Same Song, Different Verse

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2011 issue of Memphisport.

Ken Netherland is no stranger to longevity. After all, the coach has been at it since 1964.

Netherland began his career at Westwood High School in the mid-1960s. He then went on to coach eight years at Hillcrest High School before accepting the job at Memphis Preparatory School and eventually moving on to Germantown High School before the 1974 season.

After coaching for 29 seasons at Germantown, winning 250 games and a state championship, Netherland decided it was time to hang up the clipboard.

Then St. George’s Independent School came calling. Because St. George’s was a brand-new school in the Memphis area, they could only field an eighth grade team.

“We had them play an eighth grade schedule and a J.V. schedule,” said Netherland with a laugh. “Those kids played 15 or 16 ballgames that year.”

That sink or swim mentality was vital to the rapid growth and maturity of the program. With a team of freshmen and sophomores, Netherland guided his young football team to the playoffs in 2005 before losing to eventual state champion Davidson Academy. Two years later Netherland was hoisting his second state championship trophy as the Gryphons finished the season 11-0.

Netherland attributed the players competing at a high level at such an early age as the key factor for early success in a young program.

With a state title in the trophy case and an astounding record at the helm, Netherland decided once again it was time to walk away from football.

Then, another young and hungry football program came calling. Shortly after Netherland called it quits, Lausanne Collegiate School inquired the coach for a possible job interview.

“I liked what I saw,” said Netherland. “They have really good facilities and they have made a commitment to put in the work full-time.”

After jumpstarting programs at Westwood, Hillcrest, Germantown and building a program at St. George’s, the all-time winningest coach in Tennessee football history is being asked to do it again.

So what is the secret to starting a succesful program?

“Weight room,” he said with a grin. “You’re always going to have kids who want to play, but the first thing you have to do is find out how much they want to work.”

For Netherland, the most important aspects of coaching are fundamentals and discipline. This also coincides with the message that he strives to deliver off the field as well. When asked how he expects his first few years to go at Lausanne the coach responded quickly and said it will be just like any other coaching job.

“There’s always the growing pains with every program.”

Now, Netherland looks to embark on another journey in his impressive career when it looked like it was going to be over.  As for retirement, he said he has no plans and looks forward to the opportunity.

“Once they called and offered me the job I figured what the heck.”

Written by Zach Berry


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