By Lynne Phillips
There is a new coach in town and Kemmes Keys told New London’s Rotary Club, he loves a challenge and he is up to the task of working as part of the team and making New London proud.
Keys has joined New London Local Schools as its high school football coach.
Sharing his vision for both the Wildcat football program and where he sees them going as a community he said, “I believe those two things go hand in hand.
His primary goal as the football coach is to develop outstanding student athletes. And the plan to accomplish it is simple. “Provide them with positive, motivating encouragement to always be excellent in whatever they do. That will be stressed every single day that they be the best young man they can possibly be.”
Looking at his own life he told club members he likes to look in the mirror at the end of each day and ask himself one simple question, Am I a better person today than I was yesterday? “That is where the focus is going to be. Not so much trying to be the best football team, but helping them be the best men for the future they can be.
“We will be establishing what I call the ‘Cats’ philosophy’. The ‘C’ is for commitment, not only to the team, but commitment to the community. I believe in service leadership, giving back and implementing a partnership between the team and community, for them to be assets in their community. Our team will be involved in community projects. The ‘A’ is simple. It is accountability. We hold each other accountable for things that happen. Citing an old cliche, from his own high school coach, ‘there is no ‘I’ in team. The ‘T’ is for team. We will work as a team because we can’t accomplish anything without teamwork.
“The ‘S’ for success. I believe in being committed, being accountable and working as a team and with that I believe we will experience success.
“A lot things you may see may not be what you are accustomed to here at New London. I am unorthodox in my approach,” he stated. “There will be some differences in style of play. I am a fast paced guy. That is what I am accustomed to and I will be bringing that here. I often describe it as basketball on the football field. We like to get out and run. As soon as the official passes that ball I plan to be off an running.”
Keys said he is looking forward to being able to turn the program around. “I am thankful for the opportunity and glad to be here. It is almost ironic I am here in New London. In a strange way New London has always been a part of my life even though I grew up in Sandusky. My children’s godfather is from New London. My first college roommate was from New London. One of my best friends, his entire family was raised here in New London.” Smiling he said, “I guess it was just destined for me to be here in New London. I look forward to being of assistance in any way shape or form or fashion and you are welcome to have access to our young men. We are to serve you.”
One of things Keys says he is looking to get rid of is the apathy that has come to New London football. He noted over the time he has lived here he has heard about the successes of the cross country teams, basketball and baseball teams and it is time to start hearing about some football success. “I have been around high school athletics long enough to understand the importance of a sound, solid football program and that is what I look to bring here and I am very optimistic.” He added, “I do believe with a little tweak here and a little tweak there we can bring you a winner. We want to make you proud. I am up for the challenge. I like to be challenged and don’t do things that aren’t challenging in my own life. This task isn’t easy, but I am up to the challenge.”
Born in 1974 on Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia he was there for a short time before returning to Sandusky with his mother. That is where both my parents were from. My dad remained in the Air Force until his commitment was up. He was reared in Sandusky and graduated from from Sandusky High School in 1992. Accepting an athletic scholarship he enrolled at Ashland University to play baseball. Played a little college baseball and was fortunate enough to play in Ashland’s first College World Series baseball team as a three year starter. The first year they went to the World Series and I was a left fielder.
Graduating from Ashland in 1997 he returned to Sandusky and became a juvenile probation officer for about six years. He moved on into the field of developmental disabilities and became an investigator with the Erie County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Currently he works for Clearwater Council Government in the same field.
He has coached in Sandusky for a number of years starting in Sandusky City Schools in the middle school as a seventh grade football coach for a year. He was a middle school assistant wrestling coach. “I took a couple of years off from coaching and got back into around 2000 when he began coaching varsity football as an assistant and was an assistant baseball coach as well. “I have done that for about the past 18 years.
“I have been around football literally since I was six years old. I started off as a water boy,” he said with a smile. “Did that up until I started playing. I just love the game. A lot of people consider me a baseball guy, but I tell people baseball was a hobby that I just happened to be pretty decent at, but football has always been my love and my passion.”
Keys lives in New London with his wife, who is from New London and is the father of five.