Faith, family and athletics have held prominent roles in Jason Bennett’s life for more than four decades.
The 45-year-old will bring his experience and knowledge of all three to Central Virginia as the athletic director at The Covenant School.
Bennett, who spent 20 years in high school athletics as a teacher, coach and administrator in Maryland, was introduced Tuesday as the new leader of the Eagles’ athletic program.
“I felt God calling me here,” Bennett said. “As I looked at a bunch of different places, mostly all in Virginia, I just felt God calling and leading me to Covenant and the doors kept opening to Covenant where they were closing in other places. Part of that also is that I feel called into Christian education right now, so I didn’t even apply at any public schools. This just felt right to me.”
Colin Anderson, the head of Covenant’s Upper School, said the administration went through an extensive process to find a successor to Clark Walker, who stepped down from the position at the end of the 2018-19 school year after three years in charge of the program.
Covenant’s administration reviewed nearly 30 applications for the position. Finalists were interviewed extensively by faculty and administrators through all three divisions of the school. In addition, a panel of student-athletes, parents and coaches participated in the lengthy process.
The result was unanimous as everyone praised Bennett as the ideal candidate for the job.
During the process, Anderson spoke with many of Bennett’s colleagues and they all raved about his character, spiritual leadership and genuine love of people. They also praised his organizational leadership and his ability to manage people well.
“He’s a team player and an effective mentor, a person of integrity, honesty and humility,” Anderson said. “We were very excited about Mr. Bennett’s ability and passion to lead athletics at The Covenant School. To continue a culture of excellence, while also maintaining a focus centered on Christ. To sum it up, we are excited about Mr. Bennett’s extensive background in athletics, but also his love for people and his love for Christ.”
Bennett joins Covenant after spending 20 years as the director of athletics and student activities at Chapelgate Christian Academy in Marriottsville, Maryland. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Houghton College, where he played soccer, and a Master of Science degree in Special Education from the College of St. Rose.
The 45-year-old taught physical education and served as assistant athletic director at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland prior to his time at Chapelgate. He also coached numerous sports during his time at both schools.
Bennett believes his experience should serve him well at Covenant.
“I’m hoping it will prove very valuable,” Bennett said. “I remember my first couple of years, it was very, very overwhelming doing that job. Just all the details and all the things you don’t think about behind the scenes. Over time, you develop organization and develop how to take care of those little things and details and then the job becomes a little bit more relational, instead of administerial, and so I look forward to that part.”
Bennett said his favorite part of the job is forming relationships with student-athletes and their parents.
“It’s going to be very exciting for me,” he said. “I look forward to getting to know you guys and trying to push the envelope a little bit with the excellence.”
The new athletic director said his vision includes developing the entire student — academically, athletically and spiritually.
“We just don’t want kids that focus just on sports and nothing else,” Bennett said. “We want them to be well-rounded so that when they leave Covenant, not only will they have more than one aspect in their life, they are also able to defend their faith. I think that bringing educational athletics to a faith-based school is amazing to me. It’s awesome to watch these kids develop and grow that that’s what I hope to offer to the department. I’m excited.”
As a father of three boys and three girls, Bennett credits his family for helping prepare him for his new position.
“I think it comes from having a large family,” Bennett said. “You have to be passionate and you have to be able to have energy. In order to motivate kids, they want to see somebody that’s behind them. Somebody that’s gung-ho and believing in what you’re doing and buy into that. If you don’t have passion to show them, then they’re not going to be able to return that.”
During the interview process, Bennett said it was obvious that Charlottesville was the place for him and his family.
“I liked the people that I talked to down here,” Bennett said. “Even from the people that I talked to on the phone, it just felt comfortable to me. My wife and I came down and looked at the campus and really liked the area and the campus and just felt like it would be a really good fit for our family.”
Bennett and his family hope to move to Central Virginia by the end of the month and be ready to go once school starts in August. He said he’s excited about the opportunity.
“I really like it, it’s a lot of fun,” Bennett said. “It’s some long hours and a lot of time and a lot of work, but the results are fantastic when you see the product that is being developed with the kids. That to me is what makes it fun.”