The Birth of a Program

PSHS hires Bendig as school’s first varsity head football coach

By Charlie Morrison

In the latest sign that things are coming together for the administration of the new Philip Simmons High School (PSHS), the school has hired a football coach, Nellyfield resident and former Wando High School standout Eric Bendig. The 32-year-old Bendig accepted the position with the school earlier this month, kicking off in earnest the new Iron Horse athletics program.
And for Bendig, who PSHS Athletic Director Brion Packett hired away from Ashley Ridge High School where he served as the offensive coordinator on the school varsity football team staff, it’s a homecoming of sorts, a perfect storm of personal and professional alignment translated into what Bendig calls his “dream job,” the opportunity not only to lead a program, but to do so from inception.

“It’s a blessing and it couldn’t have worked out any better,” says Bendig, whose wife Colleen is a kindergarten teacher at Philip Simmons Elementary School where his daughter will be attending next year. “We moved out here before I knew the school was going to be built and it was just absolutely a blessing.”

Bendig is a graduate of Wando High, where he graduated in 2002. He went on to play tight end at Presbyterian College before returning to the high school game as a coach. He began his coaching career at Hanahan High School where he coached for one year before moving to his Alma Mater Wando.
He coached at Wando for five years before getting his first upper-level high school coaching job handling the offense at Ashley Ridge for the last two seasons. It was there that he put his name on the head coaching map, as his team averaged 27 points per game over his two seasons in charge of the Swamp Fox offense.

But as to what experiences and whose coaching style he’ll draw from in heading up the new Iron Horse program, Bendig is democratic in crediting the many coaches and leaders he’s had in his football life.

“I’ve taken things from every walk of my, not just athletic, but academic life,” begins Bendig. “There are a couple of different factors that we are going to base what I hope will be our championship culture on.”
“I have a mantra that has been put in me by coach (Bob) Hayes at Wando and that is just ‘win the day,’ everything you do you try to win, compete, be the best in the classroom be the best in the community but win the day is our mantra,” Bendig continues.

“So much about athletics now is about the culture that you have the alignment, the connections you have,” says Bendig. “To be able to do start on day one and build what you want and what you envision what is the championship atmosphere in the classroom and on the field, that is pretty unique,” he continues. “I’m lucky to have that opportunity to put a stamp on something, to be the first coach on the first team for this area in a long, long time is a big deal.”

When the new PSHS campus officially opens in August, Bendig will put together the first team in the school’s history. They will compete exclusively as a junior varsity program in 2017, playing with only freshmen and sophomores. The team will compete in Region 6-AA before, in three years, introducing a varsity team and moving up to class AAA.

“It’s great to have these kids at such a unique age, at such a young age and be able to work with them for such a long, extended period of time. It allows us to teach them how to be better leaders, to teach them how to be better community members,” says Bendig. “And that’s huge because football can bring the community together.”

“At the end of the day you obviously want to win games and complete, that’s obviously the goal of every athletics program, but part of that goal is for the players to be the best versions of themselves,” Bendig continues philosophically.

“In the grand scheme of things, you just want all of them to have some sort of opportunity to attend to some post-secondary education. College, technical college, trade school, something of that nature, that’s the number one thing how many kids can we send off to a better educational place, a better life where they’re contributing to the community in the long run.”

As far as what to expect from the Iron Horses on the field, Bendig makes no bones about the style of play his teams will utilize. “I’m a high-energy guy, I love to play fast, I love to score points and run big plays,” he says. “There are a lot of great athletes in the community already and there’s a lot of great ability that I’ve seen from this area. I know that there are some very highly trained athletes that we can have at our disposal and have some fun with, because at the end of the day the game is fun and I like to make it that way.”

And according to Bendig, it will be fun and for a long time. The youthful coach has every intention of establishing something lasting at PSHS, so should the coach have any success expect him to stay at the school a long time he says.

“This is my dream job at 32, so I’m not going anywhere,” he says in conclusion. “I’ve already settled down I’m ready to settle down in the community with a great High School and a great educational system and just build it.”

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