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Gary Flather is New SYA President

Gary Flather, 44, of Centreville's Country Club Manor community, will be the new president of the Southwestern Youth Association (SYA). He'll take over the reins in January from former president George Chernesky.

He served in that post for eight years — longer than any other SYA president. He's known Flather for five years and has every confidence in him.

"Gary's been involved in the program for a long time, and I'm sure he'll do a good job," he said. "He's been a commissioner and he understands parents and kids."

Chernesky stepped down because he believed someone younger and with children in the program should lead it. And while he's enjoyed doing it, he'll no longer be involved with SYA. He says it's better for Flather to not have him looking over his shoulder and he'll embark upon something else.

"I'm pleased with what I've done," he said. "But it's almost like watching your child go off [on its own]. You know they're going to do well, but they need to go in another direction."

Flather's a manager for the U.S. Postal Service in Merrifield, and he and his wife Susan have four children, Rob, 16, a Westfield High junior; Danielle, 14, a Westfield freshman; Jennifer, 12, a seventh-grader at Stone Middle; and Brad, 8, a second-grader at Cub Run Elementary.

He started with SYA in 1991 when Rob began playing baseball (he now plays lacrosse in high school). Danielle's a dancer, but both Jennifer (soccer, softball and lacrosse) and Brad (baseball, soccer, lacrosse and basketball) are in SYA.

Flather has coached nine years — mainly baseball and basketball, helped out in soccer and volunteered wherever help was needed. He still coaches Jennifer's and Brad's basketball teams. And he was baseball commissioner from 1996-2000. He's also served on the SYA board, the last two years, as treasurer, was formerly on the Babe Ruth baseball board and is still on the basketball board.

"It's a lot of effort," he admits. "George has been doing it for so long that I think people actually forget you need a board of all these sports to help oversee it all. Besides Flather, the new executive board, elected Sept. 12, includes Peter Cuomo, vice-president; Mike Campbell, secretary and Bryan Hunt, treasurer.

Because of the immense job of running an operation as large as SYA — nearly 15,000 children and more than a dozen sports — Flather knows he has his work cut out for him. "Nobody really wants to take this on," he said. "It takes a lot of time and you need to know something about the organization."

Each sport's commissioner deals with the parents and children. As president, Flather will deal with politics, Fairfax County and the Park Authority and push forward with the Fields of Dreams sports complex. "With so many kids, we constantly need to promote the fact that we don't have enough gyms and fields," he said.

Flather hopes to "carry George's torch to a new level and promote the goodness that comes out of youth sports programs. I've always believed you've got to give something back to the community, and this is an opportunity to do that."

Chernesky said as long as developers keep building and bringing in kids, Flather will have to continue dealing with the field shortage and find a solution. As for advice to Flather, he said, "You have to believe in what you're doing, and determination will get you through."