Occupation: New athletic director and assistant principal at Heritage High School and HHS head baseball coach
Maritial status: Single
Family: Two children, Portlyn, age 3; and Easton, age 2
Robbie Bennett will understand if his daughter, Portlyn, and son, Easton, make a mistake in any sport they choose to play. His own first practice as a child, in a prelude to a sport he would come to love, didn’t go well.
“I grew up in Maryville and went to Alcoa High School, grades kindergarten through 12,” says the new athletic director, assistant principal and continuing head baseball coach at Heritage High School. “I loved baseball from the time I can remember. I loved watching it on TV, was a big Braves fan. My older brother, Richie, and I would get out in the yard and play.”
When he signed up for his first “organized play,” however, he was a little nervous. “My papaw, Edward Whitmore, took me to my first T-ball practice. I was a pretty good player, knew a little about the game, but I was so nervous that, when I hit the ball, I ran the bases the wrong way!”
Working with youth in sports came early for Bennett. “I started working with kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Blount County when I was 16. I was the athletic director, overseeing all the programs -- from basketball to flag football, every sport we played.”
He stayed at the Boys and Girls Club from age 16 to age 22, when he was hired at Heritage as an assistant baseball coach under Danny Wilson.
Bennett saw some great players come through the Boys and Girls Club. “Cait McMahan, Lee Humphrey, Carl Stewart -- played at the Boys and Girls Club,” Bennett said. “It was a great experience for me.”
Bennett became head baseball coach at Heritage High in 2002, and resigned at the end of last season. This year, he is back as head coach, and has been appointed new athletic director and assistant principal at the school.
“Yes, I did resign from baseball last year. I love sports, love kids, love teaching and coaching. I’ve always wanted to be an administrator, and I just felt that I needed a change. I worked hard for the program, and it was hard to say I was walking away, but I needed something to re-energize me and motivate me. When the A.D. job came open and some people talked to me about applying, I knew it was what I needed to give me that push, to re-energize me. Now I can be an administrator and keep coaching baseball. It was the change I was looking for, and I got to keep doing what I loved.”
Bennett says there is something he loves more than baseball.
“The biggest thing is that I love kids. Sports plays a big part in many kids lives. That needs to be a positive experience. It was certainly a positive part of my life.”
His mantra, he said, is “work ethic.”
“I believe if you work hard and give 110 percent, if you have goals and you work hard toward them, good things will happen. There will be challenges and failures, but if you keep working, good things will come.”
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“Tell them I’m through, ‘for the love of the game.” Kevin Costner in “For the Love of The Game”
What are you guilty of?
“Worrying too much about things I can’t control.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“My baseball card collection.”
What are you reading currently?
“Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model Evaluation System Handbook.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“I was playing basketball at Alcoa junior pro, and I took off my warm-up pants, only to discover that I had forgotten to put my shorts on.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“Attend a Duke-North Carolina basketball game at Cameron Indoor, go to the College World Series in Omaha and go to Wrigley Field.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Passionate. I think people who have been around me for a while know that I’m passionate about anything I do!”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I would like to not be so stubborn.”
What is your passion?
“My passion is teaching kids and coaching baseball.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“A Dukes of Hazzard Model Car.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Treat others how you want to be treated.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“There are three people. Todd Hammontree, he was my childhood hero, but his life ended way too early. He was killed by a drunk driver. Todd made me realize I wanted to be someone who kids could look up to. The second is Steve Bledsoe, who was my high school baseball coach and mentor. He was hard on me, but he made me realize that’s what coaches do when they care. The third is Tommy Hatcher, who has been a close friend and mentor in my life for a long time. I can’t say enough about how much these three men have meant to me!”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“Working night stock at a local grocery store.”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“Believe it or not, it was ‘The Smurfs.’ My younger brother, Mark, watched them, and they just grew on me.”
What irritates you?
“Slow drivers driving in the fast lane.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“The Heritage High School baseball field.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Be patient. What’s meant to be will happen.”
What is your greatest fear?
I still can’t quite get the hang of…
“Technology. It was my weakness teaching and still is coaching.”
If you could do one impulsive thing, what would it be?
“Drive to Cincinnati to watch a Reds game!”