All roads led Forrest Holt back to Elizabethton as Athletic Director

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2018

As Forrest Holt was finishing up his senior season at Happy Valley High School in 2002 as a member of the football, baseball, and track teams, little did he know what his future held and how the roads that lay ahead would all intertwine and bring him full circle back to Carter County into a job at a rival school.

Yet today in looking back, Holt realizes that his faith in God and his love for his family are responsible for him now leading the athletic department at Elizabethton High School as the Athletic Director.

The first road traveled was down Interstate 81 to Jefferson City where Holt became a member of the Carson-Newman Eagles football and track team.

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“I went with Coach Turner who now is the head coach there,” said Holt. “He was the offensive line coach at the time, and he got me to go to Carson-Newman and play for Coach Ken Sparks.

“I was there for five years and graduated in 2007. While there I played linebacker, defensive end, and special teams. I also threw the discus on the track team for a couple of years.

“I graduated with a B.S. in Physical Education and Health Teacher Licensure for EC-12,” continued Holt. “I got married immediately after graduation in June to Jessica Lenden Holt, who was the senior valedictorian at Happy Valley when I was a junior.”

The newlyweds found themselves hitting the road once again landing Holt in a teaching position at 5-A Vela Middle School in Brownsville, Texas, where he was a teacher and coach from 2008 to 2009, teaching sixth grade health as well as being the football defensive coordinator, girls soccer assistant coach, eighth grade boys basketball coach, and boys track.

Holt would eventually move to Los Fresnos High School, a program with over 2,700 students, where he coached the offensive line under former Kansas City Chiefs and new head coach Clint Finley and powerlifting where Holt ran all programs for student athletes in the sixth through 12th grade.

Under Holt, the school was ultra-successful in powerlifting taking the state title in girls powerlifting in 2011 and being named the Texas Powerlifting Coach of the Year.

His team would follow that up with a third-place finish in 2012 and 2014 and a second place in 2013. Holt also coached the boys powerlifting team to a second-place finish in 2014.

He coached seven USAPL National Champions from 2011 to 2014 as well as a USAPL World Team Member in 2011 and 2013.

With all the success that the young coach and teacher had reached at an early portion of his career, things changed and his heart began beating once again for East Tennessee.

“After having our two children and living in South Texas for seven years, we knew it was time for us to come back home,” Holt said. “Our house was on the market for two years before we were able to sell, so we were actually there longer than what we wanted to be.

“We came back and I didn’t have a job, and Jessica didn’t have a job, but we trusted that God would take care of us and he did.

“I applied at a lot of places like Washington County, Kingsport, Johnson City, Carter County, and Elizabethton and ultimately had a couple of opportunities at a couple of different places,” Holt continued. “I decided to go with Elizabethton because it felt like the right thing to do for me and my family to come to Elizabethton and give that a shot.”

Elizabethton had a lot of good things going and coming from a successful run in Texas, Holt realized that he wanted to keep the momentum going.

“I wanted to bring what I had learned and bring it to whatever program I went to, and I felt like Elizabethton was the best program to do that at with Coach Witten having a lot of experience himself,” Holt stated.

“Doctor (Corey) Gardenhour at the time gave me reason and supported me and told me that he would be able to get me to where I would be happy and get me to a full-time position at Elizabethton.

“I really wanted to be here, and I realize that it was where I believe God had put me.”

Holt added that before taking over as the AD, the opportunity he had in teaching Special Education and CTE at the high school prepared him more than anything else could have.

“I was managing a room with special needs students, overseeing teacher’s aides, making sure all paperwork was in order and on schedule, and managing schedules,” added Holt. “Doing that for four years really prepared me for much of the same thing I am doing as the athletic director now.”

The timing of taking over the position of AD came at a time that wasn’t conventional as Holt found himself thrown into the fire having to learn a lot on the go and hit the ground running which according to Holt is sometimes the best way to learn.

“I didn’t have time to think as I got put in in April and baseball, softball, and track as well as soccer were in full swing,” Holt added. “Softball and baseball looked like they were going to be going down the road to state, so it was so busy in the spring at that time that I just had to put my head down and get to work.

“I really didn’t have a lot of time to access certain situations as to where we were and make any changes at that time, so we just continued what was in process at the time as far as athletics and the teams moved on.”

After making it through the first busy few months, Holt has managed to slow down and has worked diligently to open communication between all of the sports and to make all processes uniform throughout the athletic department.

“There were already policies and procedures in place, so what I did was to condense it all and put it in a manual for the coaching staff making it a coaching manual for uniform procedures,” stated Holt. “It has questions and answers in there and has references for like travel, eligibility, and taking up money.

“The biggest thing I want to do moving forward is to communicate how things are to be done uniformly.”

One thing that Holt has already done to benefit the football team has been to reduce the waiting list for season tickets from five pages down to one.

It was something that had been on his mind from his days of coaching Friday night football games for the Cyclones.

“Being a coach last year and knowing that season tickets were sold out, but just the stands weren’t filled full,” said Holt. “In looking at people who were season ticket holders, some were purchasing a ticket and not coming to the game.

“Our secretary, Rachel Williams, has been working diligently through the list and has worked it down to just the one page.

“You want people to purchase a ticket and come and support their children in the band and on the team, but if that child graduates and they don’t plan on coming to all the games, then you hope they will allow others who have children coming in to purchase those seats and fill the stands.”

Another project that is being worked on is a Spring Sports pass that will help two-fold as it will allow for the pre-sale of tickets and hopefully reduce cost to those that attend several games during the spring circuit.

Holt went on to add that hopefully by the 2019-2020 season that the opportunity to purchase an All-Sport pass will also be able to be offered.

“I have some information from other schools who do this that I am looking at to kind of compare how they do it at their schools,” said Holt. “Hopefully we can come up with individual and family passes.”

One thing that Holt says has really been a blessing to the athletic department at the school is the APO (Athletic Parent Organization) that works on behalf of all sports and the individual sports boosters that around 90 percent of the school athletic programs have to support them.

“Our coaches can request funds from their boosters for needs they have for their programs,” said Holt. “An example is where the APO has secured a camera system for our gym to be used for volleyball and basketball season, helping the girls basketball team secure warm-up pants, and purchasing new golf bags for the golf team.

“We are very grateful to have their support in providing nice things for our kids.”

Another portion of Holt’s job requires planning ahead to make sure that facilities will be in great shape for athletes coming into the school for years to come.

One of those items is the turf that covers Citizen Bank Stadium which is coming up on its fifth year of use and still remains in good shape.

The life of turf normally runs about 8 to 10 years depending on usage.

“We are saving in anticipation of when that time comes to have to replace the turf,” Holt said. “We are just trying to look ahead and be diligent and frugal to plan ahead on what may need to be replaced.”

Holt is hoping to revamp the brick program to help as a fundraising project.

“The brick program is a really good way for us to raise funds and put a loved one’s name in our stadium concourse,” added Holt. “The bricks are $100 and $300 and are great to remember someone who has played here or attended school at Elizabethton High and are a great memorial to those folks.

“It also helps our CTE department engineering class with David Campbell because they get to design the brick and use the equipment which helps out tremendously.

“We have a lot of space remaining.”

The Holts two children, Brayden (6) and Alayna (7), are in the first and second grade respectively at West Side Elementary and the family attend First Baptist Church of Elizabethton with Pastor Todd Hallman and youth pastor Chris Carter, who substitutes at the high school.

Jessica teaches the Early Elementary SundaySchool  Class while Holt co-teaches the Young Adult Class with David Nanney from Elizabethton Parks and Rec. They have attended the church for two years.