BENNIE EDENS : Point Loma Coach Has Changed With the Times for 36 Years

Times Staff Writer

Former Point Loma High tight end Robert Beneventi, class of 1960, finds it hard to believe that his son Gary has the opportunity to catch passes as tight end for the Pointers. A Pointer tight end catching the ball? Point Loma throwing the ball? In Robert Beneventi’s day, Point Loma ran a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense.

When Gary tells his dad about the team’s bus trips, which buzz with conversation, his father must shake his head. Whatever happened to those moments of enforced silence needed to prepare for the opposition?

Robert Beneventi understands that a lot has changed since the days of crew cuts and flat tops. But Point Loma football’s major force is still around, and that’s why Robert is sort of surprised that things have been different for his sons, Gary and Alan, a tight end on the 1982 Point Loma team.

The major force is Point Loma Coach Bennie Edens. The dean of San Diego high school football coaches is starting his 30th year as Pointer head coach and his 36th year at the school.

On Dec. 18, 1984, Edens received a congratulatory letter from President Reagan.


“Dear Coach Edens: I am delighted to join with Congressman Bill Lowery in sending you warm greetings and congratulations as you are honored by your community for your 35 years of coaching at Point Loma High.”

Edens’ teams have competed in the City East and City West leagues and have compiled a 151-125-17 mark with 12 league titles and two CIF San Diego Section championships. In 1966, the Pointers defeated Helix, 18-14, to win the 2-A title. His 1982 team, which featured eight sons of former players, tied El Camino, 6-6, to share the 2-A title.

Edens has happy memories from 1966 and 1982, but he would much rather talk about the upcoming season. Edens lives for the moment.

It was the second day of the 1985 school year, and an excited Edens was marching around campus wearing a Pointer baseball hat, shorts and running shoes. Four days before his team’s 1985 kickoff, the 59-year-old coach appeared as eager as a freshman who was making new friends. His parents are 86 and 85 years old and going strong. Edens says he sometimes feels like getting back out on the field in a three-point stance.

There is still a lot of spunk and kid in Edens, a portly figure who once served as a lifeguard at Ocean Beach.

It may be difficult for most of his players to believe, but Edens, a city boy from Hoover, was an 18-year-old lifeguard who used to bring his football pads to the beach. Those were the days when he was also playing guard and center for the San Diego State football team.

That adventurous spirit lives on. While most of his contemporaries are playing golf and watching football on television, Edens continues to change with the times.

Most football coaches detest and resist change. Edens enjoys change. It keeps him going.

“The changes are one of the reasons I’m still in it,” Edens said. “If you coach the same thing year after year, it becomes boring. I’ve changed things even when they’ve been successful and I’ve been hurt by those changes. I really got sold on the split-T when it first came out and I don’t think we were that successful running it.”

In recent years, Edens’ teams have started passing a lot more. Edens believed it was a natural progression to implement what transpired in summer passing leagues into his regular offensive scheme.

“I try to follow the trend in athletics,” Edens said.

Not all of Edens’ fans and assistants are as open to change.

“I hate passes,” said volunteer assistant and longtime friend Charles (Bud) DeLong, “and I tell him don’t throw a pass, you dummy. But he’s a pretty smart old duck and he swings along with the times.”

Edens stays on top of his field by attending and conducting football clinics throughout the off-season. He says football is his favorite hobby as well as his job, and he gets great pleasure from being with a group of guys who think what he does and loves is important.

“Even in the twilight of my career, I attend 5 to 10 clinics a year,” Edens said. “I get a lot of satisfaction in trying something new that works. It’s that little personal touch.”

It’s his personal touch that endears him to students in his physical education classes, football players and assistant coaches. Edens, who says he has missed only one school day in 36 years, is as much a part of Point Loma as the airplanes that continually fly over the town on their takeoffs from Lindbergh Field.

At Tuesday’s practice, former assistant coach Ray Beattie came by say hello. During lunchtime Tuesday, former assistant coach Tim Lane came by.

“He’s a good and warm man,” Lane said. “He’s not a win-at-all-costs coach. He’s a have fun at all costs coach.”

That assessment would please Edens.

“It’s the journey,” Edens said, “and not the event. The voyage is what’s important. Victory and defeats are overrated. I once read that victory and defeat are imposters. Trying to win is a tremendous challenge and thrill. I like working toward a common goal.”

Edens loves World War II novels and often expresses himself like the military man that he was. However, his players see him as more of a grandfatherly figure.

“He never really gets down on anyone,” said senior Walt Edwards, this year’s starting quarterback. “He tells you what you did, but he makes sure no one gets down on himself.”

Said DeLong: “He’s not a screamer or a yeller. He has only broken two or three clipboards in all the years I’ve known him.”

Has Edens always been like that or has he mellowed over the years?

“Bennie hasn’t changed a bit,” Robert Beneventi said. “He still has the same expressions. Bennie taught us never to be quitters and I see him doing the same with my boys.”

Edens does not think his coaching persona has changed much since he was a 17-year-old assistant football coach at his alma mater, Hoover High. But he admits he might be less intense on the sidelines and a little more mellow than he was 20 or 30 years ago.

“Maybe I accept things more than I used to,” Edens said. “At times, I became so sold on things. For example, that my players have short haircuts. But now, I definitely don’t feel that way.

“And I used to have more of a stereotypic view on what an athlete should be. Kids are kids, but they are a lot more sophisticated now. They are exposed to more and that makes it harder for a coach. I have to be a lot more accepting of different life styles than I used to be.”

Edens still runs his practices in 5- to 15-minute intervals, but he has had to alter his preseason speech.

“The kids have been on 10 or 11 different athletic teams by the time they come to me,” Edens said, “so it’s not quite the big event that as coaches we’d like it to be.”

Yet, watching his players respond to Edens’ continuous shouts of “Go” on the practice field indicate that playing for tradition-laden Point Loma and particularly for Edens is pretty special.

“We have a good tradition,” Edens said, “and the kids here kind of expect to win.”

Said Edwards: “Coach Edens is everything here.”

Walk anywhere around the Point Loma campus, and you’ll see that Edens is continually greeted by both boys and girls. His enthusiasm and sincerity have enabled him to successfully deal with students through the eras. He is part teacher, disciplinarian, paternal figure and friend. And he is always around.

For years, when his wife, Maxine, was in better health, the Edens’ address in Point Loma was known by all his players and his home was always open to them. There were Tuesday evening film sessions for parents and boosters and snacks for players whenever they had a problem or they were just plain hungry.

Football has never been a 4-to-7 job for Edens and nobody knows that better than Maxine.

“She has a great deal to do with me staying in coaching,” Edens said. “Most of my friends who got out did so because of the pressure put on them to make more money and spend less time working. Maxine is an excellent coach’s wife.”

Edens said he knew he wanted to be a high school football coach from the time he played in high school.

As his wife said: “He’s a little boy with his toy.”

He has been the athletic director at Point Loma since 1958, was the baseball coach for six years, and has been assistant track coach the past five years. He also spent five years working as a counselor and a year as the vice principal.

“I never had the satisfaction from those (counselor and vice principal jobs) that I did in coaching,” Edens said. “Being out in the sun in shorts is a heck of a lot more fun than sitting in an office listening to someone apply for a loan. Sometimes, we don’t appreciate our own jobs enough.”

Edens appreciates his job at Point Loma so much that he turned down a couple of opportunities to apply for head coaching jobs at coastal colleges.

“The first time, when I was much younger, I really thought about it,” Edens said. “But I talked to people in the profession and heard about the rigors of recruiting and the transient life styles of constantly changing jobs to get ahead. Plus, my wife and I are very community oriented. For me, I made the right choice.”

Bennie and Maxine have lived in their Point Loma home since 1960. Their son Jimmy, 39, and late daughter Kathie both attended Point Loma High. Kathie, 21 at the time, and her husband, a high school football coach, were killed when their car was hit by a truck 12 years ago in Oregon.

“That is a sad part of my life,” Edens said. “Our daughter was my wife’s pride and joy. It’s a part of life you never get over.”

The Edens remain very close as a family, and they certainly do not lack a common thread to keep conversation going at reunions. Two of Bennie’s three sisters are teachers and all three are married to teachers. Jimmy is a physical education specialist in Hawaii and Kathie was a teacher. Thirteen members of Bennie’s immediate family are connected with teaching.

That’s almost as big a feat as being head football coach at the same school for 30 years.

“As much as I hate to say it, I have to think of retiring,” Edens said. “But I don’t think it will be in the next couple of years.”

Former Pointer football players with sons in junior high can breathe a sigh of relief.