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Men's Hockey & Golf Coach Years at Midd: 26

Men’s Hockey & Golf Coach
Years at Midd: 26

Interview with Bill Beaney

Interviewed by Dean Brierley

Why Middlebury?  Why Division III?  Why have you chosen to stay here?

I grew up in Lake Placid, I would always be over here.  My brother played at Norwich, I saw many hockey games.  A lot of Middlebury alums from Lake Placid.  It has a great tradition, knew Duke Nelson very well and Wendy Forbes.  The decision was to stay on as full time assistant at UNH.  I thought the balance between athletics and academics and proximity to my hometown were the main reasons why.  There were many times where I seriously thought about leaving.  But the relationships that have been developed made me stay.  You don’t have to be D1 just like you don’t have to be a college coach.

Tell us something about your early years at Middlebury, either as a student or as a coach.As any new coach coming in, you think you’re going to have an immediate impact.  My first year we had a record of 7-16.  Next year we were 7-16 again.  We were able to attract the student athletes where hockey was an important part of their life. What I remember most is the support from the townspeople and the staff, from the training room to the town.What are some memorable moments in your experience of athletics at Middlebury?

In my third year, the look on the faces on the guys on the team when it was announced we had made the playoffs.  The thrill is something that will stay with me.  The memories of a player by the name of Tim Fox, who spent three years on the JV and finally his season year made varsity and played on a national championship team in 1997.  To me, it is just a great example of perseverance and commitment.  The memory of working with Tom Lawson and Dave Ginevan towards building this rink.

What are your some of your most successful seasons? Who are the most exceptional athletes and people associated with the program that you can recall? 

The 88-89 season, making the playoffs.  We had to overcome a lot with a young team that had no history of success.  They would a way to make the playoff; that was success.  Success was 94-95 when we won our first national championship after not qualifying for the ECAC playoffs the year before. 1999, after graduating six All-Americans, finding a way to win our fifth national championship in a row.  I bring these up with different degrees of success, with the common denominator being the leadership on the team, dynamic captains or co-captains that really made the difference.  Who’s the say who’s better.  IT all started with Kent Hughes in 1992.  That started with a string of years where a number of our players were players of the year.

Have there been moments of disappointment in your coaching career?  How have your coaching methods and approach changed over time? 

I think the disappointments are when players have made poor life decisions, not so much the disappointments of losing a game but when people have failed to learn some valuable lessons of life and as a result, need the adversity that comes with bad decisions to help set them in a positive direction.  It’s about life long lessons and using this as a opportunity to help instill values that are going to carry them through the rest of their life.  If you have been at a place as long as I have you need to evolve with the students that are on your team.  I am a big believer in getting to know each player and figuring out what style is going to be most effective.  Whether a guy needs to be pushed or embraced or a combination of both.  I think players now are in better physical condition, much more aware of training methods, nutrition and sleep.  I think today a lot of the athletes you get are hockey-school type players but haven’t been put in pressure situations and learned how to make good decisions within the context of the game.  (sand lot game)

How have things changed since you began playing/coaching at Middlebury?  (Title IX, 1992 – NCAA tournament play, etc.)

When I first came here, one of the big reasons was because I could coach women’s soccer along with hockey. I think the jobs are becoming more specialized, not as many coaches with more than one sport.  There’s not as much time spent together as a staff.  The big thing would be that there is a lot more for students to do.  There are a lot more distractions put in play during your practice time, etc.  People being so connected, there’s not as much time spent with face time.  Great facilities have made it easier to recruit.  Academics standards have made it more difficult.  A student sits up and takes notice when you say you are from Middlebury College.

How has rivalry changed over the course of your Middlebury career?  Have changes in NESCAC membership affected those rivalries?

Our biggest rivals used to be non-NESCAC teams: Norwich, Plattsburg, Babson.  The NESCAC would be Bowdoin and Williams.  Our scheduling changed so we play each NESCAC school twice.  We have our own NESCAC playoff.  The first year we were allowed for the NCAA, whether or not our record was to be good enough for the NCAA but you could not play in both tournaments (ECAC or NCAA).  For the first five years, we picked NCAA we rolled the dice and had about a three-week break because we could not play ECAC.

Over the course of your career at Middlebury, what kinds of changes have you seen in the relationship between sports and academics (or other aspects of campus life)?

I think the relationship has remained the same.  It is a constant.  When you recruit student-athletes, they all know that academics is the priority.  Whenever there is a conflict between the two, you do the academic piece.  Most of the professors are very understanding so we can do both.  I think the difference I’ve seen is not as much student spectator involvement as there used to be, I think because there are so many options for the students, with clubs and IMs.

How does athletics enrich students’ experience at Middlebury?

I think you learn lessons in sports that are hard to duplicate anywhere else.  I think from teamwork to learning to become self-sufficient.  Having an opportunity to learn how to make good decisions.  Learn how to challenge yourself in a pressure situation and develop composure.  As we tell our guys: It’s all about building relationships.  It’s not the championship banner but the relationships we’ve established striving towards your ultimate goal.

How has recruiting changed over the course of your Middlebury career?  How has the reputation of the school or advancements in technology allowed the College to recruit more diverse student athletes? 

It has changed this way, where you used to pick up the phone and call the coaches to see who they had. Then you would watch them play at a Xmas tournament.  Relied on recommendation from other coaches.  Coaching a couple of sports, you don’t have the free time to go see kids play.  Sports become a huge moneymaker for a lot of teams, summer hockey showcases, junior teams.  The average freshman in college hockey is closer to 21 years old.  It puts that many more players in the pool every year.  When you’re recruiting you try to see if the 18 or 19 year old can compete against the 22, 23, 24 year old.  You have all kinds of family advisors sending you information about players.  More electronically, like videos.  Coaches are traveling further, more often then they ever did before.  It has become a much busier part of the coaches responsibility.

What is the connection between the team and the community?  How important is community service?  How has that changed over time?

I don’t think it has changed.  IT has always been extremely important for our group to be involved in the community.  The constant has been the townspeople support for the hockey team.  I think part of that is that the students get out and are involved in community service.  The college in general has really stepped up the pace in that aspect.

What is the relationship between the coaching staff and the athletic administration?  How has that changed over time?  Did you have a mentor or other collegial support when you came to Middlebury? 

I do not think it’s changed.  I think there’s great respect in both directions.  There has always been great support from the AD and the athletics department.  I think, sadly, everyone has gotten busier, so there is less time to sit and talk and enjoy each other.

Tell us something about your secondary athletic assignment and how it has affected your Middlebury career.

I very much look forward to coaching golf every year.  It’s not a team sport; you’re dealing with individuals.  The pace of the sport allows for more conversation, as a result I like the contrast in the two sports.  Who doesn’t like being outside.

What would you like to share that we haven’t asked you about?

One of the other things that I’ve done that I’ve enjoyed but I haven’t’ done this year, is teaching J-term class.  It’s something that I’ve very much enjoyed over the years. Used it to meet a lot of interesting people and students from different areas that you don’t get the meet because of the pace we are all going at.

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