Grif­fith steps down as Lackey head ten­nis coach

Step­ping aside af­ter 27 years as Lackey High head ten­nis coach

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com

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.

FILE PHOTO

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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