MERIDIAN — In one season as the interim coach for the Clarkdale softball team, Britt Bennett has gone through what most coaches go through in a career. Over the past year, Clarkdale has dealt with the death of two students, a coaching scandal and the departure of two star players.
After braving the storm and leading the Bulldogs to the third round of the 2A state playoffs this spring, Bennett will return as Clarkdale's head coach for the 2013-14 season.
“I'm excited,” Bennett said. “I've been a part of this program for 15 years, and I've got really close to the kids here. I love the community and school, and I'm glad to be a part of it.”
Bennett said being named head coach will serve as a fresh start for him, as he hopes the 2013-14 season won't be quite the roller-coaster ride last season was.
“We've had a lot of loss out there and a lot of death,” Bennett said. “It's just been a topsy-turvy year for us. I'm really looking forward to starting a new year and putting some of that stuff behind us.”
Making the switch from assistant coach to head coach midway through the slow-pitch season wasn't easy for Bennett – doing it under the pressure and expectation for excellence that comes along with the head coaching job at Clarkdale made it that much harder.
“People here are used to winning,” Bennett said. “They are used to championships, and anything less than that is a disappointment. I got text from a parent encouraging me, and it said, 'only in Clarkdale would making the third round of the playoffs be a disappointment.' It's a tough task, but it's a challenge I look forward to.”
A young team last season, Clarkdale looks primed for a strong 2013-14 campaign. Although the Bulldogs experienced growing pains at times last year, putting younger players in key roles, Bennett said the time on the field should prove beneficial next season.
“Hopefully that experience will lead to good things down the road,” Bennett said. “It was good to make it a couple of rounds in the playoffs, because that will give the girls the experience of getting to play in big games and games that mean a lot.”
In his first official season as head coach, Bennett hopes to create more unity between his girls. If the Bulldogs can do that, Bennett said he expects them to get back to their previous ways and contend for a state championship again next year.
“I want to really challenge them to play together as a team,” Bennett said. “They need to play for each other and support each other. We had a little bit of individualism this year, and I really want to build up that teamwork this summer. I want them to play together and be almost like a family.”