Players, game at heart of King's desire for coaching

by Sean Dunlap

For Kent King, being part of high school football is something he feels drawn to because of his personal love for the game and the passion he saw in watching his father work in a similar capacity on the sidelines through the years.

King, who is one of two new assistants for the Franklin County High School football program entering the 2022 gridiron season, hails from Natchez and said spending a great deal of his early life around sports helped to make him the man he is today.

“I grew up watching football and every sport imaginable that my dad coached and I am a third-generation educator so this is kind of the family business I guess you could say,” King noted.

“My dad — like most parents — pushed me to be a doctor or a lawyer, but in carrying me around to all those ballgames it kind of rubbed off on me and being a coach was all I knew I wanted to do.

“The whole reason I wanted to chase this career was seeing the relationships my dad had with his teams and the closeness amongst the players he coached through the years. I wanted to experience that same sense of belonging and to be able to impact future generations of athletes like he did.”

King is a product of Adams County’s Trinity Episcopal Day School, having been active in sports for the Saints’ programs, and then continued his post-secondary studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, Northwestern State and finally Louisiana State University, where he earned a degree in interdisciplinary studies with minors in history and English.

“I’m very excited to be here and have always thought highly of Franklin County, which had some really special teams about the time I was coming up in junior high school,” King said.

“Another tie to this community is my mother, who has worked here at the nursing home for 20 years, and I have had the chance to meet a lot of amazing people here along the way so I feel right at home here.

“In meeting (FCHS Athletic Director) Brent Calcote and (Head Football Coach B.J.) Smithhart, it was a feeling like I had known these guys for years and I feel like this will be a great experience and atmosphere to help me grow as a coach and teacher.”

King’s responsibilities with the Bulldogs’ program will be in leading the skill positions on both sides of the football, notably working with defensive backs and wide receivers — roles he is familiar with since he played in those spots when he was a student-athlete.

“A lot of what I hope to impart to the players is the value of individual character in whatever our guys want to do today or in the future,” he continued.

“I also want to focus on the importance of teamwork and what can be accomplished by working as a group toward a common goal.

“The way my coaches impacted my life is what I want to try to do for these guys, so the bottom line when it comes to my philosophy is to teach skills that will help them in football and that they can carry over to their lives down the road.”

In his short time with the program, King said he has been impressed with his players’ knowledge of the game and their ability to catch on quickly with what he and fellow coaches are trying to impart during the summer conditioning program.

“One of the things that stands out about Franklin County football for me is the attitude of the players and the respect they have for the coaches and for each other,” he went on to say.

“For me, that’s a breath of fresh air when you have guys that want to be here, want to learn and want to get better.

“When it comes to workout routines, I want to share with them that we’re doing things to make them better and if we are asking them to do certain things in a certain way it’s for their overall improvement and not for punishment. Football deals with a lot of fundamentals and that will always be a focus, too, so we will spend a lot of time on that in the off-season.”

King said the measuring stick for FC’s football success will be all players from the top to the bottom of the roster having a mindset that they want to constantly improve in all aspects of the game.

“Players, I believe, need to have the ability to self-reflect and not be afraid to fail,” he added.

“To be able to get better every time they are on the practice field or whenever they play, our players have to be able to work through things they need to work on … they can’t have the mindset that they know everything or there’s nothing they need to improve on.

“There’s always room to get better for everyone or otherwise you will become stagnant, so self-reflection is a cornerstone of how players get better and move from being just good enough to being great.”

King went on to say he believes doing little things correctly on and off the field will pay dividends for the Bulldogs during their 2022 campaign.

“There has to be a sense of urgency when it comes to how coaches explain what we expect from these guys,” he said.

“Because of the fast-paced world we live in, coaches have to be clear in spelling out what they want and how they want it, plus they have to show the results that come from doing things the right way or the wrong way.

“We’re fortunate in that we have players that want to learn, want to get better and want to do things right. Sure, there are going to be mistakes – like running a wrong route or missing an assignment, but learning from that and not letting it linger is the biggest thing we can impart in those teachable moments.

“Our goal is to break things down in such a way the players will respond to it and not shut down.”

King said his other goals during the summer will be for FC players to get their strength up by being diligent in the weight room and through conditioning while learning to take care of their bodies with key elements such as a balanced diet and hydration.

He hopes these efforts will allow players to build themselves up to carry through the South Mississippi heat and humidity that will be an intangible influence on games especially in the early part of the upcoming gridiron season.