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VIProfile: Brandon Smith

Story by Emily Robertson

As the son of a football coach, Brandon Smith has been around the game his whole life. He grew up playing football, eventually playing for his dad as his coach and then at Western Kentucky University. Now, he follows in his father’s footsteps, running a football program here in south central Kentucky that has seen quite a bit of success.

“We moved around quite a bit when I was young; and when I was five, we moved to Danville and I grew up there,” Smith says. “I played high school football there for my father and went on to play football for WKU. After I graduated from WKU, South Warren High School was getting ready to open as a new school. I got hired on to help coach the football team and I thought I’d be here two or three years, and now I’m going on year 13.”

Smith, who played quarterback during his playing days, filled a defensive coordinator position at South Warren High School that was left vacant a few days before practice started. He found success in that role; and when the head coaching position became available, administration offered him the job.

“With South Warren being new, there were zero expectations about the success of the football program, especially with most of the schools in the same district not having a lot of success,” Smith says. “We were able to change that mindset in the school and in the community, and it’s been a great thing to see everyone’s attitudes about the program shift and change.”

A big reason for the change is that the South Warren Spartans football program has seen success; a lot of success. Since Smith took over as head coach, the Spartans have won the KHSAA State Championship in 2015, 2018 and most recently, 2021.

“The success we’ve seen with the program is great to be a part of, but you do feel pressure to keep it going,” Smith says. “It is almost a relief to win, more than it is an excitement. But honestly, that keeps you motivated. You have to like that kind of pressure to have this job.”
South Warren Football starts practicing each season on July 10th, and the team played their first game this season on August 20th. The program includes 100 players and 14 coaches. Even though there is a culture of winning for South Warren football, Smith wants to ensure that each player in his program truly has fun playing football, so that they will want to work hard for the team and for themselves.

“I believe you have to get the players to enjoy it first,” Smith says. “If they don’t like it, you are wasting your time. The younger players watch and learn from the older guys. They start to understand that when they become varsity players. And we try to teach them that they have a responsibility as a player on the team. They have a lot of people watching them and there is an expectation, so we want them to hold themselves to a higher standard.”

So much of how Smith coaches the Spartans, he learned watching his dad, Chuck Smith and seeing the impact he had both on and off the field. “My dad is a legend in the field,” Smith says. “I watched him from a young age and then played for him and had a great experience. Everyone would come up and say how much they appreciate him and how much he impacted them. Watching that, I decided at a young age that that’s what I wanted to do.”

While coaching at South Warren keeps Smith very busy, especially in the summer and fall, he devotes any extra time he has to his family: his wife, Whitney, who he met while they both attended WKU, and daughters MacClain, 4, and Landry, 1. 

“My wife is a physical therapist and runs a couple clinics in town, so when we aren’t working, we spend every chance we get together as a family. I want to do things and have experiences with them, so if I have free time, it’s given to them. We enjoy traveling and spending time outdoors hiking and kayaking.”

Smith says his biggest influences in his life are his parents, Chuck and Jackie Smith. His father is his role model in his professional life, and his mom helps him to have work and life balance. Smith’s parents moved to Bowling Green after retirement to be closer to their family, and Chuck joined Smith on the coaching staff as an assistant coach at South Warren, an experience that was extremely special and allowed the father and son to work together and share in the excitement of winning the state title in 2021.

Looking towards the future, Brandon wants to continue to grow the program and continue to help grow the young men on the team. “My dad gave me really good advice,” Smith says. “He said ‘Always plan like you’re going to be there forever.’ And that’s how I run operations. That’s always been my mindset. Honestly, the most satisfying part is when guys come back and visit. They had success, or they fought through adversity, and they tell us that football taught them how to do that.”

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