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Bill Romani '86

Interviewed By: Kelsea Schagrin- Ithaca College- Sport Media’17

Bill Romani, Ithaca High School class of 86’ is no stranger to sports. A three-sport athlete at IHS, Bill managed to balance athletics with academics and has gone on to get his Doctorate in Education: Sports Medicine. Bill’s has not limited himself to one job; he is a teacher, physical therapist, researcher, and non-profit leader to name a few. More recently he ran for Maryland State Delegate. Bill started at Ithaca High School, and now takes a look back at his high school career.

1. How do you remember your time at Ithaca High School?
Happily and with a great deal of appreciation.  I really enjoyed Ithaca High School.  I had outstanding and lasting relationships with friends that came with me from Northeast and Dewitt and dozens of others I met during my three years there.  Those relationships also extended to my teachers.  There were challenges but I feel like Ithaca provided an environment where the challenges have made me stronger as an adult.
 
2. Can you describe your athletic career at Ithaca in one word? Why? 
Enduring.  I loved being an athlete at Ithaca High School and later, a coach there.  In my career as a college professor and the director of a large educational nonprofit I constantly draw on the values and lessons that I learned playing sports at Ithaca High School, and not always the positive ones.  Being able to persevere in challenging circumstances or to successfully deal with failure and adversity come from sports.  I often say that almost everything I know about teaching I learned from playing and coaching at Ithaca High!

3. How did playing on a team help you as you started working?
I think most athletes would talk about the value of teamwork and how that translates into the workplace.  And it does.  I wasn’t a gifted enough athlete that I could just show up and play.  I always felt like I needed to work harder in the off-season and prepare to keep up and succeed against more talented athletes. I also had the opportunity to coach football and baseball at IHS and certainly employed that same philosophy on my work as a coach and tried to convey the same to our players.  I think those values of hard work and preparation have translated into every work or teaching setting that I’ve been in and are just as important whether your working solo or with a team.

4. What moment, or event from Ithaca High School are you most proud of?
In 1985 I won the Section IV individual Golf Championship and our team won the team competition.  I wasn’t even the best player on our team but put in the effort to improve my physical mental and physical game in the winter leading up to the event to put myself into position to win my first high school tournament against outstanding competition.  It was the first real payoff that I experienced and could attribute to hard work and preparation.

I’d also add that I noticed on the school website that seniors can still qualify to leave campus during lunch and study halls.  In the winter of 1986 I wrote the “Senior Privileges” provisions in the Student Handbook with the Student Council that are pretty much intact almost 30 years later.  What I never mentioned during the process was that I wrote Senior Privileges so my great friend Mollie Marcoux and I could leave campus to get fries and frostys for lunch at Wendy’s!

 
5. What values did you learn from Ithaca that applies to what you do now?
Certainly teamwork and hard work but I think that one of the things that I didn’t fully appreciate until I left Ithaca was tolerance for diversity of lifestyles and ideas.  I often say that the smartest most intelligent people that I’ve ever been around for a sustained period of time are my classmates at Ithaca High School.  That said, Ithaca High School is also one of the most diverse high schools in terms of socioeconomic status, race, lifestyle, and ideas.  When you grow up in that environment, you think that’s the norm and everyplace is like that.  Its not.  To function successfully in the workplace or to be an active educated citizen you need to learn and espouse the sensitivity, awareness, and tolerance that growing up in such a diverse environment teaches you.

6. What do you know now; that you wish you knew in high school?
I recognized the diversity and Ithaca and had a lot of friends while I was there.  I wish I had more self-confidence while I was in high school to engage and develop more substantial relationships with more students outside of my core group of friends or on my teams.  I relish those opportunities now but I feel like there would have been so much more to learn had I done it more at Ithaca High.

7. Are you still participating in any sports currently?
I still play ice hockey every week and golf during the warmer months.  I’ve also gotten more involved in biking, running, and more recently, yoga. 

8. Do you have any funny memories from Ithaca High?
During “Senior Week” we had a senior breakfast where all of the seniors went to the cafeteria in pajamas for breakfast.  The night before we had a party after one of the senior night events so rather than sleep at home and drive to school in my pajamas, I pitched a tent on the quad and just slept near the cafeteria.  About a half an hour before school “Boone” knocked on the door of the tent and woke me up for breakfast. “Hey lets go what are you doing?”  “Boone, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t late for breakfast!”

9. Do you have any advice for Ithaca High School students who hope to succeed like you?
In college and in the workplace, especially early in your career, your own ability to lead and set a good example and work hard will be valued by colleagues and employers.  What I don’t think is valued enough is that you need to look for and find that leadership and mentorship in your supervisors and colleagues to thrive in the workplace.  So often, experienced athletes have been conditioned to be the leader or take on more work to “benefit the team”.  They aren’t used to looking for or even accepting help and guidance.  Just like a good coach can lead a team and make them better or more successful a great manager, supervisor, owner or professor can put you in the best position to succeed for your organization and your own career.

10. Any final shout outs to past teachers from Ithaca High School?
I’ll always remember Tom Burns who taught us geometry and trigonometry.  He consistently went above the teaching and took a real interest in me personally.  Looking back the ability to think through a proof for a trig problem in, as he would call it, “an elegant way” is a critical thinking skill that is so important to solve, find and communicate a solution to a problem.  I’d also add that it these same critical thinking skills that are the impetus of the common core teaching method.