tournament, will not return for the 2016-17 school year.

“A lot has changed, and it’s been really great to watch the program expand,” Mr. Schiff said, reflecting upon his Shalhevet career.

He cited as highlights of his tenure the flag football team’s back-to-back championships, the girls football team beating YULA, watching the volleyball team progress and the Glouberman tournament – in addition to moving into the school’s new building and its first-ever on-campus gym.

“The school feels like more of a community,” he said.

During Mr. Schiff’s tenure, Firehawk sports teams scored some memorable victories, most notably two girls basketball championships – a first win at the Galbut Tournament in Miami in 2015 and the other at the Glouberman contest – and one boys, at Sarachek in 2013 at Yeshiva University.

Both the boys and girls basketball teams made trips to CIF finals, and boys and girls flag football, girls soccer, boys baseball, and girls basketball teams all defeated crosstown rival YULA at least once since the fall of 2012 when he took over.

These achievements were made despite changing coaches at least once – sometimes mid-season – in baseball, boys basketball and boys and girls flag football.

But though he saw Firehawk athletics grow in size and success, his favorite part of the job was watching the progress of the students.

“It’s really impressive to watch their confidence and skill levels go up,” Mr. Schiff said.  “As freshmen you see these kids come in and they don’t really know what they’re doing – they have that deer-in-the-headlights look.

“From not being so secure with themselves freshman year to really taking charge as seniors–that’s the most interesting part for me.”

Beginning in fall 2011, Mr. Schiff served first as facilities director in the old building. He then served four years as athletic director, with a one-year overlap in both positions for five years in all.

The job’s biggest challenge, he said, was finding fields to practice and play on. This year was the first Shalhevet had its own gym —  a huge improvement for basketball and volleyball – but other sports still have to scramble and practice fields are sometimes far away.   The swim team uses pools at other schools and sometimes practices on land.

In spite of this, several new teams were developed under his leadership – including the swim team, dance team and the very successful boys football team.

Others teams were strengthened as well, particularly the boy’s Junior Varsity basketball team, which went 11-3 this year.

Firehawk athletes said they appreciated Mr. Schiff’s work developing teams and connecting to students.

He always tried to get as many people as possible involved in sports, which shows he really cared not only about the athletics, but also about the students.[/pullquote]“He always tried to get as many people as possible involved in sports,” said junior Michelle Greenbcerg, who was on the flag football and swim teams this year, “which shows he really cared not only about the athletics, but also about the students.”

Junior basketball point guard Liora Rabizadeh, who participated in the Glouberman tournament, was grateful for the effort put in by Mr. Schiff planning it.

“He set a good precedent and he did an amazing job, considering it being the first one,” said Liora. “I really appreciate the planning he put into all my sports events.”

Mr. Schiff held the athletic director position longer than any of his three immediate predecessors, some of whom were in charge for a year or less.  In addition to finding practice and game fields and times, the job included finding coaches and referees and ordering equipment.

“Calendering” was another challenge, he said, complicated by everything from Jewish holidays and school events to sharing students with other co-curriculars.

Also, with such a relatively small school, there’s always a challenge in Shalhevet sports to compete with schools of much greater size.

“Other teams had 200 kids try out for the soccer team, when you compare that to the fact that we have 200 kids in the whole school it creates a challenge.”

But wins and losses are not what Mr. Schiff will remember most.

“You’re gonna have ups and downs in any sport,” Mr. Schiff said. “What’s interesting to me is how the students handle the changes and how they grow into leadership positions. I really love to see the commitment on behalf of the students and see how they really grow, both as players and as individuals.”