Cedar Ridge Coach Angela Beck’s strategies for winning on and off the court.
By Deborah Hamilton-Lynne
Coach Angela Beck has described herself as “tough,” “demanding,” “extremely competitive” and a “taskmaster.” She is indeed all of those things. However, the word I think best describes Coach Beck is “winner” because in all things, she strives to win, both on and off the basketball court, and she strives to make winners out of the young women under her expert tutelage. With more than 25 years of experience as a very successful college, professional and now a high-school coach, Angela Beck knows what it takes to be a winner. She knows what it takes to create champions with the determination and desire to win.
As the senior members of her squad gather for their photo shoot, I observe their admiration of their coach and feel the mutual respect as Coach Beck greets each player individually. Beck’s philosophy of basketball evolves to fit each team and the individual players that compose the team, but the pillars of her team-building strategy remain the same and T.E.A.M. (Together We Accomplish More) is the cornerstone of that strategy. There is an easy camaraderie among the girls, which quickly becomes rapt attention when the coach speaks. Even though it is staged for the photo shoot, they pay attention to what she says. It becomes obvious that these women, this team, share her philosophy and her determination to become winners. She is clearly their leader and their mentor, and something all too rare these days is evident: disciplined respect with one goal in mind, that if they give it their very best, they will be winners.
Athletics and the drive to win have always been important to Beck. As one of seven children (all athletes in their own right), being competitive came naturally to her. Love of sports was in her blood. Her grandmother was a woman before her time, competing, riding a bike and doing pull-ups “like the men,” and her mother was the “coach of every team we ever had.” Her father was a self-made millionaire who passed along the importance of education, goal setting, creating a vision for your life and having the ambition and discipline to give it your all to get there. Beck took those lessons to heart, and they influenced everything she did.
It is probably no accident that she ended up at Cedar Ridge High School, where the school motto is “Achieve Our Potential, Change the World.” This is the path that Beck has been following throughout her entire life and career. From 1975 to 1979, she was an All-American basketball star at Millikin University, serving as the team captain and being named most valuable player while she helped to firmly establish women’s athletics programs. She currently holds 15 Millikin basketball records, and in 1981, Beck was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
At age 22, a chance encounter led her to become the youngest women’s head basketball coach in university history.
“I was at a physical-education convention and was telling anyone who would listen that I wanted to be a head basketball coach when I met someone from Southeast Missouri State who said that they were looking for a coach. I sent in a resume and was on my way. I took that team to the NCAA Division III regional finals in just three years,” Beck says.
Beck achieved the pinnacle of success as a college coach for the University of Nebraska, where she served as head coach for 11 years, from 1986 to 1997. During her tenure, Beck was the winningest coach in the history of the women’s basketball program, compiling a 191-128 record and taking teams to three NCAA Division I appearances. In 1988, Nebraska won the Big VIII Conference championship and Beck was named Conference Coach of the Year.
Her winning ways continued as she left college for the fledgling women’s professional leagues, serving as the head coach and general manager of the San Jose Lasers of the American Basketball League, leading the team to the semi-final round of the 1998 playoffs.
Along the way, Beck received her master’s degree in sports administration and gained corporate experience in the communications, health and real-estate sectors. In addition to her coaching career, Beck is currently a real-estate professional associated with Keller Williams, where she was named Rookie of the Year in 2008.
Impressed by her success and passion, I was curious to learn more about Beck’s coaching philosophy and general outlook on life. These are her observations and comments on how to win on the court and off:
“My motto is: Be No. 1. I desire everything I am doing every day. Whatever I am doing, I try to be the best I can be and that makes me a winner. If you give your best and you give your all, you always win, no matter what the final score is.”
“When I am coaching, I try to be a little off-kilter every day to see how the girls will react to pressure and change. I want them to be good at a lot of things, and I believe in strengthening my team by purposefully showing them the benefits of failure. Too often, we don’t allow our kids to fail, but I believe that what you learn from failure provides all of the building blocks to enable you to succeed. Success is failure turned inside out.”
“I believe in discipline. It forms a foundation for a team, a family or a company and is the cornerstone for respect and success. It is the basis for morale and team unity. It is important to learn to be on time, to make a commitment and to follow through. Discipline determines attitude and attitude determines whether you win or lose.”
“The work ethic of a team and the players distinguishes a winning team and a winning season. The greatest players have the strongest work ethic. They focus on their job, they make sacrifices. The price of greatness is responsibility. The truly great players will make over 10,000 shots during the offseason just to stay sharp. Moving to the next level requires dedication.”
“Self-esteem can be built from the inside out. My parents always believed in me and I try to let my players know that I care about them as individuals. I care enough to find out what motivates them, what makes them tick and to keep them on track when they want to quit. I want them to know what it feels like to make someone proud of their effort.”
“Academics are an important part of our program. My players have to maintain their grade average in each subject of at least an 80 or above. If they don’t have an 80, they have to be tutored until they bring their grades up. Nothing makes me prouder than to help them find the right fit for a college and get scholarships. I want 100 percent of my players to go on to college.”
“Goal setting is important. I work with our team leaders to set goals prior to the season, and then we act on those goals throughout the year. Goals are crucial to planning and to execution of a winning season.”
“I try to motivate each player to be the best she can be individually. When one player is inspired to be more than they think they can be, the entire team is raised up as a result.”
“I would encourage parents to get their children outside and physically active at a very young age. Knowing what they can accomplish physically is good for their self-image and builds self-esteem. The mind controls the body, and if kids have been allowed to be stagnant, they do not believe they can be athletic. Don’t peg or limit your kid. Give them the chance to try different physical activities and integrate it into their lives so they can achieve a lifelong balance and appreciation of a healthy self-concept.”
“Parents should trust that, in general, coaches have their child’s best interest in mind. Sometimes that means that parents have to take a backseat.”
“I know this is the era when everyone gets a medal or a trophy, but I don’t believe in that. I believe in working for a win and that everyone cannot be a winner. That is the nature of competition. But the ultimate victory comes from doing your best, from giving it all you’ve got. If you compete and can honestly say that you went out and gave it your very best, then you are always a winner in my book.”
And finally, we get around to Coach Beck’s definition of a winner: A winner is a person who goes out and gives it his or her all. Angela Beck is many things: an all-star, a leader, a coach, a role model and a team builder. But most of all, by her own definition, Angela Beck is a winner on and off the court.