Members of the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame are those that have made a lasting impact on the school’s sports program as either student players, coaches, or supporters. Often the student players have continued to influence their chosen sports after high school by ongoing participation in athletics.
Richard Bennett, 2016 Inductee
When Richard Bennett applied for the boys soccer coach position, he was asked by the Athletic Director Dick Flechtner if he thought he could win. He replied simply, yes. With 1021 wins later at Ridgewood High School, that simple response has certainly proven to be prophetic. During his 47 year coaching tenure, Richard has coached 4 varsity teams including boys’ soccer (28 years), boys’ golf (5 years), girls’ basketball (13 years), and boys and girls bowling (17 and counting). The Ridgewood boys’ soccer team garnered 387 wins, 7 counts titles and 3 State Sectional titles. The girls’ basketball team had 212 wins and 1 County title during that tenure. The bowling team has 325 wins and two County titles. The boys golf team had 97 wins and two County titles.
In 1997, he was voted into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Bergen County Soccer Century Club in 2000 as one of the five original inductees. Most recently in 2016, he was inducted into the New Jersey Soccer Hall of Fame as well as the State’s Golf Hall of Fame.
Richard wasn’t known only for coaching. In 1992, he was recognized as the top teacher in the state with the Outstanding Physical Education Teaching Award. He attended the National Conference in Washington DC of that year. The following year, he was nominated for the Disney Teachers Award as one of the top 3 Physical Education teachers in the United States. In 1988, he spent 21 days in Colorado participating in the Outward Bound program in Colorado. Using the principles he learned there, including trust, inner strength, and endurance beyond one’s comfort zone, he was on the ground floor for bringing the project adventure program to Ridgewood High School for both students and adults. Richard was an innovator with his coaching as well. He was one of the first coaches to video his games and then watch them to discover his teams weaknesses. Many a Friday night was spent at his house as his soccer team would sit all around his living room eating homemade chocolate chip cookies and watching the games being played. Using the videos of the game, he would change his formations to match the talents of his team. He would go watch other teams play to find their strengths and would make adjustments to match them. While this is commonplace now, back in the 70’s it wasn’t.
Richard’s coaching skills, combined with his persistence and solid work ethic, are legendary. He took over the girls basketball team in 1976 in the middle of the season; the team went on to lose every single game. In his first game he was losing 50-2 to Paramus at halftime. Never one to back down from a challenge, he drew from his philosophy from soccer- always be sound defensively. He practiced without a basketball and taught his team how to play defense. The next time he played Paramus that season, they lost by only 15. The following season, the team won their first game in 2 years and proceeded to make the states. They made the states every year that he coached.
When the bowling position opened in 1997, he jumped at the opportunity to coach the sport. He went to camps to learn how to be a bowling coach. He studied the correct way to throw a ball. Yet, he still kept his core values about how to be successful. Practice, hard work, and mental focus. Within 3 years, both the boys program and girls program had bowled to their highest averages in the history of the program. In 2004, the girls won the County Tournament.
Success has followed him where ever he has gone. Although he has adapted to the changing times, discipline has always been there. While the athletes may have changed, the understanding of what brings about success has not. Richard Bennett has been fortunate to have coached many great athletes and people, and they have been equally fortunate to have had him coach them.
John Marshall, Jim Bruni, Mark Romeo, Jean Hughes, Chris Van Note, Nancy Hogan, RHS Football Team 1913, Don Taylor, Rachel Grygiel, John Cerf, Paul Tornatore, Michele Marangi, RHS Boys’ Lacrosse 1990-92
Craig Halyard, Tom Flatt, Tricia Pappalardo, Mike Henderson, Kandie Latham, Leigh Jester, Tom Dusel, Roger Sweeney, Linda Zabielski, Patty Capasso, Dennis Sullivan, Nick & Dottie Capasso, Track and Field (Bain-Daley-Oliver Era)
Kitty Batterson, Henry Blauvelt, Frank L. Bradley, Jr., Lucia Cancelmo, Chris DuFlocq, Renee DuFlon, RHS Girls’ Basketball 1922-1923, Harry Grundy, Jim Jones, Joe LeMay, Jen McDermott, Shannon McGarrigle, Tony Napier, Margaret Niemann, Vince Robertiello (Jamie Roberts), Damian Ross, Mike Springer
Paul Arrigoni, Pete Campbell, Doug Cook, Becky Deetz, Otis Grendler, Jodi Hartwig, Gene Links, Debbie O’Connell, Aimee McGuire, Walt Perdue, Tom Simos, Kazbek Tambi, Jack Van Yperen, Bob Whitaker, Margaret Scutro