In his first season as football coach at Severn, Chris Kirchenheiter has turned the Admirals around. A team that won just one game a year ago is now 8-2 with a berth in the MIAA C Conference championship againt St. Frances Friday at 3 p.m. at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Admirals went 7-33 over the last four years and lost 13 straight games before winning their 2010 finale. Although they have never won an MIAA football championship outright, the Admirals shared in B Conference titles in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Kirchenheiter, 45, came to the Admirals after coaching stints at Severna Park and Lake Braddock, Va., but this is his first head coaching position He also has been involved with the Green Hornets youth program in Severna Park for 10 years. As a graduate assistant, he coached at North Carolina under Mack Brown, now the Texas head coach.
Born in New Jersey, Kirchenheiter grew up on the sidelines and in locker rooms as the son of a football coach. His father, Ralph Kirchenheiter, coached high school football in New Jersey and college football at William & Mary, Virginia and Muhlenberg. Chris Kirchenheiter played for his father and went on to play at Randolph Macon in Virginia.
As this week's football Coachspeak guest, Kirchenheiter answers five questions about the Severn program, the turnaround and his coaching philosophy.
What interested you about the Severn job ?
I’m from the community and have always recognized all the wonderful things Severn has to offer. Being able to combine that with my passion for football I saw as a great opportunity.
What are the main changes you made that fostered this turnaround?
First of all, I was able to put together what I think is a really quality coaching staff. The second thing is we really put the emphasis for getting things to change around on the seniors and we were very fortunate to have such great senior leadership. They did the hard part for us.
In what sense did you let the seniors take charge and how did that pay off?
When we met in the off season, the coaches kind of outlined the program for what we needed to do to so that we would be competitive when we kicked the ball off in the first game. The seniors were in charge of making sure we executed that – the weight room, 7-on-7, the summer drills and the practices. The seniors were the ones to really emphasize that with the kids. They bought into it. Of those 11 seniors, five of them probably never even played football until they got to Severn. Many of them are two- and even three-sport athletes. Most of them are going off to wonderful colleges and universities to study things at a very high level academically. It’s certainly not what you think of as a football factory by any means, so for those kids to be able to get together and focus on football the way that they have is amazing.
As the son of a football coach, did you always want to be a football coach?
I don’t know that I always wanted to be a football coach as much as I wanted to be around football. Having played the game, I couldn’t get it out of my blood. I’ve always been passionate about the game, the sport. When my playing days were over, coaching gave me an opportunity to be around the sport, so it started off as that and then as a teacher and an educator, I was able to combine my experience in teaching with coaching. It was kind of a natural fit.
When you look back do you see that your father helped mold your coaching philosophy?
Other than the passion for the game, he was never big on Xs and Os. He let me develop my own philosophy and my own ways of doing things. He gave me the freedom to fall on my face a few times. There were bumps and bruises along the way. He was defensive coordinator before he became a head coach and I played defense and defense has always been the cornerstone of what we do as a football program. I’ve been teaching that since Day 1 at Severn. Offense wins games, but defense wins championships and here we are in the championship game, so I think his focus on defense certainly influenced me to be a defense-minded coach.