Stepping in and leading the way: Beeckman brings different style to volleyball team
Throughout all the challenges this season, Associate Head Coach Theresa Beeckman found a way to keep Central Michigan’s volleyball team focused. Volleyball wasn’t Beeckman’s first love, but the coach her team calls "Tree" had an impact on the game and the players she coached this season.
Beeckman came to CMU after two coaching stints at Delta College and Ferris State. The 5-foot-4 former softball and football player brought a style of compromise and respect to CMU’s volleyball team.
“I try to take an approach that’s more collaborative, especially in response to what we’ve been going through,” Beeckman said. “This isn’t a typical season, so I think we have to do some things that make amends to that.”
Ever since Head Coach Erik Olson was placed on paid leave on Oct. 6 for unprofessional behavior toward athletes, the Chippewas looked to the assistant head coach to keep the team afloat.
CMU was 5-7 with Beeckman in charge, missing out on an opportunity to go to the Mid-American Conference Tournament on a tiebreaker. Even though the team failed to qualify for the postseason for the third season in a row, Beeckman found a way to turn a difficult situation into a way to inspire the young CMU squad.
“I love seeing players do things that they had no idea they were capable of,” Beeckman said. “I love believing in them more than they believe in themselves, and seeing that to fruition.”
This wasn’t the first time Beeckman had assume the role of head coach of a volleyball team due to a disciplinary situation.
In 2008, the Bridgeport native served as interim head coach for Ferris State’s volleyball team due to a week-long suspension for Head Coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm because of inappropriate conduct involving a player.
Although both times Beeckman had to step in and take the lead, she said the two circumstances aren’t comparable.
“Two very different situations,” she said. “One was for a week, and this one has been a lot longer. Every year that you coach, every experience that you have prepares you for the next day.”
Beeckman made it an emphasis to be more personal with her players, in return, gaining their trust and support on the court.
“I like to relate to players,” she said. “I like to coach through relationships. I’ve had my authoritative sides, but I would say I’m more of a players’ coach.”
The former softball coach did that by allowing the players to play looser and enjoy the game while providing assistance regardless of the performance on the court.
“Her coaching style is very fun,” said senior defensive specialist Haley Barker. “If you mess up, she’s just going to be like ‘next play,’ and it’s very relaxed, but intense. It’s a good mixture of that.”
Sophomore defensive specialist Courtney Hiltibran said Beeckman was able to keep the team’s level of anxiety down, allowing the players to focus just on the game.
“She’s kept us really calm,” Hiltibran said. “She keeps us in on everything that’s going on. There’s no surprises. She keeps us really comfortable and ready for anything. We can do anything with everything that’s thrown at us, she reminds us of that every single day.”