Change at the top

By: Mark Vest | Woodward Talk | Published July 5, 2017

 Chris Sikora, pictured, recently stepped down as Berkley High’s football coach. Sikora led the Bears from 2013 to 2016 with a 24-17 mark. Billy Keenist Jr. has been selected to lead the program. Keenist comes from Troy Athens, where he served as the offensive coordinator.

Chris Sikora, pictured, recently stepped down as Berkley High’s football coach. Sikora led the Bears from 2013 to 2016 with a 24-17 mark. Billy Keenist Jr. has been selected to lead the program. Keenist comes from Troy Athens, where he served as the offensive coordinator.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

Chris Sikora recently did something that he may have been hard-pressed to find the time to do around this time last year. He accompanied his young daughter on a trip to the zoo.

Sikora can enjoy other such activities this summer and fall, as his decision to resign as Berkley High’s football coach has helped give him more free time.

Sikora — who led the Bears from 2013 to 2016 — cited family as the primary reason for his decision.

“My wife and I, we have one gorgeous daughter that just turned 1, and we have another one (we’re) expecting before the end of the year,” said Sikora, who indicated that he is not currently pursuing another coaching opportunity. “With more expectations at home, I didn’t know if I could be fully invested. Really enjoyed my coaching experience at Berkley over the past four years as head coach. … It was my first head coaching experience coming into Berkley High School, so I’m very fortunate for them to give me the opportunity. I really feel great for the support of parents and the kids’ work ethic during my time there.”

Billy Keenist Jr. has been selected to lead Berkley’s program. He comes over after serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Troy Athens.

“I feel like Berkley has made a very good decision with hiring Coach Keenist,” said Sikora, who helped lead Berkley to a 24-17 record during his tenure as coach. “He’s a great guy. He says and believes in a lot of the same things. … I’m glad that Berkley could find someone very fitting to take over.”

Keenist has inherited a team that Sikora helped lead to unprecedented success. Berkley has qualified for the playoffs three consecutive seasons, which is a first in program history.

The Bears’ district championship in 2015 was also a first for the program.

Sikora has also enjoyed individual success, including his selection as a Regional Coach of the Year in 2015.

Despite all those achievements, they are not what he cited as his primary source of satisfaction.

“Those individual awards, they’re great, but I look at how well the kids have done on and off the field, and that’s probably what I’m the most proud of,” said Sikora. “We had quite a few kids go on to play college football in the four years I was a head coach.”

Sikora — who said notifying players of his decision is the toughest thing he’s ever had to do as a coach — remains as a special education teacher at Berkley. This year, like his colleagues, he gets to enjoy some time off before the beginning of the next school term.

“I started coaching, I think I was 22, 23 years old — something like that — and realistically, last week was my first week off,” Sikora said. “Do I miss football? Yeah, I do, but I enjoy spending time with my family. I think overall I’m happy with the decision that I made.”