BY BEN CAMPION
Chuck Kenyon has been the head coach of the Martin County Tigers for seven years. He is known for his love of the sport and for being tough and supportive of players.
Kenyon began his coaching career after playing for five years at Lindenwood University in Missouri.
“I missed the game; I wanted to be a part of the game. I felt I had a lot to offer with my experiences and that I could teach the game and even to this day I get goose bumps on game night,” said Kenyon.
Before coaching at Martin County he coached at three other schools. First, the high school he graduated from, Haines City High for three years, then Cheifland High for two-and-a-half years, and Clearwater High for one year. Yearning for the position of head coach, he went to Martin County and has been there ever since. Although he enjoyed the other coaching positions, this one has been his favorite.
“When you’re not calling the shots, it’s a little different because it is not fully your team,” said Kenyon.
This year, the Tigers went to the playoffs despite their 4-6 record.
“We were the first team on the Treasure Coast to win a playoff game going into it with a losing record. The kids finally decided to believe in what I preach all day long: They need to seize the moment, and not be scared of success. When a good thing happens, it’s because you did it, not anyone else,” said Kenyon.
They lost in the second round but were one of three teams in the area to go that far.
“We had two players in the playoffs that went over 200 yards each. Everyone stepped up. Getting us to the playoffs and to be district champs is my goal,” said Kenyon.
The life of a head coach is not always wonders.
“My kids miss out on their dad,” said Kenyon. “I spend more time with other people’s kids than I do with my own and it’s tough. But I made the choice of being a head coach a long time ago and I’m not going to slack off. It provides for my family. It’s a trade-off, but at the end of the day I like what I do.”
He hopes that his kids will be involved one day. He and his wife Debbie have two children, their daughter Olivia, 6, and their son Roc, 2.
“I want to get to the point where Roc is a ball boy so he can travel with me,” said Kenyon.
Zach Grant, a graduate of Martin County’s 2010 class has known Kenyon since his freshman year. “My first impression of Coach Kenyon: hard ass.”
Kenyon confirmed that there was some merit to that. Kenyon has always emphasized small things first, focusing on discipline.
“He always said if you take care of all the little things, the bigger things will follow,” said Grant. “In his practices, Coach Kenyon would be sure to have to team understand that you can’t get a silly call like offsides because the lost yards really add up in the end.”
“He’s a great coach, motivator, and keeps all his players in check. My favorite thing about Kenyon is that he is a players’ coach; he’s always got his players’ backs like when helped me go to a summer football camp and drove me and two other players there himself,” said Grant.
That dedication brings loyalty from Lyle Dankenbring, who now plays defensive back for the University of Central Florida, and Justin Simmons, who plays defensive back for Boston College.
Keynon’s wife, Debbie, says she stays out of coaching. She doesn’t go to games because she doesn’t need to hear people yelling at him.
“I’m supportive but I have separation,” she said.
The two met in Martin County during a barbecue that was held to introduce him as coach and her as the new head cheerleading coach. At the end of the evening, they sat down to chat about upcoming years, and ended up at Applebee’s for a drink.
“We hit it off so well, I think I scared her,” Kenyon said.
Kenyon doesn’t bring his tough coaching style home. “He is a little soft on our kids, much softer than on the players,” Keynon says. “I’m the bad guy; he’s the good parent.”