The South Carolina High School League recently selected David M. Bennett, Lexington County School District One’s Director of Athletics, for the South Carolina High School Spirit of Sport Award which seeks to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.
Bennett and seven other state award winners will now be considered for the National Federation of State High School Associations’ Section 3 High School Spirit of Sport Award. Section 3 includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
NFHS confers its National High School Spirit of Sport Award on a winner from each of its eight sections as well as announcing one national winner each year.
As the district’s Director of Athletics, Bennett models the culture and characteristics the district values and understands the importance of school athletic departments that truly care about the character, academic and athletic development of students.
He began his coaching career in 1987, and enthusiastically continues coaching and working in athletic administration to this day. A passionate, energetic and dedicated leader, mentor and coach committed to motivating student-athletes to excel in character, education and competition, he has worked to improve athletic experiences through several initiatives.
Bennett created a district-wide mentor program, the Lexington District One Coaches Academy for coaches 30-years-old and younger that pairs 93 young coaches with seasoned professionals throughout the nation in an effort to support them and develop leadership. The mentors provide guidance and counsel during a critical time in their development. Bennett uses his contacts and resources to find veteran coach mentors at the college and high school level.
In addition, each young coach must attend one 90-minute-long class that focuses on coaching the heart of each student-athlete.
Bennett also designed and continues to coordinate a high school student-athlete leadership program that benefits elementary students called Lex1 Reaching Out with Attitude, Respect and Sportsmanship, or ROARS. Through this program, student-athletes become involved with elementary schools within their feeder system and become role models for younger students.
A very popular program, elementary school principals constantly reach out to Bennett to schedule visits from high school student-athletes.
Bennett is also deeply committed to the U.S. Department of Education’s Unified Champion Schools program, which works to gain acceptance and inclusion of students with disabilities in all school activities by engaging students, educators and school communities. Through Unified Sports, Special Olympics athletes and their partners compete together in sports such as basketball, soccer, golf, softball and tennis.
In fact, he was a driving force behind the district’s decision to present athletic letters to all Special Olympic Unified Sports participants, making Lexington District One the first South Carolina district to do so. This year Special Olympic Unified Sports participants will run in four events at two home high school track meets.
ESPN Host Kevin Negandhi took part in the district’s first athletic letter awards ceremony which included the presentation of Lexington High School’s National Unified Champion school banner and the presentation of athletic letters to students from Lexington, River Bluff and White Knoll high schools (all Unified Champion schools).
Bennett holds a Bachelor of Science in history and social studies from Presbyterian College and a Master of Education in guidance and counseling from Clemson University.