HAMMOND — Darryl Smith recently ended his longtime career as a business owner and was looking for his next challenge when a position opened at the Hammond Recreation Center.

Smith, who has played and coached a variety of sports and spent seven years at the Hammond Recreation Department, said he knew the job as recreation supervisor would be a good fit.

After more than five months at the helm, Smith calls the position perfect.

“To me, this is a job that you have to love what you’re doing, be organized and get the community involved,” Smith said.

Seniors Activity Coordinator Linda Irwin said this is the most organized the Hammond Recreation Department has ever been.

Since he first took over the position, Smith has visited area businesses and schools to get area residents excited about his vision to improve Hammond’s recreation program, and said he is committed to doing what is best and fair for youth.

“I’m trying to be organized and do what’s best for the kids,” Smith said. “It’s about them learning and telling people what’s going on.”

“If we can’t get the local businesses and parents involved, it’s a baby-sitting service,” Smith said.

Just before basketball season started a few weeks ago, Smith said he “hit every school in the area and put out 6,000 flyers” to notify parents and youth that the new season was starting. While only 50 percent of last year’s participants returned to the program this year, the basketball program still grew 37 percent, and increased the number of teams by 12, he said.

“Now, we’ve got to do a good job making it fun so that they’ll want to come back next year,” Smith said.

To help make each program a good experience for both the youth and the adults, Smith said he works side-by-side with Director Monroe Jones to carry out Jones’ goal of having a recreation department “for all.”

“We work hand-in-hand together,” Smith said. “He’s got a good vision.”

“We want to be able to reach out to everyone,” Jones said.

Jones said his goal is definitely attainable with Smith’s help, and said the transition has been smooth.

“He’s doing a great job,” Jones said. “He’s a team player, and he’s brought a lot of great ideas to the department.”

Together the duo plan to improve existing programs and are adding new ones for both youth and adults.

Recently, the Hammond Recreation Department added senior computer classes to its offerings, Smith said.

Plans are in the works to start a book club for seniors and a reading buddies program that would pair youth with senior citizens.

The department plans summer camp specials and after-school programs in the fall.

Smith said it also hopes to begin flag football, by this fall.

The new programs will be added to an already lengthy list of programs — such as line dancing, Frenchclasses, baseball, and crafts — being offered by the department. The trick, Smith said, is to “take what we have and make it better.”

“There’s no where for them to go,” Smith said about area youth. “This will help give them something to do and keep them out of trouble.

Children spend too much time on computers and electronic games, he said.

“They don’t get exercise, and are losing the creativity of coming up with games to play,” Smith said.

Smith said he comes to the department at a very good time, one where players will see the opening of Chappapella Park, a new facility located by the airport that features four new softball fields and 10 baseball fields.

“It’s state of the art,” Smith said. “I hope that will help make residents want to be a part of Hammond Recreation.”

For Smith, who participated in sports throughout his youth and then coached as an adult, sports isn’t always about winning.

“Sports builds confidence,” Smith said. “The kids learn to work as a team. I feel like kids that play sports are more adapted to life.”

When Smith isn’t at the office fielding calls about the Department’s programs, he is coaching basketball. After years off the court, Smith agreed to coach one of the teams when there wasn’t a parent volunteer.

“I did it out of need,” Smith said. “It has invigorated me. It’s fun. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Smith said the programs could always use more volunteers and asks that those interested contact the Hammond Recreation Department.

One of the hardest parts of the job is keeping parents invested in coaching after their children have outgrown the program, he said.

For more information about the Hammond Recreation Department and the programs it offers, call (985) 277-5900.