By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Just spending a few minutes around Roman Smith, one can tell he enjoys his job. As Warsaw began its steps to regaining normalcy on its high school campus last week, inviting in the public for the first time for an open house and meet and greet with coaches and staff members on July 8, Smith was as comfortable as anyone at the Tiger Athletic Complex.
It’s just in his DNA.
Smith comes to Warsaw as the new assistant athletic director for Warsaw Community High School. His route had him serve as Lakeland High School’s athletic director for the past three years, and the step up the school ladder had him straddling both offices as the pandemic sent high school athletic departments into a tailspin in the spring.
“I’ve kind of been working here in some capacity since March, even though my contract didn’t begin until July,” said Smith, who was announced in his new role at Warsaw in early April. “The COVID shutdown was kind of a blessing in disguise. I’ve been somewhat working at both since the IHSAA was put on hold, then shut down. So when (Lakeland) announced Kyle Grossman was going to be the new AD, I’ve been training him two to three days a week and then working here two to three days a week.”
Smith’s three years at Lakeland were his first three in athletic administration, but three held in good faith by the Lakeland school administration, who took a chance on him in a bold branding move. Before working at Lakeland, Smith was a two-sport athlete at Trine University where he played football and track. His prep days were spent at South Adams High School in Berne.
Smith served with Athletes With Purpose in Fort Wayne directly after college, serving as a director of sports performance. His exploits went as basic as youth level sports to being part of support teams for professional-bound athletes like Jaylon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys and Kevin Kiermaier of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Bringing that collection of experiences to Warsaw already has Smith hitting the ground running. Still young and ambitious, the 70-hour work weeks haven’t taken his spirit.
“I’m already looking at proposals and options to make Warsaw great for the long term,” Smith said. “I want to work about a decade out. I’m already working on plans for 2030. What that looks like for our facilities to keep them growing, keep them advancing the way these student-athletes and coaches deserve, and what this community deserves. It’s exciting, knowing we have the support to work on these ideas.”
Smith noted the mindset of being ‘fluid and flexible’ has been mandatory in getting acclimated to a new location with a much broader scope of focus, from Lakeland to Warsaw. But having been involved with professional-level athletes, then running his own department, the jump to Warsaw is highly anticipated.
“Here, winning is an expectation, and honestly, I love that,” Smith said. “I’m a very competitive person, so coming to a school where the community expects that and believes in the coaches, believes in the teams, and expects competitive excellence is a place where I want to be.”