Chris Krich has returned to his native California to start a new era with the Leopard football program after spending 18 years away from home playing and coaching football.
Krich was hired in March as the head coach of a La Verne team that finished 1-8 last season. He comes from Millikin (Ill.) after spending five seasons with the Big Blue.
Krich accepted the position at La Verne because of its similarity to his previous job.
“I had a call to be a head coach and I wanted to be at a university with a small atmosphere for student-athletes and students,” Krich said.
The immediate impact Krich made was on the attitude the players had coming off of last season.
“The common theme is that everyone has been excited for football season,” Krich said.
“In the past players mentioned how they were not excited for football, now they are passionate about what is in front of them.”
“Practice is never dull,” sophomore offensive lineman Michael Simon said.
“Coach Krich always wants to get us going, thinking about football and improving everyday.”
Now that players are excited and ready to play football, the Leopards are poised to improve upon recent seasons.
The Cambria native played for four years and graduated from Mesa State (Colo.), garnering All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honors after his final season in 1997.
After graduating from Mesa State, Krich went on to be an assistant coach at Millikin from 1998-2000 before serving as a graduate assistant in 2002 for Fort Hays State (Kan.) while completing his master’s in Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
Krich then headed north to Lakeland (Wis.) as assistant head coach from 2003-2005 before returning to Millikin in 2006 as the defensive coordinator.
Upon his arrival to the University, Krich brought with him philosophies that should revive a Leopard program that has finished the final two seasons with a combined 1-17 record.
“Going 100 percent at a time, always improving on the previous day,” sophomore linebacker David Dawson said. “A new mental toughness, a new type we haven’t had before.”
One idea that has been spread throughout the team is to forget what happened in years past and to always be thinking ahead.
“Last year was last year,” Krich said. “We only worry about the next step which is the next opponent. Prepare for each opponent week by week, play by play and control what we can control.”
The Leopards have only two goals as a team: to win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and earn a berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The ultimate goal of the program relates more to the student athletes lives more than football: to graduate in four years and be competitive in the job world.
“He brings a lot more of a professional atmosphere,” Simon said. “He is all about doing the little things right.”
“We want players to graduate in four years,” Krich said. “I want players to be hireable.”
Krich learned to support this philosophy as a student athlete while at Mesa State.
“I was a typical college student athlete where I thought I was an athlete only,” Krich said.
Jay Hood, the new head coach during Krich’s second year, instilled in Krich and other student athletes that discipline, accountability and time management were more important skills to have than the ones they used on the field.
Now Krich shares these ideas with his student athletes daily, along with bringing energy to the team, which he demonstrates himself at practice and on the sideline.
“We want to bring energy to the sideline, we want the players to understand a sense of urgency in certain situations,” Krich said. “We are going to come out to play to win and we are going to give our players the opportunity to be successful. Whatever we feel is necessary to win we will do.”
La Verne will practice these beliefs as they prepare to take on a nine game schedule, beginning with a trip to Azusa to face the NAIA Azusa Pacific Cougars at 6 p.m. tomorrow and a trip to Linfield on Sept. 24 before starting SCIAC play against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Oct. 1 at Ortmayer Stadium.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.