By Mike Deak
WARSAW – His stature immediately catches the eye. Standing well over 6-3, Michael Howk can and will be noticed. The new assistant athletic director for Warsaw Community High School has an ambition sky high, but also expectations that could be tough to follow.
The link between the previous assistant to Matt Binkerd, the departed Roman Smith to the big athletic chair at NorthWood High School, and Howk are recent and friendly. The two worked together in the athletic department at Lakeland High School for two years and kept connected when Smith took the job with Warsaw a year ago. Howk also left Lakeland at the same time and landed at Grace College this past year to serve as an athletic trainer within the Lancer athletic department.
To follow Smith’s lead seemed natural for Howk, who couldn’t resist the shot to work for Warsaw.
“Working together at Lakeland, we saw eye to eye on a lot of things and the way we process things,” said Howk of working with Smith. “There’s been a lot of carry over from our time at Lakeland to both of us coming down here. We had systems of how things worked and I’m looking to keep his ball rolling now that I’m here.”
Big campuses and big expectations are nothing new to Howk, who worked as a student trainer with the Purdue football program and later at Baylor University and a high school in Waco while working on his Masters in sports management while continuing with athletic training. Coming back to Indiana, where he grew up in Churubusco, Howk got plugged into Parkview Sports Medicine and found himself at Lakeland.
Two years in LaGrange saw Howk take on odd jobs for Smith and build his knowledge base before before departing for Grace and the athletic training. It was there that he again gained knowledge of the athletic wheel, and also got a good seat on the bench with the Lancer men’s basketball program as part of his athletic training duties.
“I was very happy and still love Grace and what is going on over there,” Howk said. “I still have some projects up my sleeve that I want to continue on with their sports medicine programs. But when this opportunity came up, there was no way I could pass up the chance. I at least needed to throw my name in the hat and see what happens. Here we are.”
Howk has already had an eventful summer, recently returning from his honeymoon with his new bride, Alivia, who is the head athletic trainer at Grace. While not intending to overload his calendar, it will become commonplace to be busy and balancing 22 different hats, rather, 22 athletic programs. And at least two Twitter accounts, and two phone numbers. And however many other avenues of information he can handle.
“Roman set things up for me,” Howk said. “He let me know, there’s ‘the Warsaw way’ of how things work around here and how to handle that. He brought me up to speed on how things work here, and that I’ll learn it as I go. Once I get into the fire, I’ll understand it. Just talking to him the past year, I’d ask why do things go this way or that way, and he’d say, that’s just how we do it. So now I’m understanding that. Working with Matt has been great so far, and I look forward to learning from him and making this department highly successful.”