Charlie Kinnune’s gravelly voice rings out across Mount Si stadium. With a command here, a compliment there, a gentle ribbing for one elementary-age boy with his hands in his pockets, a fist-bump for a young girl doing well in drills, he’s bringing up a future generation of high school athletes.
Kinnune has led the Mount Si High School football program for 23 years. As head coach, he is really only the foremost member of a widening circle of coaches, parents and volunteers who make the program work. So, when I ask Kinnune about his efforts and approach, which have earned him grand marshal status for the 2014 Railroad Days parade, he tends to refer to the football family more than himself.
“Kids are our future,” says Kinnune. “We’re around a lot of kids.”
First, there’s the little leagues and speed camp, where Kinnune spends most of his summer. Then the junior leagues. Finally, there’s the high school program. Between C-team, junior varsity and the varsity squad, there’s about 350 families whose sons and daughters are directly influenced by Kinnune.
He agreed to be marshal because the event, like football, is part of the community.
“We’re a very young community,” he says, recognizing that, with two decades into the program, he’s earned some credibility.
With children’s Speed Camp underway, some of Mount Si’s many assistant coaches, Wayne Lewis, Brian Tawney and Randy Griffin, are at the stadium today. Dozens are part of the program (See them all at http://mtsihsfootball.com/coaches.asp). “They’re all kid-magnets,” Kinnune said.
Coaching has changed a lot since he was a kid. It’s different now. Coaches are teachers, learners.
Can a football coach be a nice guy? I ask.
“Look at Pete Carroll,” the famously positive head coach of the Seahawks, Kinnune said.
“You have to be able to coach the modern athlete. You have to work with kids and parents, and really be in tune with what makes them tick. We spend a lot of time learning our learners, finding out what works for them.”
“I try to take 120 of the most aggressive males in our hallways, and keep them tempered and focused,” Kinnune said, “and allow them to have an outlet on the football field and in the weight room, so that in the classrooms and commons, they’re gentlemen. And they can handle themselves. We have our times. It’s all about choices. Kids have so many choices. I feel my job is to hold them accountable to what they say, do and act.”
Coaches take academics seriously.
“We know that’s the backbone of the development of these kids,” Kinnune said.
Kinnune’s work with younger children is fun for him, and pays dividends down the road for them.
“I love it, I invite them to our high school events, and they look forward to coming up to the high school,” he said. “We have great families, great parents. They want to see their kids active, and develop a lifelong love of fitness.”
The activity, all the running, stretching and conditioning, also teaches kids how to be athletic safely and prevent injury. That’s important, not just for football, but many sports.
Valley residents and businesses can help Kinnune and the program by coming to games and supporting the team, offering financial assistance if possible.
“We put a lot of money into our academic support program,” said Kinnune. “We scholarship a lot of kids,” providing help with the costs of play to boys who wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise.
He teaches at Mount Si, and with football in the fall and speed camp in summer, he doesn’t take a lot of time off.
“My wife and I love to be around in the summer,” he said. “We love the Valley, love Puget Sound. We do little day things. When we get out of town, we get out of town in the winter… I have probably taken five weeks of vacation in my 20 years.”
At one point, our interview is interrupted by a phone call, and Kinnune asks to take it. The call concerns college scholarship prospects for one of his 2015 seniors, lineman Chris Schlichting.
“It’s his third offer,” Kinnune said. “Welcome to my world.” There are 26 ex-Wildcats playing college football this fall.
“This will be our 27th,” Kinnune said. “It’s just going to get greater.”
• You can learn more about Mount Si football at http://mtsihsfootball.com.
Kinnune is a 1981 graduate of Issaquah High School. Among high school awards, he was KingCo All League player from 1978 to 1980. He played college ball at Spokane Community College in 1981 and 1982, then at Western Washington University. He was an assistant football coach at Western and at Kentridge High, where he also was head wrestling coach. In 2006, he was named KingCo Head Coach of the Year. Last year, he was the WIAA /Washington State Coaches’ Association SeaKing District Football Coach of the Year.