Knapp to be next East Windsor athletic director

EAST WINDSOR — Robert Knapp can be intimidating at first. The new East Windsor High School athletic director is a pretty big guy.

But when he smiles and starts talking about coaching, about helping kids enjoy sports through the prism of the high school experience and about giving back to the community, it’s clear he is up to the task of leading the Panthers’ athletic department. He is also approachable and friendly.

“For me, just trying to get my feet on the ground,” Knapp, who coached the East Windsor freshman boys basketball team, said. “Here, I have only coached a winter sport. I am scheduled to meet with all the coaches this week, trying to understand what their biggest hurdles are. I know the numbers are very difficult. Giving back to the community is a big deal as well. Having the soccer kids going back to the youth programs, basketball players too. We want to take a little bit of time in the season to give back, and hopefully at the same time improve the numbers.”

No stranger to crunching the numbers, Knapp was on the other side of the spectrum dealing with almost three dozen kids as a coach for the Fermi JV boys soccer team.

“As a coach there is some dealing with the faculty,” Knapp said, “not a lot. But in soccer and basketball I was able to talk to the parents. At Fermi I had large numbers, 32 kids on the JV team. Managing practice by yourself is a good learning experience. Here, sometimes the numbers are strong, it is tough sometimes to get a JV team.”

Knapp also has coached soccer at East Windsor and was originally hired by predecessor Brian Maltese.

As an athletic director, Knapp also intends to instill a sense of pride and purpose in the Panthers, no matter what sport they are playing.

“They need to understand they are representing the school,” Knapp said. “Kids have to be in the team mentality, ready to sacrifice for fellow teammates. The schoolwork is important, progress reports are important, and we want to find a balance. If a kid is struggling in class, they have to enjoy the experience and understand [sports] are part of the high school experience. Only five or six percent of high school athletes play at the next level.”

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