- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Ken Griffith has been swinging the tennis racket since he was 12 years old.
Griffith, head coach at Lackey High School, continues to this day with the sport, now having spent a quarter of a century coaching the game he loves so much.
“Oh gosh, I’ve lost count now. Has it been 25 years?,” Griffith said when asked how long he has been coaching.
He does it simply for the joy of it and to pass on his knowledge of the game in the hopes that his student-athletes will carry the skills with them for their entire lives.
“This is a sport that they’re going to be playing for the rest of their lives,” Griffith said. “I just want them to have fun when they step on the court. It’s about getting the kids involved and showing them what tennis is all about. It’s inspiring in itself.”
Griffith said his first coach was instrumental in his life when he took the extra time to give him private lessons.
“I haven’t put a racket down ever since.” Griffith said.
It was 1989 when Griffith took over as Lackey head coach, which he sees himself doing the exact same thing five years from now.
Since 1992, more than 250 students have gone on to play at the collegiate level, and Griffith has been a big part of that.
“Some athletes who didn’t think they’d leave Charles County have gone on to go to college and play in college,” Griffith said. “They’re out there doing some great things in their lives.”
Lackey athletic director Tony Mast said Griffith has been the cornerstone of Lackey athletics.
“During my time here at Lackey, everyone knows the importance of coach Griffith’s contributions to the athletic department and the school,” Mast said. “He’s been a role model for other coaches and has always been an educator that has stressed the importance of academics first.
“He’s led hundreds of student-athletes over the years to not only become better tennis players and students but also better people. Coach Griff, as he’s known to most people, has helped many of his players and other students go onto college, and his impact has spread across many generations.”
Griffith, a lifetime member of the United States Tennis Association, has been a USTA national clinician since 1995. He’s a former member of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and a member of the United States Racquet Stringers Association.
Griffith was honored as the All-Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2002. He has been named the All-County Coach of the Year in 2001-2002, 2008-2009 and 2011.
He was also awarded the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section “Teaching Pro of the Year” in 2008 and was recently honored as the Tennis Industry’s coach of the year for 2013.
In 2011. Griffith coached the first unified tennis team, a Special Olympics event at Lackey, the first time the event was offered within the conference, and the Chargers took home silver medals at the state tournament in Annapolis.
Griffith said the unified team is still implemented today.
“We started practicing with our special education kids and our general student body kids to see how well they could work together, and it worked out well for us,” Griffith said. “In 2012 and 2013, we’ve brought home bronze medals. It’s been a very humbling experience working with our Special Olympians. It’s gone well, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It gave me a totally different outlook. The kids enjoyed it immensely, and some kids came back for a second year to help out.”
In 2012, Professional Tennis Registry named him the Coach Jim Verdieck High School Coach of the Year, and he was the recipient of the Maryland General Assembly’s Citation for mentoring students.
One of his life’s passions is mentoring students and educating them about the game of tennis, which he says starts in the classroom.
Griffith implemented an in-school tennis club in 2009 that still functions at Lackey today. The students meet twice a week, and it’s geared toward the freshman getting acclimated into high school. Once a month, Griffith instructs the students on restringing and regripping their rackets.
“They come into this program and incorporate our learning progressions as part of a classroom environment,” Griffith said. “Our program is composed of multiple ethnicity’s, a clear representation of the student body and our community.”
For his varsity team this year, he’s hoping to instill confidence and a desire to continue learning and developing from that point on.