New programs, new coaches; starting lineup set for 6th grade at Knox County Middle

John Zach Burchette, Tabitha Frederick, and Steve Abner

The starting lineup is set for 6th grade athletics at Knox County Middle School.

School leadership announced Tuesday morning the new head coaches of the 6th grade’s football, girls basketball, and boys basketball programs. Inaugural seasons for teams will begin this fall when 6th grade students from Knox Middle’s feeder elementary schools move to the middle school campus.

First up coming out of the huddle is football coach John Zach Burchette

It is always exciting to be given the opportunity to be the first to work with a new
program. Even though myself and others have been working with this age group for
several years now, moving it under the KCPS umbrella brings certain advantages that
we are hoping to capitalize on for football in our school district.

  • John Zach Burchette

John Zach Burchette and familyBurchette’s vision for the program expands beyond the 6th grade team and includes success on and off of the field.

“Football has a lot of working pieces that take time to nurture before they can flourish. With the experience and knowledge that me and the 6th grade staff have in our community, my hope is to see it flourish right out of the gate,” said Burchette.

“I have previously coached at the high school level before getting involved in the Panther Football League. We have seen our numbers grow steadily over the past 3 years and would like to see that trend continue. Everyone that is going to be involved with this has football playing and coaching backgrounds.”

Burchette has put together a winning coaching team for the program. Joining him on the sidelines will be assistants Cory Smith, Jeremy Napier, Ernest Johnson, and Josh Smith.

He explained the way that the program would operate on its own from other middle school teams. The same will hold true for basketball.

“We will have our own team and staff and be separate from the 7th and 8th grade teams. During practice, we will not be with the other middle school team.”

He continued to explain “football will be providing transportation for any 5th grade student that may need it once school starts next August.” Football includes the 5th grade while basketball does not. Each elementary will continue with their own teams.

“We are planning on going around and visiting all of the schools to talk to prospective players. During this time we will be explaining everything that we are going to do and strengthen relationships to build our football team so that we can be the best around.”

A three grade play by head girls basketball coach Tabitha Frederick

I was intrigued by the 6th grade coaching position because I am already the head coach for the 7th and 8th grade KCMS girls basketball teams. I saw this as an opportunity for players to be able to play within our system for three years rather than two and be better prepared for high school level sports.

  • Tabitha Frederick

Tabitha Frederick and familyFrederick can’t wait to take a shot at establishing a successful 6th grade team.  She is already planning to start early open gyms and workouts so that players can get invested into the program.

“I know players will need some work to get to the middle school level style of play that will be expected so I think an early start will help our younger players,” she said.

“I also plan to provide opportunities for the 6th grade to get some preseason game experiences through summer games and tournaments as well as some additional games throughout the season.”

She has experience coaching all levels of basketball in the Knox County Public Schools. Frederick coached B and A teams at Lay Elementary for 10 years, has been head coach at KCMS for 7 years, and was assistant coach at Knox Central for 4 years.

“I have worked very hard to help build our girls basketball program during my time coaching in Knox County,” she said.

“I have high expectations for all players and will demand that we work hard as a team to meet those expectations. We have had some success in the past few years placing two teams in the State Elite 8 and having our 8th grade team finish in the Final Four in the state last season.”

She wants prospective players and families to know that as coach, she is about a winning culture and building character, leadership, and moral values through sports.

“I want to help players develop a love for the game as well as a strong work ethic that they will have for the rest of their lives.”

Frederick is an example of what it means to have a love for the game. Growing up she played elementary basketball at Lay Elementary, high school basketball at Knox Central, and two years at Union College. Now, she shares that love with her family and current players.

“My husband, Shawn, has been by my side during my time at Lay and KCMS as my assistant coach. He puts in as much work and time as I do to help ensure our players are getting the opportunities they need to work on their skills and knowledge of the game. We both look forward to working with this new group of 6th grade players.”

Head boys coach Steve Abner is ready to assist players

I have always enjoyed coaching, and when the 6th grade job came open, I was very excited! I enjoy teaching fundamentals and developing young talent.

  • Steve Abner

Steve Abner and familyWhen it comes to developing skills on and off the court, new boys basketball coach Steve Abner is ready to build talent.

“My vision is to start the program by teaching hard work, discipline, and dedication,” said Abner when reflecting on his own coaching history and what he hopes the 6th grade program will become.

With experience in coaching basketball for over 20 years, his resume includes Artemus, Flat Lick, Boone, G.R. Hampton, Knox Middle, and Knox Central High. At each school and level of play, he has common expectations for each of his players.

“Students and their families can expect to work hard and have a positive attitude,” Abner said.

His goals is “for each player to gain fundamental skill while learning what it means to be part of a team.”

That begins soon. He is also planning on open gyms and to hit the ground running with summer games.