January 16, 2013 9:21:26 PM
Ricky Kendrick always has considered teaching and coaching to be his callings.
His work in the past three seasons helped put the Caledonia High School football program on solid ground, and positioned it to make strides to become more competitive in district play.
Unfortunately, another coach will have to help the Confederates take that next step.
On Tuesday, Kendrick informed Caledonia High officials he was resigning as the school's football coach. Kendrick said he decided last July that the 2012 season would be his final one. He said his work as pastor at Fig Hill Church in Hamilton, where he has served for six years, has become a bigger job and that he didn't want to shortchange the church or his football program by not having enough time to devote to both.
"It was an easy decision," Kendrick said. "The church has grown over the last few years and at some point I was going to have to make a decision. My desire is to coach football, but I have a higher calling in my life, and I have to do those things and put my priorities right. It was a hard decision in that aspect because it is what I love to do. On the other side, it wasn't a hard decision because you have to set your priorities."
Kendrick went 9-24 in three seasons at Caledonia, including 4-7 records the past two seasons. The Confederates scored nearly 100 more points this season (273) compared to last season (178) and generated enthusiasm entering Class 4A, Region 4 play. A 28-27 loss to Leake Central marked the start of an 0-5 district slate that saw the Confederates lose by an average of more than 21 points per game.
Still, the progress Caledonia made was tangible.
Former New Hope High football coach Michael Bradley, who resigned earlier this month, said Kendrick helped Caledonia come "light years" in terms of competitiveness.
"Coach Kendrick and his staff have done a great job with the boys," Bradley said. "I could tell a big difference in their physical strength and their competitiveness and their fire. They played hard from the first play to the last play. You can't coach size and speed, things like that. Working hard and being competitive and having a competitive nature, those things can be coached, and I think coach Kendrick and his staff have done a great job in the time he was there."
Kendrick said Tuesday that members of his coaching staff knew in July he planned to resign. He said his goal when he arrived at Caledonia was to help make the program competitive. He admitted the 2012 season didn't go as he hoped or liked, but he took pride in the fact he and his coaches helped the Confederates accomplish things that hadn't been done in a while.
Kendrick, who replaced David Boykin, brought stability to the program. Boykin, who was in his second stint as football coach at Caledonia High, left after an 0-10 season in 2009 to become an assistant coach to M.C. Miller at Louisville High. Boykin coached Caledonia to 3-7 records in 2006 and '07. He replaced Jason Forrester, who resigned as coach following the '08 season.
Jack Hankins, who went 27-45 in seven seasons at Caledonia, led the school to its first playoff appearance in 2004 (6-5 record). That finish was the only time in the past 15 years Caledonia has had a winning record.
Kendrick coached Hamilton to records of 3-7 in 2003 and 7-3 in 2002. In all, Kendrick worked as a coach for 20 years. He spent eight seasons as a coach at Nettleton High, the first seven as defensive coordinator and the final year as head coach. He worked for two seasons as defensive backs and ninth-grade football coach at Tupelo High before moving on to Hamilton High, where he spent two seasons and worked as athletic director and as an assistant principal.
Kendrick also worked as a track and field and an assistant football coach at Columbus High (with Rusty Funk) and as an assistant football coach (defensive coordinator) at Amory High for the past two years for coach Pat Byrd.
Kendrick spoke to his players Tuesday and is working under the assumption he will conduct spring football practice. He said he will do whatever he can to help prepare the players for the 2013 season. As difficult as it is to leave coaching, Kendrick, who teaches world and U.S. History at Caledonia High, said he isn't interested in finding another coaching job.
"I think I am leaving the program in pretty good shape," Kendrick said. "We tried to generate some excitement with our kids. We want to make the game fun for them, and that's what we tried to do. I have always thought if you develop good, quality young men, I have often said winning is not something you do on the scoreboard, it is something you do in life. If we develop these young men for life, we're being successful. ... We went from a one-win season in my first year and beating Amory to back to-back somewhat competitive seasons as far as our non-district schedule. We haven't achieved our district goals yet, but we are heading in the right direction to getting that done."
Kendrick praised the school administration for its support of the program and said he would like to continue as a teacher at the school, but that he wouldn't stand in the way if his teaching position was one that would help it bring in a new coach. Even though he won't continue as coach, Kendrick said he will remain the Confederates' No. 1 fan.
"(Coaching and teaching) is a important part of who I am," Kendrick said. "I think being pastor of the church and the role I am fulfilling (at Caledonia High) helped me become a better person and a better individual. I understand maybe more aspects people go through in life maybe more than somebody who doesn't have the experience as a teacher or a coach, and maybe they don't understand like I do being with these kids every day. It helps us better understand people in general."
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.