Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. GAC girls soccer head coach Troy Bendickson has been the Spartans' coach for the last seven years.
Troy Bendickson has been at Greater Atlanta Christian for the last 10 years, including the last seven as the girls soccer head coach. He joined the private school right after finishing college at Harding University in Arkansas and has taken the soccer program to unprecedented heights in recent years.
In this installment of "Getting to Know ...", Bendickson talked with staff writer Christine Troyke about a number of topics, including finding a job that blended music and coaching, taking over the GAC girls' program and flying on Sept. 11.
CT: How long have you been at GAC?
TB: Ten years. Since 2000.
CT: How many different jobs, titles have you had in that span?
TB: I came in as the elementary music director and boys assistant soccer coach. I took over the girls soccer program in 2003. I was the elementary music teacher for six years. Then I moved to assistant principal, dean of students. Chorus director in the high school. I was drum line director for like eight years. I have a music degree. I stepped out of the chorus a few years ago because my administrative role took a greater role. I'm still the chapel director for the high school.
CT: Have you worked or coached at any other schools?
TB: No. Right from college.
CT: And where did you go to college?
TB: Harding University, in Searcy, Ark.
CT: Are you an Arkansas native?
TB: No, actually I was born in Minnesota. Lived in Arkansas for five years, at Harding. My father is a minister. We moved to the Midwest, Nebraska, and were there for 17 years. Then I went back to Harding. I got my undergraduate in music education and got my master's in secondary administration. Met my wife (Tammy) at Harding. She's from Ohio.
We moved here straight away. We actually worked for Harding University over in London, England, for a semester before we came here. We actually came in the middle of the year, in January 2000. They got a long-term sub for me because they (GAC) knew I'd committed to be the graduate assistant over there in that program. So now we have four girls and have been married for 13 years.
CT: So you can both easily appreciate how nice it is not have a lot of snow here, as Midwesterners?
TB: Yeah. We go home every holiday though.
CT: Then you get the snow for a little while and can leave.
TB: Don't have to do any of the cleaning up. We're fine with Atlanta. It's not our favorite place in the world, but we love GAC. Two of my girls go there.
CT: How old are your girls?
TB: Eight, 6, 4 and 2.
CT: When you went off to college, was this the career path you had in mind?
TB: No. I thought, yeah, I'd love to coach someday. If I was going to be a teacher, I knew I would want to coach soccer. I played at Harding. They didn't have a NCAA team, they had a collegiate club team.
I never thought I'd find a position with music and coaching, that's why we came here. We have a friend that lived here that told us about the job and we jumped at it right away. I didn't want to teach elementary music, but in order to do both, to come to a good scenario, teach and do soccer, I was willing. And I enjoyed those six years, so no complaints there.
CT: It sounds like you kept a hand in the music side of it for a while?
TB: Yeah, and I still do because as chapel director, I take care of all the worship. So I work with our worship leaders. It's a hand-selected class, so I get to keep my hand in the music.
CT: You started as the boys assistant soccer coach. Was that just what they had open?
TB: Yeah. Actually, the first year, we won the state title. They asked me right away if I would do both and I said no. I didn't want to coach the girls. They kept asking me if I would take the program over. I kept saying no. But finally I kind of evaluated the players I saw coming up and saw potential. I thought, yeah, I can try to shape this program.
It's been fun. I've never regretted it. I don't know if I'd ever go back (to the boys side) at this point.
CT: I understand you were over in England and you were scheduled to fly back here on Sept. 11?
TB: Yeah. As soon as we got here (to GAC), (boys coach) Thom (Jacquet), he had never been to England. I know London like the back of my hand since I had been there six months total. So I said, 'We've got to do that, no doubt.' We went on a survey trip (in preparation to take the school's teams) and we were scheduled to fly back on Sept. 11. So we got turned around.
CT: How far did you get?
TB: We were probably five hours into the flight. About two hours from New York. They took us all the way back to London.
A member of the royal family was on our plane so we couldn't land anywhere but where they were expected. We didn't know it at the time.
CT: How much information did they even give you?
TB: None. They parked us way out in the runway and honestly I thought maybe it was nuclear war. We knew nothing.
CT: Did they keep you on the plane for a while?
TB: For a little while and then they brought us by bus to the terminal. One of our (GAC) parents was actually over there, so we called him and he was able to take care of us, getting communication to our families and all that stuff.
CT: How long was it before you guys actually got to come back to the U.S.?
TB: It happened on a Tuesday and we came back on Saturday. We went to the airport every day, which was about an hour and a half trip one way. We finally got on the first British Airways flight they allowed to land in the United States.
CT: You've been to soccer games over there. Have you ever found an athletic competition in the United States that compares to how people in Europe react to that?
TB: I'm a Nebraska football fan. The number of people is greater, so the noise is greater, but it's not constant like it is over there. The camaraderie at those games, I mean, they live for it. They just sing the whole time and if you watch the individuals, they're just so passionate about it. It's a totally different thing.