Volleyball: Westminster's Ed Benish stepping down as coach

Westminster coach Ed Benish congratulates players during their match against Winters Mill in Westminster Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.
Westminster coach Ed Benish congratulates players during their match against Winters Mill in Westminster Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (Times File Photo)

Ed Benish has been the volleyball coach at Westminster High School for six years, but after much consideration Benish said he has decided to step down from his position — a decision he said might come as a surprise to the Westminster community based on the team’s success in recent years.

Benish, 28, said he has dealt with some mental health issues since he was in high school, and coaching volleyball in the fall takes a toll on him. There were other factors this season, however, he said.


“By the end of this year, I was pretty broken by a lot of the comments by a very select few people, both [Westminster’s] parents and other team’s parents,” Benish said. “It just kind of broke me.”

The positive outweighs the negative, however, and Benish praised the involvement and support he has received from the community.

“I will say this — 95 percent of the people involved in our program are amazing, wonderful, thoughtful, caring people, and they’ve been by my side since the beginning and still are to this day,” Benish said. “They’re what made coaching, specifically at Westminster for the last six years, some of the best times of my life.”

The Owls were coming off a 5-9 season when Benish took over in 2013, and they went 4-12 in his first season. The team’s improvement was swift in the years that followed — the Owls have gone 27-3 in Carroll County Athletic League play since 2016, and won the last two county championships.

In 2017, Benish led the Owls to their first state final appearance after capturing their second regional title in five seasons.

The Owls capped the 2018 season with a second straight trip to the state tournament, and finished 16-2. They shared the CCAL title this fall with Winters Mill. The city rivals each went 11-1 in the county and split their regular-season series.

Benish finished with a 66-37 record through six seasons, and a 38-16 county record.

When Benish was hired in 2012, he said he and the coaching staff focused on changing the program’s culture and that started at practice.

“Obviously games are one thing but if we can change the culture at practices and really find individual and collective reasons of why we were playing together then we can become better together,” Benish said. “We really focused on a growth mindset as a staff and never once did I expect our girls to be perfect. I tried to instill mindsets in them of things that I struggled with when I played of how to move past a mistake and how to look at your teammates before you look at your own self.”

Benish will be gone but a majority of this year’s team is likely to return in 2019.

Leading the way is junior hitter Jilienne Widener, who last month earned Times Player of the Year for a third consecutive season, and junior defensive specialist Kasey Thomas, a Times first team all-countian this year.

Volleyball is an avenue for athletes to learn things outside of just playing a sport, Benish said, and at the end of the day, there’s always going to be a bigger purpose.

“My coaching staff and the kids are what made the program great,” Benish said. “I tell the girls all the time that the wins are theirs, they earned those wins and I’ll take the losses. I steered the boat but they were the ones doing the rowing. The coaches and kids are who I will miss the most and [Westminster athletic director] Terry Molloy has been 100 percent supportive of all my crazy ideas, he’s an amazing man.”