Football

Chip's ahoy: New Catawba football coach has competitive fire

By Bret Stretlow, The Salisbury Post / 12/30/01

Chip Hester stood behind a podium on Friday at Western Steer and told an assembled audience that he doesn’t want to be David Bennett.

Hester will no doubt prove that once Catawba takes the field for its first game in the 2002 season.

Bennett became a sideshow within the feature presentation with his antics on the sidelines during Indian games.
The fiery coach would often run onto the field to scream at referees. Other times, he would rip the baseball cap off his head and whirl it around in Zoro-like fashion to get their attention.

Bennett’s successor plans to handle himself with a little more poise, but not because he’s any less competitive.

“The one thing that I can probably guarantee you is that I won’t be taking off my hat,” Hester joked. “He’s got a lot more hair on the top of his head. I’d probably get sunburnt.”

Hester was formally introduced as Catawba’s next football coach on Friday, and almost every question thrown his way was essentially the same.

How are things going to change with you, not Bennett, as the head coach.

The question holds merit, considering what Bennett accomplished in his time as the head coach at Catawba.

His Indians advanced all the way to the semifinals of the Division II playoffs this past season, and enough players return from that team to create lofty expectations for next year — Hester’s first.

“The thing I’ve told players when I’ve called them is, we will move forward,”Hester said. “David Bennett preached it’s not one person, it’s not three people. We tried to develop a program. Hopefully that’s what we’ll continue with, and we’ll roll right on.”

Hester undoubtedly wants to put his own identity on the program, even though he openly admits he shouldn’t tinker too much with the formula that is already in place.

That’s easier to say when Indians such as freshmen starters Luke Samples and Rodney Wallace are slated to return.

Hester compared his situation to the one faced by Samples, a quarterback who began the season as a backup before developing into a award-winning starter.

“There is a challenge to perform under the pressure,”Hester said. “Hopefully I can learn from my football team. They performed well under that pressure.”

Hester admits that he will make his share of mistakes, but he will, by no means, become content with them.

Hester developed an admirable work ethic from his father through working in a tire store during the summers while he grew up.

That dedication followed him through his time as an intern in Dennis Davidson’s sports information office, to his DAYS as a graduate assistant, and recently his X-year stint on Bennett’s staff.

Hester might now show his emotions as explicitly as Bennett, but don’t fool yourself into thinking he isn’t driven with intense passion.

“He and I, if we played tidily winks, we’d be playing as hard as we could pay to win,” Hester offered.“Our competitiveness if pretty similar.”

“I externalize a lot, that’s probably why I’m as bald as I am,” he added.“I’m not as animated, I guess.”

Bennett, as animated as he is, probably doesn’t have a story to match the one Hester told on Friday.

A few years ago, when Hester’s wife, Trish, was pregnant with their four-year-old daughter Morgan, the couple went up for a friendly game of tennis.

Trish was about six months pregnant, but the former collegiate tennis player was having no trouble against her husband.

That is, until Chip starting hitting drop shot after drop shot, knowing his wife couldn’t make it to the net with her usual quickness.

“She was wearing me out,”Chip admitted. “She was starting to show, so I started drop-shotting her. Afterwards I felt a little guilty, but I think it worked.”

Chip came back and won the match.

“I was about six months pregnant, and he decided he decided he was going to start drop-shotting me,”Trish said. “He ended up beating me. I tease him about it to this day.”

Trish, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, sat with Morgan a few feet away from the podium on Friday beaming over her husband’s promotion.

Chip held his daughter’s hand just before he took the podium, demonstrating, like Bennett did, that family matters.

“Priorities will stay the same,” Hester said. “God and family are No. 1. Education in the classroom is No 2.

“And football is third.”

Not that Hester won’t take the football aspect very seriously.

He just won’t show it with as much candor as Bennett.

***

Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or bstrelow@salisburypost.com .

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