Griffith steps down as Lackey head tennis coach
Stepping aside after 27 years as Lackey High head tennis coach
For nearly three decades Ken Griffith was the face of tennis program at Lackey High School and a progenitor of junior tennis development around the state of Maryland.
Griffith was a driving force in the lives of numerous student-athletes who went on to complete college and have successful careers.
After 27 years at Lackey spent as the head coach, Griffith has stepped down from his tennis duties.
“As some knew, the thought of me stepping aside from coaching high school tennis has been on my mind for over eight years. As you get older, the aches and pains take a little longer to heal, and then the brain tells you, ‘It’s that time,’” said Griffith in an email to Southern Maryland Newspapers. “Time to step aside and let some new energy take over. With the aid of family and friends, the resurgence of energy and the pure love of the game kept me returning.”
John Webster, a social studies teacher at Lackey, replaces Griffith as head tennis coach. Webster, a Bowie native, played club tennis all through middle school and high school.
Griffith said that when students come into the program each year from schools without a mention of tennis experience, much less a tennis court at their middle schools, it makes it difficult to turn the program around each season and have a winning percentage.
“I took the philosophy of doing what I could with what I had and hoping that the students and parents would understand the love and passion involved in coaching,” Griffith said. “It becomes you, wears on you, burns you out fast but, you say one more each year until the one more’s are over. One day you are preparing for the first day of training and then you realize that you are mentally exhausted. It is a difficult decision to accept when you have a passion for that activity.”
Griffith’s storied résumé includes earning the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2001 and 2002 and was named the All-County Coach of the Year in 2001, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2015. The Chargers finished third in SMAC, best among Charles County teams in 2015, with an 11-2 overall record, then fell back to 5-8 in 2016 in what would be Griffith’s final season.
With a stockpile of awards and recognition, Griffith, known by many as “Coach Griff,” was a United States Tennis Association Starfish Award finalist twice. The prestigious national Starfish award is presented in recognition of the efforts of coaches in the No-Cut program, where all players who come out for a tennis team are valued
and groomed to be part of the team despite their skill level.
Within the USTA Mid-Atlantic Region, Griffith boasted such honors as Volunteer of the Year, Community Pro of the Year and Teaching Pro of the Year. The USTA Maryland District not only named him Teaching Pro of the Year but presented him with the Maury Schwartzman Award of player development. Griffith has also been nationally recognized by the USTA as an All-American team coach.
He served on the USTA committees while volunteering at the sectional and district levels, conducting Pathway Programs to Junior Team Tennis, was honored as the Tennis Industry’s Coach of the Year and was named the Coach Jim Verdieck High School Coach of the Year by Professional Tennis Registry.
Griffith, who has been a USTA national clinician since 1995, also coached the first unified tennis team, a Special Olympics event, at Lackey.
“When I began coaching at Lackey, it was being done to try making the program more productive. Getting players motivated and having pride in there being and in their game. In the beginning, the players were there to say they played a sport. I wanted them to feel that they not only played, but they can contribute and change their outlook of the program,” said Griffith, also the founder of the Charles County Tennis Patrons, which instructs local players with tennis training and hold camps. “It was not about conference championships but about representing the family, school and community. It came down to the development of a team.”
Derek Sabedra, the SMAC tennis tournament director and Region IV representative, said of Griffith: “I have known Ken Griffith for 18 years and I consider him a foremost Southern Maryland tennis pioneer, innovator and coaching icon. He will be missed by the SMAC coaches and players. I am lucky to call him a friend.”
Huntingtown head tennis coach Rob Martin added: “Lackey always had a no-cut policy and gave kids a chance to play and learn. He was always a coach you could rely on to ask questions on development or college. He just had a wealth of knowledge for the game.”
Despite leaving his duties at Lackey, tennis remains in Griffith’s blood going forward.
“I will continue to travel and promote tennis with my wife, write for tennis magazines and continue to stay active on the court and working with the USTA on committees,” he said of his future plans.
Former Lackey head tennis coach Ken Griffith, center, talks to mixed doubles partners Emily Roof and Garrett Welch during a 2012 match. Griffith recently stepped down after being at the helm for 27 seasons.
Ken Griffith recently stepped down as the Lackey head tennis coach after 27 seasons. Griffith was named SMAC Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2002 and All-County Coach of the Year in 2001, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2015.