June 26, 2010 11:29:00 PM
Ricky Kendrick didn''t have any reason to leave Amory High School.
But a head coach will tell you once he has been in charge he often has an "itch" to work in that capacity again.
The challenge of transforming the Caledonia High School football program into a winner interested Kendrick enough to scratch.
After Kendrick accepted the job earlier this month, the Lowndes County School Board approved the hiring of Kendrick as Caledonia High School''s new coach.
He also will be the school''s powerlifting coach.
"I really enjoyed my time at Amory," said Kendrick, 44, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant football coach (defensive coordinator) for Pat Byrd. "They were really good to me. But the Caledonia position I found very intriguing. I think it is a great opportunity to build a program from the ground up. I think it is something that will be very challenging, and that I will enjoy that challenge."
Kendrick has worked as a coach for 17 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). He has worked as a powerlifting coach and as a boys and girls track and field coach multiple times.
Kendrick replaces David Boykin, who left Caledonia last month after one season (0-10) to become an assistant coach to M.C. Miller at Louisville High School.
Boykin was in his second stint at the school. He went 3-7 in 2006 and 2007 before leaving the school. Jason Forrester, who is now the school''s athletic director, coached the team to a 1-9 record in 2008.
In the past 20 years, Caledonia has had just one football coach -- Jack Hankins -- who has stayed at the school for more than three seasons in a row. Hankins was 27-45 in seven seasons. He led the team to a 6-5 finish in 2004 (its last winning season) and consecutive playoff appearances in 2004 and 2005.
In that stretch, Caledonia has had seven men coach the football program to a 45-163 record.
Kendrick knows the history of the program and hopes he and his assistant coaches can "discover some reason as to why that has occurred and turn that around." He recognizes he and his assistant coaches will have a "tremendous challenge", and that he told school administrators when he interviewed for the job there isn''t a "magic formula" he will use.
"Am I better than any of those coaches who have been here before? Probably not," Kendrick said. "But the one thing I think they have missed is consistency. They need someone to come in and dedicate themselves and commit themselves to being there for the kids.
"That trust is going to be hard to develop. They have been through several coaches. We''re going to go in and roll up our sleeves and take the seventh- and eighth-graders and bring them up and in five years see what we can do."
Kendrick feels Caledonia High always has had athletes to compete and that the community supports the sports programs. He hopes to use those ingredients and in time build a winning program.
"I know a lot of people (in the Caledonia community) and I see their frustration and what they have been going through," Kendrick said. "I also see the possibility. We have got to keep our eyes on the possibilities and see what happens.
"It is time for Caledonia''s struggles to end. I want to be a part of that, and I want to do it for the kids."
Kendrick stressed it is going to take a collective effort from the coaches, players, administration, and the community to reverse the program''s fortunes. He believes the tools are there and that he and his assistant coaches can help provide the leadership to bring everything together and make it work.
To that end, Kendrick said he has commitments from two assistant coaches to join his staff for the 2010 season, and that he has a total of four slots for assistant coaches. He said he doesn''t know why the program had only two full-time assistant coaches last year (Morgan Mansfield and John Wilson) with Boykin on staff, but that he has talked to a lot of people about coming out and helping the program this season.
Forrester feels Kendrick will do a good job. He said Kendrick has approached the job in a positive manner and that he knows there is no quick fix to make the program into a winner.
"He has patience," Forrester said of Kendrick. "I think he understands what it takes (to win) because of where he has been. He has good vision and knows it is going to take some hard work to get it there."
In addition to having patience, Kendrick said he will use a "fiery" demeanor to help motivate his players. He said he doesn''t like to use and wants to instill the same attitude in his players.
"If I am playing my mother in a checkers match I am going to try to beat her," Kendrick said. "I want the players to bring it to the field and to the classroom. Winning is more of an attitude than something on the scoreboard. If we can develop the young men at Caledonia to be winners in the classroom and in the community, I think the scoreboard will eventually reflect that."
Kendrick helped instill that winning mind-set in his son, Nathan, a standout at Amory High last season who will play football at Northeast Mississippi Community College later this year. He hopes he and his assistant coaches can help bring the same mentality to Caledonia High.
"The players have to believe, the parents have to believe, the teachers have to believe," Kendrick said. "We''re not going to be peoples'' homecoming game every year. We want to start winning and to make people understand this year that they played us."
n In related news, Forrester has relinquished his duties as boys track and field coach to concentrate on his work as athletic director.
The Lowndes County School Board also Thursday approved Andy Finch as the permanent replacement for Roger Rahaim as the school''s girls basketball coach.
Finch stepped in for Rahaim late last year as interim head coach when Rahaim was forced to step down due to family reasons.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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