For newly hired Santa Fe ISD athletic director Matthew Bentley, a top priority to continue the district’s recent upward trend in sports is to keep the number of participants on the rise, during the school year and in offseason summer camps.
“I’ve got a task ahead of me that’s pretty big, but we want to increase numbers and participation all the way across the board, and right now we’re doing that,” Bentley said.
Among the methods to encourage more participation in sports, perhaps none is better than teams winning, Bentley said.
“Winning solves a bunch of problems, and it gets the numbers up, too, because kids want to be a part of a successful program no matter what it is,” Bentley said. “The competitive drive is always there when you’re winning, and your numbers are always up, too. Winning is not everything, but it does help with the numbers and the motivation for the kids to want to come out and be a part of something.”
Santa Fe has an established winning tradition in softball, baseball and volleyball — all of which reached the playoffs this past year. In recent years, track and field has managed to qualify athletes for regionals, and football has been winning more, culminating in the Indians’ first playoff appearance in a decade this past season.
The improvements on the football field for Santa Fe’s football team came steadily over the course of the five-year tenure of former AD Mark Kanipes, who accepted the head coach position at Brazosport earlier this year.
Bentley, who had previously worked with Kanipes at Pearland, was part of the coaching staff Kanipes brought to Santa Fe five years ago, eventually rising to the rank of the football team’s defensive coordinator before being promoted to AD in April.
“Basically, we wanted to change the mentality of athletics when we got here,” Bentley said. “He did that five years ago, and I’m going to continue doing that.”
While Santa Fe’s signature sports are expected to continue to thrive, the football program will face the challenge of moving on from graduating a significant amount of talented seniors from the class of 2019.
“It’s going to be a rebuilding year,” Bentley said. “Any time that any school in the state of Texas loses 28 seniors — and most of them were starters, some of them were two-way players — it’s going to be a be a big task. But, we’re already working on rebuilding. The process of rebuilding is not an easy one, but it pushes us as football coaches to another level to stay on the path that we’re on that we started five years ago.”
Something else Bentley will look to keep up is having a positive relationship between Santa Fe ISD athletics and the Santa Fe community.
“I think it’s in a good place right now,” Bentley said. “They expect a lot from all of the coaches and myself, and the coaches that we have expect a lot from our kids. The support from the community is great. If you come out here on a Friday night, the stands are packed.”
And, the bottom line, Bentley said, is having his athletic department turn student-athletes into upstanding productive citizens when they grow older.
“The number one goal is to get kids active and get them involved in sports,” Bentley said. “Kids who are involved in any type of athletics or extracurricular activities, most of the time, it helps with their academics, because there’s always someone checking on them. No pass, no play is a big thing. Plus, sports teaches them fundamentals about life. Our ultimate goal is to put out productive citizens into society once they leave Santa Fe ISD.”
Editor’s note: This article is part of a planned series on Galveston County’s athletics departments.