Two current staff members are taking over the head coaching jobs in tennis and golf at Marble Falls High School. Assistant golf coach Rick Blackington will head the program with the retirement of longtime coach Lonnie Tackitt, while high school staff member Samuel Whitley is the new head tennis coach after Kim Thomas stepped down.
“Golf is a passion,” Blackington said after the announcement. “It’s a chance for me to use some of my gifts with leadership and coaching.”
Blackington learned the sport from his grandfather Lawrence Whisenhunt, who died when Blackington was a junior in high school.
“I was taken by my papaw (to the golf course) since the time I could walk,” he said. “He was carting me around with his buddies and not just teaching me about golf but about life: making good life decisions, maintaining temper, any number of life lessons that were instilled in me so early.”
Blackington was a competitive golfer and played at East Field Junior College for 1½ years until he “felt called into ministry.” He was giving private golf lessons when Faith Academy of Marble Falls offered him a job in 2011 that combined coaching golf and ministry.
In 2015, Blackington took a job at Marble Falls High School coaching soccer. He added golf in 2016 and coached both sports until the 2020-21 school year, when he started focusing solely on the links.
Marble Falls High School Athletics Director Rick Hoover said Blackington brings years of experience and passion into the role.
The coach has spent the past five years assisting Tackitt, who is retiring after three decades.
Blackington said being Tackitt’s assistant was more than enough for him.
“I was content to ride shotgun with him until the sun set,” he said.
Blackington seems a natural fit for the job. The announcement of his new role drew a loud cheer from the team at the recent golf awards banquet.
New head tennis coach Whitley also has years of experience in his sport as well as baseball, softball, basketball, and football. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s in education with an emphasis on athletic administration, both from East Carolina University.
“He has over 20 years of coaching experience,” Hoover said. “We had him on staff when (former head coach Kim) Thomas decided she wanted to give up coaching. That opportunity (for Whitley to take over) surfaced.”
Whitley emphasizes mental preparation along with physical training and skill development to his players.
“I love working with kids, and it seemed like a great fit,” he said. “I was ready to get back into coaching. Tennis is a lifelong sport you can play until the day you decide you’re going to put yourself in the grave. I’m a true believer in multi-sport athletes and all kids in order to have a true high school experience.”
Thomas stepped down from coaching to focus on her growing family. She will continue to teach in the school district.