With a background in sports, Russell Williams takes over a young department already exceeding expectations.
There’s new management in the athletic department at Windermere High, but he’s a familiar face for those in the community.
The week before Spring Break, Russell Williams — who had been serving in the school’s administration — took over the role as athletic director following the departure of Mike Grenci.
The move to AD was perfect for Williams, who said he actually originally interviewed for the job when the school opened in 2017.
“I’m 14 years into it on the admin side with OCPS — coaching as well — so I’ll be honest with you, from the AD side of it compared to the admin side of it, I’ll take that any day,” Williams said, laughing. “(On the admin side) you’re always the bad guy. But this, you have to be the bad guy sometimes, though not as much — you’re putting out fires in a different way. I see it as a more positive aspect.”
Now, instead of working with the general student population, Williams is taking on a number of new duties — including overseeing coaches, fundraising and making sure the athletic fields are in top shape.
It’s been a fun job so far, but it’s also come with its own unique set of challenges. The biggest of those are the nights when it seems like every sport is being played all at once.
When you throw in the fact that Windermere’s football/lacrosse/soccer field is off campus, it just makes for an even bigger headache for Williams and his two assistant ADs — Fred Priest and Mark Griseck.
“I want to say about two Fridays ago, we had baseball, softball, boys volleyball, boys and girls lacrosse all going on in one night,” Williams said. “And being that we have that off-campus stadium makes it very challenging.
“Administrators have a tough task as well, because we have to have an administrator on campus and an administrator down at the stadium,” he said. “With families and everything, I hate to take two extra people away from families — if we had a stadium on-site, then that could help out a lot.”
Despite the growing pains at Windermere High, Williams inherits a sports department that already has found success in its first two years.
Just recently, the boys basketball team made a run all the way to the state Final Four, while other programs — such as the softball, baseball and lacrosse (boys and girls) teams — are finding success early.
A large part of that success, to coincide with the talented student-athletes at the school, are those who help support the programs by attending games and giving money to the athletic department, Williams said.
“We have a good, supportive community, so that definitely helps out,” Williams said. “Kudos to the community and the parents for coming out and supporting us — that’s something that’s been a good experience so far.”
Along with his duties as AD, Williams also serves as the head coach of the girls flag football team, which he took over last year after Greg Miller left after three games.
“It’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the southeast,” Williams said. “Last year at tryouts 35 girls tried out, and this year we had over 85 girls come out for tryouts, but we only keep 40 total — 20 varsity and 20 JV. It’s not a team; we are building a program.”
Building up his girls flag football team, along with all of the other programs at Windermere, is the end goal for Williams.
“I’m just happy to be a part of this foundation that we are building at Windermere,” Williams said.