McKenzie takes the wheel
CALCUTTA — Either playing or coaching football since he was in fifth grade, Mike McKenzie finally took some time off last year.
After attending numerous sports events with his family during his break from coaching, he wanted to return to the sidelines. Finding a school to satisfy his needs was not easy. McKenzie wanted to find the right fit, and he believes he did so with Beaver Local. The Beaver Local Board of Education approved the hiring of McKenzie as head varsity football coach by a 3-0 vote on Thursday.
“As I was looking to possibly getting back to coaching, it wasn’t a situation where I would coach anywhere,” he said. “I am familiar with Beaver Local. My mom and aunt both started their careers there. I have a number of friends up there. I know a number of administrators, so I knew they want to go in the right direction. Those things made it very attractive to me along with the new school.”
The Beavers were also not going to take just anybody. They were looking for a person who would bring enthusiasm and passion on the field day in and day out. McKenzie feels he meets those expectations.
“I’m just an enthusiastic kind of guy,” he said. “I have a lot of energy. I love this game. I love being around kids and other coaches. There’s just something about that that excites me.”
Now that he’s officially hired, the next step is becoming more familiar with the situation he put himself in and the people around him.
McKenzie has already made strides by calling a few parents and meeting some of his new players and coaches. He will get another opportunity to meet more at the Beaver Local Touchdown Club meeting on Tuesday during “Meet the Coach” night.
“They have a very positive culture that they are continuing to build upon,” McKenzie said. “Football is a piece to that. It’s exciting to be able to jump into that and get through the process.”
Though it is too early to start game planning for the upcoming season, McKenzie has an idea of what Beaver fans can expect. Seven years as head coach for Edison, three as an assistant for Weir (where he is currently an assistant principal) and other years at the helm for Indian Valley and Swanton could play a major role.
“We try on both sides of the ball to create systems that can give us flexibility without making it too complicated for the players,” McKenzie said. “We don’t want them thinking too much. We want them to go and play as fast as possible, but at the same time make it difficult for the opposition.”
McKenzie added that he is excited for what Beaver brings back on offense.
“We have an offensive system that will allow us to have offensive flexibility to match the talent that we have,” he said. “Just looking at them I know they have their top running backs coming back. They have a tight end and a couple of receivers back. We’ll run the ball and be in some power pistol formations.”
Throughout this entire process, McKenzie has had nothing short of fun. What he missed the most was being around the players, coaches and environment. He cannot wait to get back on the field when Beaver faces Wellsville in the season opener.
Long days may be ahead traveling from Weir to Beaver and back on a consistent basis. As long as McKenzie can accomplish what the Beavers ask from him, the drive will be well worth it.
“The core about my coaching philosophy is we want to help build the character of young men,” McKenzie said. “When they leave, we can continue to build a foundation that they will have for the rest of their lives. It just happens that we’re using football as a vehicle to help accomplish that.”
¯ McKenzie did not pick up full approval from every board member due to Pat Clutter being absent and Bill Croxall abstaining. Croxall abstained because McKenzie’s vote was lumped in with other personnel matters that included Croxall being approved for a volunteer softball coaching position.
¯ Shortly after accepting the job offer a few weeks back, McKenzie received a congratulatory text message from former Beaver head coach Jeremy McElroy. McElroy served five seasons at the helm before being replaced by McKenzie.
“I thought it was very class act,” McKenzie said. “I want people to know that I respect coach McElroy a lot. I think he did a lot of positive things when he first came here. I respect him professionally.”
¯ During his time off last year, McKenzie attended numerous sports events with his family, especially with his son. They have season tickets for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers. They also made their way up to Cleveland. The highlights were attending the Cleveland Cavaliers championship banner raising ceremony along with a couple World Series games between the Indians and Chicago Cubs.
Reporter Steve Rappach contributed to this report