Lexington One’s D.A.D., former River Bluff head football coach, finds reward in current position
Whether at home or work, David Bennett celebrates Father’s Day.
He is the District Athletics Director (DAD) for Lexington County School District One and a former high school and college head football coach. He oversees the sporting lives of close to 27,000 students and over 600 coaches at 30 elementary, middle and high schools.
Bennett is often greeted with “Hi, Dad” whenever he visits the schools. Over his three seasons on the job, the district has produced state champions in golf (Lexington), wrestling (River Bluff) and softball (White Knoll and Lexington), and region champions in football, volleyball, basketball, boys lacrosse, soccer and tennis.
Since the position was created for Bennett in July 2016, the number of DAD positions has doubled in the Palmetto State from 10 to 20. They all now meet annually in the fall for a round table discussion and during the Athletics Director’s Principal conference.
“We’ve just got to keep on trying to get things, continue to get better, learn, share with these other ADs,” Bennett said. This includes overseeing projects which have resulted in refurbished softball and baseball facilities at Lexington, Gilbert and Pelion high schools.
“I think it’s important for our kids that they have the best facilities,” Bennett said. “Not only pretty, but safe. When we went out to Pelion, there was work that we needed to do with their baseball field along with the softball field and they’ve got the adjoining hitting facility.”
There’s also the constant work to ensure student athletes receive the best coaching. “My job in athletics is that we get the best coaches, we keep the best coaches and we bring in the best coaches,” he said.
The importance of culture
Bennett’s work is aided by supportive leadership from Superintendent Gregory Little. He said Bennett has more than “exceeded” his job expectations. “Coach Bennett has been such a wonderful addition as the District Athletic Director,” Little said. “He advocates for all kids at all schools and in all programs. He and I talk often about how important culture is to building a successful program and he works hand-in-hand with all of our athletic departments to build the culture needed for success. Coach believes in his heart that everything we do must be for the benefit of our students. I cannot stress enough how this core value drives him.”
Little has seen Bennett firsthand at work when he witnessed him paint a foul pole at one of the baseball fields. “It is more than a job to him and it shows in the quality of his work,” Little said. “I believe his humility, work ethic, and servant’s heart are the secret to his success.
That care also extends to former student athletes who return to the district as head coaches. River Bluff graduate Whit Warner is the new head football coach at Lexington Middle School, while fellow alumnus Natalie Willis will lead the volleyball program there.
This is made possible through a program started by Bennett called the Lexington 1 Coaches Academy. The 90-minute program pairs participants with former head coaches from around the state to serve as mentors for about a year.
Among the coaches who’ve volunteered their services include former head football coaches Danny Ford of Clemson and Dick Sheridan of Furmam and NC State. “We want them to realize this is an unbelievable profession,” Bennett said. “I think it’s one of the most rewarding professions that there is on this earth – being able to coach these kids. For me, being called Coach is a privilege. It’s not a right. That’s a privilege. Other than be called Husband or Dad, I think Coach is the next best thing.”
Little has also praised Bennett for awarding varsity letters to participants of the Project Unify program.
Lexington X League
Bennett’s work is not limited to the high schools. In looking to strengthen athletics at the middle school level, Bennett will oversee a new 10-team league in the fall.
The brainchild of new Beechwood Middle School AP Brantley Foxworth, the Lexington 10 will consist of the eight District One schools and non-District One middle schools Batesburg-Leesville and Sandhills competing against each other in all sports with two divisions.
Through it all, what makes Bennett most proud are the number of student athletes who’ve gone on to college on scholarships and the positives created by sports.
“I think there comes a time in your life where you realize as a coach, you want to be successful, right?” he said. “You love to win, teach the kids lessons. But, at the end of the day, I think it goes deeper than just successful. I think there comes a time when you want to be significant, which to me is more than successful. So, my job is to be behind the scenes helping as much as I can to do what’s best for our kids.”