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Strickland ‘nursing’ new KCS football program, facilities

Attempting to build his second football program from scratch since 1999, Chip Strickland serves four roles at Knoxville Christian School.

He's athletics director, head football coach of the new middle school team, teacher of “nine subjects — and school nurse.”

“I do it all,” said Strickland, a registered nurse after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at Duke University earlier this decade, who’s beginning his second season as school AD.

Strickland, a former Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman in the mid-1880s, had “about 24 kids” out during KCS football spring practice.

“This is the second time I've done this,” said Strickland, head coach of Christian Academy of Knoxville High School's first-ever football team in 1999, where he stayed two seasons. “We were on the road for two years, and I was by myself with four dads,” Strickland said of his CAK days.

At KCS, “Matt Amos [school president] has been a good friend of mine for years, and the opportunity came to me,” Strickland said.

With KCS opening its new high school facility this fall, Strickland stressed how academics is the most important aspect of KCS. “All the efforts have been poured into that,” he said.

The son of a U.S. Marine drill instructor, Strickland, 42, said the school's new football field “is a process in coming.”

Lacking lights, fencing, goalposts, scoreboard, bleachers and pressbox, the new football field site “has been graded.”

Vandalism, in the form of “four-wheelers,” caused deep ruts costing roughly $8,000 and delaying the field's progress. “Me and the dads have just sorta taken that field and done what we could with what we've got,” he said.

Strickland said goalposts are “expensive” and KCS would make due with just one this season.

As for bleachers, Strickland said he's confident they could be obtained soon because “we've talked to Farragut parks and recreation [officials], they have some extra bleachers, they just haven't got back with me.”

Also high school girls basketball head coach, Strickland's team won four of 19 games in its first-ever season as an “independent” team. “We had about 14 girls on the team, so we had about every girl in high school," he said. “Those same girls also played volleyball.”

Strickland said KCS high school teams, currently independently affiliated, need “one year of growth” in 2009-10 before returning to join TSSAA in 2010-11. “Based on the numbers and the multiplier, we expect to be [Class] A,” he added.

The KCS middle school girls basketball team finished third both in regular season and tournament KISL play. The Knights boys team was KISL Junior Varsity Small Division champions (fifth- sixth- and seventh-grades).

Born and raised in Chattanooga, Strickland said he's grateful to “a bunch of coaches at that [young] age that took an interest in me, and I guess I feel that I'm just giving back a little bit now to what they gave me then.

“Trying to keep kids plugged in to high school sports and not let ’em fall by the wayside.”

In high school at McCallie, Strickland excelled in both football and baseball before his reputation as a standout defensive tackle and linebacker landed him with a scholarship at the University of Tennessee in the mid-1980s. Strickland, converted to an offensive lineman, was a member of UT's 1985 Southeastern Conference title team that beat Miami in the 1986 Sugar Bowl.

After receiving his degree at Duke, with a sports medicine, orthopedic and stroke rehab focus, Strickland, his wife and four children came back to Knox County. “I started working as an R-N at Patricia Neal [Rehabilitation Center], helping men who had strokes. Those little women can't move those big ole men.”

Later an interim chemistry and world geography teacher at Oak Ridge High School, “I get a phone call ... and then I went to Oakdale for a year [2007]” as high school football head coach.

Once again, Strickland said he basically was alone during a struggling season. “It was me and basically about four dads,” adding he left Oakdale after one season.

Nine years after his final season at CAK, in 2000, “It's still just me and a few dedicated dads whose sons play,” Strickland said of his KCS football challenge, adding he “guesses” he likes the challenge of building new programs.

Field ruts and no goalposts notwithstanding.


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