Davis: Raising the bar
With the recent hiring of new head football coach Ken Karcher and a big building project, The King’s Academy has signaled what could be a dramatic change for the K-12 private school in Seymour.
TKA Athletic Director Marc Weekly, who has only been on the job since September, sat down with me this past week and talked about how he, school headmaster Walter Grubb and the entire TKA family are changing the way they approach athletics.
“King’s is really good academically,” Weekly said. “(But) right now sports is a great tool for ministry, and for bringing kids in (to the school).
“(Potential students) are looking at CAK, they’re looking at Webb. They look at us for academics, and then they look at athletics.”
That’s where Weekly said there’s plenty of room to grow for the 130-year-old boarding and day school.
And that’s where Karcher’s hiring, most specifically, focuses attention on TKA’s ramped-up efforts.
Karcher, like Weekly himself, has an impressive background that should bring some instant credibility to the school’s attempt to grow its athletics.
Karcher has been a major Division-I level coach, and even quarterbacked in the National Football League.
He’ll lead the Academy into its first season of football at the TSSAA Division II-A level.
For years, TKA has played football without a post-season in mind, and the jump up will be a big step.
“We need to be competing for that,” Weekly said. “The goal cannot just be to have a winning season and then turn the gear in. (We want) postseason, and that’s kind of where we’re at.”
The jump up won’t be without its serious challenges, and perhaps, serious lumps.
“There’s no doubt the challenges we’re facing in football next year,” the AD said. “With Ezell-Harding, with DCA, with Webb and Fellowship Christian (on the schedule)... (But) I feel we’re going to be able to compete in our non-conference.”
Over the coming seasons, TKA also hopes for its girls soccer, volleyball, softball and baseball programs to move into TSSAA classifications and compete for the postseason as the school’s basketball, tennis and golf teams currently do.
“The administration does not put athletics ahead of our spiritual growth and our academics, but we do know what a tool it can be,” Weekly said. “I don’t think people are necessarily coming here to look for state championships or anything like that. I just think they want a good sports program.
“When all is said and done, not even 3 percent leave the school to go play on (collegiately). So we’re preparing them for a lot more than that. But what they learn in high school is they can play sports and stay active their whole lives. It’s a big tool.”
Other than their commitment to hiring coaches, the Academy is also making a substantial investment in athletic facilities.
The school has committed to adding air-conditioning to Stokely Gymnasium, which is a huge boon to the school’s summer athletic endeavors, and — in much bigger news — TKA is adding a 14,400-square foot indoor training facility.
“When you walk in the middle doors, there’s two full basketball courts, two full volleyball courts, four cages — two for softball and two for baseball,” Weekly said. “There are going to be locker rooms for both boys and girls, coaches’ offices, and upstairs there will be a mezzanine that overlooks (the courts).”
The indoor facility will allow for year-round training for TKA athletes, as well as revenue possibilities for the school in terms of athletic camps and travel tournaments.
“Ken’s going to help run that part of it and develop camps,” Weekly said. “I’m excited about it.”
All in all, it’s an exciting change of pace for the students, faculty and administration at the Academy, as well as the community of Seymour.
I’ve heard coaches in the area refer to The King’s Academy as a diamond in the rough in terms of athletic potential.
It looks like the school — led by its new athletic director — is starting to polish the jewel.