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Setting the Standard: Schuyler Beeman

In October, The Hidden Opponent asked its community of over 60,000 social media followers--many of which are athletes--to nominate coaches that they felt set the standard for promoting student-athlete wellbeing and mental health. Athletes from across the country submitted nominations, and Coach Schuyler Beeman was one of the honored coaches. 

Beeman swam competitively for 17 years, finishing his career swimming at Middlebury College. At Middlebury, Beeman was a two-time NESCAC Champion in the 50-Yard Freestyle and was All American his senior year in the 50-Yard Freestyle, 200-Free Relay, and 400-Free Relay. Beeman spent three seasons on deck as one of the assistant coaches at Wesleyan University and is now one of the assistant coaches for Hamden Hall Aquatic Club. Along with coaching, Beeman also is the owner of Arbor Farm where he raises sheep, rabbits, and poultry, teaches dance classes at local studios, performs his one man cabarets, and is currently pursuing a career in elementary education.

Peter Solomon, former coach and colleague of Beeman, had the following to say about him:

“In looking back on my 29 years as a head coach, a large focus for my programs was to provide a safe environment where individuals felt secure and comfortable to be themselves so that they could take the athletic risks needed in training and competitions to improve. At Middlebury, I felt that Schuyler thrived as an undergraduate student to grow not only as a Division III All-American athlete and conference champion, but also as an artist, and most importantly, as a young adult who was learning about and realizing his sexual orientation. While it was a bit of a juggling act for Schuyler to keep up with his academic, artistic, and athletic commitments, the passion and dedication that this multifaceted young man brought to each of his endeavors enabled him to excel at everything that he set his mind to. Now as a coach, Schuyler brings that same infectious attitude and passion to the pool deck to share his swimming knowledge and experiences with the athletes. His presence on deck as a coach continues to show others the importance of being themselves as well as serves as a reminder to perhaps other student-athletes trying to figure things out that they will be supported.

I felt very fortunate to have Schuyler on my Wesleyan coaching staff. His unique ability to communicate with each of his athletes on an in-depth and personal basis made him such a valuable part of the program. It is no coincidence that the student-athletes feel so comfortable going to Schuyler to seek advice on their stroke technique, race strategies, as well as their personal and academic matters. He has a way of making everyone walk away from their discussion feeling better about themselves or enlightened on whatever subject matter they had discussed.  He is an incredible swim coach and an even better human being!”

Izzy Paez, an athlete coached by Beeman, shared the following:

“Schuyler has been an essential part of my collegiate career. His incredible love for the sport of swimming and his athletes alike is exceptional and differentiates him as a coach and a person. Schuyler’s journey to success in his own swimming career helps him understand the ups and downs of the sport and know exactly what to say in a time of need like no other. He has a way with words that can turn even the worst of races and experiences into powerful learning opportunities. Schuyler not only strives to motivate his athletes in the pool, but in their daily endeavors. He cares equally as much about each individual's interests outside of the pool, and inspires his athletes with his constant positive outlook. He has been such an incredible mentor, coach, and friend to Wesleyan Swim and Dive, and his presence and leadership will be thoroughly missed. We love you Schuyler!”

Social Media Manager Kai McClelland met with Beeman to ask him a few questions about his career and coaching philosophy. A transcript of the conversation is included below: 

How did you get into coaching?

I went to Middlebury College, and my head coach there, Peter Solomon, transferred to Wesleyan University. I grew up in Gilbert, Connecticut, which is a couple towns away from Wesleyan and moved back right before the pandemic. Coach Solomon reached out to me three years ago and asked if I would want to be an assistant coach with him because I was right down the street. At first I was like “I don't know, I’ve been really busy” because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. I was a good swimmer, and enjoyed being part of a team, but I was never super into the sport. But I loved coach Solomon, he was such a huge part of my Middlebury experience. I thought about it, and said “Well, I’ll get to hang out with coach and we’ll see”, and the rest is history. Now I'm obsessed with coaching and love it so much. 

What are your main goals for your team?

I was an All-American swimmer, a champion throughout my four years at Middlebury. I swam, but I wasn’t really a swimmer. It wasn’t my whole life. For example, I never did preseason, I just swam during the season, and when the season ended, I would go off to do other things.I was a theater major so that, a dance troop, or whatever it may have been. My biggest thing as a coach is to ensure swimmers are a full human being on the pool deck and outside the pool deck. I want them to express and see all sides of themselves. There were times during the season where I would have to leave practice early because I had rehearsal, or leave lifts early because I had performances, and my coach was like “Yep, go ahead”.

I truly believe that if I weren't allowed to do all the other things that I did outside of swimming, I wouldn’t have swam as fast. I don't think that I would have performed as well as I did if I wasn't given that freedom to express myself in other ways off pool deck.

So my goal for my athletes is to see who they are as a full human being. Obviously I focus on making sure they are performing in the pool, but I really try to relate difficulties that they may be having, or even successes that they're having on the pool deck to what they will be seeing in the world after they graduate.

As a coach, why do you feel that mental health specifically is important in athletics?

Because I was such a nutcase on the pool deck myself/ I say that as a person that has now gone through lots of therapy, psychiatry, etc. so I struggled with many mental issues. For me, I think that I would have probably had a better relationship with the sport if I had taken better care of my mental health.

I still use one of the phrases that Coach Solomon put our way when I was swimming for him at Middlebury, which was control the controllable. I still use that today, thinking about what I can control in each scenario. Sometimes there's very little that you can control, and that's okay. When you realize that there's such a weight lifted off. 

When you're a swimmer, you're just in the pool, by yourself, of course there are relays and you are hoping to score points for the team, but when it comes down to it it's just you and your race. That can be a really lonely place to be, and the pressure placed by your team or yourself can be a lot to handle. I really try my best to share my experience and saying “let's maybe try not to do what I did, because you'll have a much better time with it and just get to enjoy the sport.” I also say to my swimmers, there are very few people in the world that can swim like you. And how cool is that? I try to have them find joy, positivity and enjoy what they get to do.

If you were to give one piece of advice for coaches that are looking to do better for their athletes mental health, what would it be?

To see them as more than just an athlete. That is what I try to do: I want to hear how their classes are going; I want to hear about life in general; I want them to feel comfortable to come to me when they are having a hard time.  and say, hey, you know, I'm having a really tough time right now with this other thing. I love to help them work through it and allow the sport to siphon some of that energy. I would love for coaches to be able to be really thinking of their athletes as a full human being.

What are some things that are challenges that coaches face that athletes don't really know about?

At least in swimming, sometimes I am more of a counselor than anything. I have to absorb so much of what is being brought my way, especially with a big team. Last year, we had 75 students on the team, and I try to connect with each of them. I am an empath in many ways, so I absorb a lot of what the athletes are feeling, whether it's frustration, tiredness, confusion, both about the sport and not about the sport. It takes a lot of energy to be there for every one of your athletes, and then feel like you’re missing someone, which is the worst feeling for me. I want to make sure that everybody is feeling supported, and I'm trying to help everybody achieve whatever goal that they're trying to achieve. That is the hardest thing for me more than anything, it can just be a lot to handle.

What do you feel like your number one strength is a coach?

Well, pointing towards a conversation that I had with our women’s team captain today. I woke up at three o'clock in the morning with intense anxiety thinking I was too harsh on the athletes yesterday. I was being really hard on myself, and my athletes encouraged me and gave me some pointers on things that I could change, which I totally agreed with them on. In regards to my worries that I was being harsh, they said that everything I said to them needed to be said, and that they know how much I care. 

And it's true. I do care, and I never would have thought that I would ever care about anything related to competitive swimming ever again after a 17 year long career. But since being on deck with these students, I care so deeply about each and every one of them. There are times where I’ll look at a swimmer with their stroke and they'll ask me a question, and there are times where I just don’t have an answer or way to fix their concern. But I always try to figure out a solution with them together.

The Wesleyan program has changed the trajectory of my career. I studied theater at Middlebury, but also elementary education. After being on the pool deck, and getting to work with students, I'm now getting my master's and certification in elementary education, all because of this coaching opportunity. It has been such a blessing for me.



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