The AUDL’s Detroit Mechanix recently announced that Ken “KP” Porter of Raleigh, North Carolina’s Ring of Fire would be coaching the team this season. Besides Ring of Fire, Porter is also known for playing for the Elite USA Team that competed at Dream Cup in Japan just weeks ago. Mechanix Owner Brent Steepe said that Porter “epitomizes the hard work, values, ethics, and merits” that they hoped to instill in the team and Detroit youth. We asked KP about taking on the position, other club players making the jump to the professional leagues, what he brings to the table as a coach, and more.
Skyd Magazine: How did this position come about?
Ken Porter: Brent and I have been talking for a few months pretty consistently but with completely different intentions in mind; mostly just getting a better general knowledge about the league and such because I was interested in playing in the 2014 season. Throughout the talks [we] found out that we had a lot of similarities between each other’s backgrounds and clicked immediately. Brent made the suggestion of joining Detroit one day and we just kind of ran with it.
Skyd: What went into determining if it was the right fit for you?
KP: I mostly made my decision through a couple of factors. The biggest factor was my interactions with Brent. I very quickly became very comfortable with him and him with I. It was amazing to me how two people on different ends of the country, in different stages of their lives, and in different professions could be so much alike and seem to be cut from the same cloth. The second factor was that my parents are originally from the Detroit area and still have a lot of extended family in the area. The thought of being able to see them more than I have in the past is definitely a big influence; it’s also like a security blanket.
Skyd: What’s your take on pro ultimate? Why do you think “elite” club players have been hesitant to jump on the with the AUDL? Why are you willing to do so?
KP: Several years ago if you would’ve asked me my thoughts on ultimate and my playing competitively I would’ve laughed in your face. I played just about every sport growing up but all the big sports (football, baseball, soccer, wrestling). When I went to NC State I was approached by some members of the club ultimate team there about a pick up tournament they were hosting on campus; I had a blast. I was invited to try out after that and very shortly after fell in love. Ultimate is a combination of so many sports and I feel like that is a big reason why we have such a wide variety of athletes that play our sport.
I think a lot of elite players are hesitant to join the professional leagues [AUDL] because they are so committed to their club teams, which I completely understand. For a lot of elite players their club teams are the teams that have molded and shaped them into the elite players that they have become, and because of that they have so much loyalty there. I am the same way with my college team as well as my club team, Ring of Fire. Without Larry Durgin and G. Hamrick (G$HD Sr.) stopping me in the auditorium that day at State, along with all of the other awesome guys that I played with in my time that I spent there, none of this could’ve happened. That time that I had at NC State led me to another series of incredible times and growth playing with Ring; some of those guys being the same guys that I had the pleasure of playing with in college. Several of them I have been fortunate enough to have played with every year since playing ultimate.
I think the reason why I am willing to join the ranks of professional ultimate is because it has been a dream of mine (somewhat childish) to be a professional athlete in some sport. What aspiring little kid growing up playing sports didn’t want to be like the great sports icons? For me growing up it was a combination of Michael Jordan (just like every other boy) and Barry Sanders. I have been blessed to be able to achieve many of my goals in life, several of which have taken place this year, and now have the opportunity to make yet another a reality. With the values that I was brought up with “live your life to make a difference, smile a lot, and with no regrets” and to exercise Christian principles (thanks mom and dad), this opportunity was too good to pass up.
Skyd: What about the Mechanix excites you?
KP: The part that most excites me about the Mechanix is what I mentioned earlier – the chemistry with Brent, the Mechanix GM. The team philosophy and Brent’s mentality and personality are exactly in line with that of my own. The people in the organization that I have spoken with also share the same passion for the sport, and general outlook that I received from Brent in our discussions. I am especially excited about having a new ultimate family and growing with the Mechanix squad specifically my two assistant coaches Ben Murphy and Andrew Lucarotti. I’m looking forward to the amount of community service that is involved with playing for a team so involved in the Detroit/Pontiac area. I grew up in a program called the YMCA Leader’s Club (Brent was also involved in this program) which focuses on building leadership principles in middle school and high school students through community service and physical fitness. Then lastly, I am pumped to play on the grand scale with a crowd of more than just my teammates and teammate’s families; for each guy to make himself grow throughout the season and show his talents with the overall goal of promoting the Detroit Mechanix.
Skyd: What do you bring as a coach to the Mechanix? Are you playing as well?
KP: What I feel that I bring to the Mechanix as a coach is going to be mostly in my dedication and work ethic. I will be the first to tell you that I have not coached any high level ultimate in my career. I can tell you that I have coached quite a bit in several different sports. The high school (Cardinal Gibbons) that I helped coach with Wes Chandler in Raleigh, NC before moving to Rock Hill, SC for work, won states in 2010 and finished third in 2011; I have coached several rec league champion soccer teams and have been helping Marshall with a growing yet talented UNC Charlotte team this year since being in South Carolina. I plan to bring that wide variety of sports and the success that I have experienced through coaching other sports, and the ultimate I have coached together into what I hope will be a very successful system.
Yes, I will be playing as well. Just like they say in basketball “shooters shoot”, “players play” and I will be doing just that. I am looking forward to building that on field and off field with the guys as soon as possible. No better way to do that to get out there and get my hands dirty with them and battle right next to them.
Skyd: Are you living in Detroit? Will you be at every practice?
KP: I am not currently living in Detroit but I will be moving to join the team and organization next week. By doing that I will be able to be a bigger part of the team, learn the players and staff better, and relate closer with everyone that is already there. Being the head coach of the team would be much easier living in the same state and city as that team.
Skyd: What else can you tell us about what you hope to accomplish as a coach?
KP: What I hope to accomplish as a coach is pretty simple. Although cliche my hope is that everyone involved in this season, whether it be player, coach, GM, training staff, whomever, has fun. We are all blessed to have in some ways the opportunity of a lifetime and I hope that it is more than satisfying for all that have a hand in this 2013 AUDL season. As far as results are concerned, everyone has their own opinions of what makes a good, great, or championship caliber team but no one has the exact answer. I am fortunate enough to be part of an organization that has similar thoughts to mine as to what makes up a winning team. It’s easy to say that a team’s goal is to win a championship to bring back to its home fans and city, the tricky and possibly even more important part of that is the steps that team takes to get themselves into a position to achieve that goal. The other coaches and organizational staff in Detroit all have the same mentality in what it is going to take to make this happen; without giving away any of our secrets it boils down to hard work and dedication. We hope to field a strong and complete team that throughout the course of the 16 game season establishes itself as a championship contender, one that gets better each game and builds upon its mistakes. Oh and one last thing, our last goal is to bring back some hardware to the motor city!
See KP in action at the Mechanix home opener this Saturday April 13, 2013.
Feature Photo of KP at the US Open (Photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com)