East Grand Rapids hires new athletic director
Chris Zylstra played baseball and soccer in Wyoming Park in the mid-2000s, and one opponent he always had great respect for was East Grand Rapids.
“As an athlete, you looked at them and said they had it together,” said Zylstra. “It doesn’t matter what the situation was, the East student-athletes always had an advantage for them.”
Zylstra said he was excited and honored to lead the EGR program after being hired as the high school sports director. Zylstra will replace Tim Johnston, who will be retiring at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Zylstra, a 2006 graduate of Wyoming Park High School, served last year as the director of sport and assistant principal at Lakeview High School. Zylstra, who also graduated from Aquinas College, has taught and trained in South Carolina, Quincy, and Wyoming.
He said he is now keen to maintain the EGR’s long tradition of success, which includes 19 state championships under Johnston’s leadership over the past decade. His short-term goals include developing a unified strength and conditioning program this summer and continuing it throughout the year that will focus on injury prevention and injury growth.
“One of the questions I’ve been asked is what would you like to do when you get there?” Zylstra said. “First there will be observation and discussion. There will be plenty to see what’s going on in the sports department and have conversations with stakeholders to see where we are.
“And how can we maintain that level and even improve where we are? This is not just a decision of mine, but a decision within the community, our athletes, our teachers and trainers. What is the plan and what do we have to do to stay where we are and to be even more successful as a sports program? “
Zylstra returned to Michigan in 2016 after he and his wife Bryttani were married. The couple have two daughters, Lawsyn and Mara. He worked for a year at Quincy as an assistant to the baseball and soccer coach. He then went to Wyoming High School, where he served as the head baseball coach and assistant soccer coach before joining Lakeview last year.
He said the best thing about being a sports director is the opportunity to have a positive impact on athletes and coaches. Zylstra added that the resources and support at EGR will provide him with this opportunity.
“There are three big reasons I think East Grand Rapids is the best job in Michigan,” said Zylstra. “First, the strict academics. They speak for themselves. This is one of my greatest pride and joy in going east. Our students will be student athletes. You will put the academic piece first.
“The second thing I absolutely love about East is the community engagement. I remember that as an opposing player and coach, the events and the way the community gathers in the school is great.
“The third is the tradition of excellence, the 138 state championships. As a sports director, a dream comes true. As they go through the application process it is obvious that they care about being successful and there are many resources out there to help them do this. I couldn’t be more excited. “