Lake Stevens coach steps down

Ken Collins found he had stretched himself too thin.

For several months he managed to juggle three full-time jobs: football coach, associate principal and father. Football has always been a central part of his life, but Collins said his decision was clear.

Collins, The Herald’s Man of the Year in Sports in 1995, said Wednesday he has resigned from his job as the Lake Stevens High School football coach to focus on his family and his new role as associate principal at the school. After 15 seasons guiding the Vikings football team, Collins, 44, will leave the sidelines to oversee student achievement, among other responsibilities.

“Our loss in athletics is the school’s gain,” second-year Lake Stevens athletic director Ed Bailey said. “He’s a great guy, a super human being.”

Lake Stevens is accepting applicants for the coaching job, Bailey said. The search will run through Dec. 3.

Collins coached Lake Stevens to six Wesco North championships and seven state playoff appearances, including the 1994 Class 3A championship game. The Vikings led O’Dea 6-0 in that game before falling behind 7-6. Lake Stevens had a chance to win but missed a short field goal in the final minute to lose by one point.

“It was about as heartbreaking a finish as you can have,” said Collins, who was an assistant coach at Marysville-Pilchuck High for six years before taking the Lake Stevens job.

Collins said his 1994 team will always stand out. There were countless distinct personalities, including young players who became great men, he said.

This season Lake Stevens was 1-7 in division and 2-7 overall, an outcome Collins called “disappointing”. Still, he said he is proud of the winning tradition he helped create.

“I spent 15 years building a successful program at Lake Stevens. I built relationships that took a lot of hard work.”

“I’ll remember all my players,” added Collins, who also taught before accepting the associate principal job. “You meet a lot of kids as you go through education, but you never get as close to a group of kids as when you coach them in a sport.”

Even losses were never a complete loss.

“When you lose together it bonds you together as much or even more as when you win. I like my kids just as much this year as when we were really successful.”

Collins decided this would be his last year coaching before the season started, around the time he accepted the associate principal job. But he struggled to imagine what life will be like without football every autumn.

“That’s gonna be tough,” Collins said.

Since he was born Collins has been around football. As a young boy he watched his father, Jack, coach the Cashmere High team. He grew up and played for his father at Cashmere, located near Wenatchee, before moving on to Washington State University. Collins even played two years in the National Football League (1982-83) as a defensive end for the New England Patriots.

But while Collins has decided to walk away from coaching a game that has meant so much to him, he will continue making a difference.

“It’s not the same kind of job, that’s for sure,” Collins said of his administrative role. “But students are still our number one responsibility.”

Maybe his new job isn’t all that different. Collins will still use his ability to relate to students, but instead of motivating them to excel on the field he will encourage them to reach their potential in the classroom.

Through the victories and the defeats, even the heartbreakers, Collins will be there.

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