Cross Country members work together to keep coach

In late July, members of the college’s cross-country team received an email from the administration that Jared Beers `01 would no longer be serving as their coach for the winter and spring track seasons. Instead, Beers would hold an administrative position in which he would not interact with or train students. Almost immediately, over 20 students replied to this email questioning the decision of the administration. Many members of the team felt that Beers was an integral part of the team and frustrated that the administration failed to communicate with student athletes prior to making such a decision. 

In a recent interview with the Echo, Rob Dettmann `20 spoke about this frustration. 

“Initially I was really upset,” Dettmann said. “I’m a senior who’s been on the team for four years. This is my tenth season running at Colby if you count indoor, outdoor, and cross-country. I’m also on the leadership counsel and I was not told at all about this decision.”

Other members of the team expressed their concerns for how this decision would negatively impact the performance of the team. Julia Hopely `23, who was an incoming recruit during this time, expressed these concerns to The Echo

“Running is such a fluid sport,” Hopely said, “and everything we’re doing now even in the cross-country season is already moving towards the track season. And so having two different coaches is a little detrimental to that flow we have. I didn’t really understand how Colby is trying to build this amazing new athletic facility and trying to compete with the top schools in the country, and on the other hand is having this extreme understaffing that’s going to hurt the recruiting process. I don’t know if I would be able to place my trust a program that doesn’t even have a year-round coach.” 

Dettmann felt similarly and expressed to The Echo the need of cross-country team for a full-time distance coach. 

“When people think about track they think, ‘Oh, it’s just running.’ But there’s so many elements to track,” Dettmann said. “Jared’s [Beers] expertise is distance, because he has a whole season where he’s just coaching distance. So when we got that email, we were all pretty taken aback.” 

Student athletes also explained their shock and disappointment for losing such a valuable coach. To many athletes Beers was an important leader and role model. In an interview with The Echo, Tyler Morris `23 explained what an integral role Beers had in his decision to attend Colby. 

“Jared just really stood out to me when I started contacting him,” Morris said. “He did anything he could to make the recruiting process easy and he seemed like a guy who really tried to make his program as best as could possibly be. When I came up for my visit, seeing how close the team is and how much everyone loves the program, it was basically where I wanted to be.”

Hopely shared the same sentiments during her recruiting process. 

“He [Beers] was absolutely a huge part of why I came to Colby,” Hopely said. “When recruiting visits came to an end at the fall, I was a little bit torn because the team, as it was then, was incredibly understaffed compared to the other teams I was looking at joining. But coach Beers was just incredibly encouraging in the way he talked about the team and the kind of culture he wanted to build. That was the main reason why I ended up looking past the understaffing, because of his dedication to every single person and the way he wants to set his team for success in the future.”

Beers’ dedication to the team lead many athletes to believe that this decision was also made without his best interest. Eli Decker `21 described this situation in a recent interview with The Echo,

“I had known from some other coaches that the administrative role wasn’t a promotion,” Decker said. “It was more of setting up flags at lacrosse games and desk work, and I realized my coach was better served coaching athletes in the spring than doing administrative duties. That’s what he loves about his job. So I knew something wasn’t quite right there.”

For these reasons, Decker and other students decided to set up a phone call with Jake Olkkola, the College’s Athletic Director and Jacqui Schuman, the Assistant Athletic Director, (who both did not respond when asked for comments by The Echo) to express their concerns and clarify the motives behind the decision. 

“There was a weird tone in her [Jacqui’s] communication that I felt was disrespectful,” Decker said. “She and Olkkola were just very abrasive as if we were just some dumb kids who didn’t know what we were talking about. They couldn’t even tell of any of the benefits of the change.” 

Dettmann also felt that the directors were very unhelpful. “The Athletic Director and the Assistant Athletic Director weren’t incredibly open about why this decision was made, and why they believed Beers not being on the team was an improvement,” Dettmann said. “Ultimately, I believe we share the same goal, which is becoming a better team. And that’s what the administrators’ job is, to tinker with things to make sure that the team is better. And we didn’t understand how this decision made our team better. So, we were very frustrated.”

After the frustrating and difficult phone call, Decker reached out to Matthew Proto, the Vice President of the College, for help. Within a few days, the team received notice that the decision was reversed, and that Beers would once again coach for three track seasons. Although the issue was solved, it left members of the team with a negative feelings toward the administration.

“I’m happy that everything is fine now,” Decker said, “but I guess I’m still ticked off that Olkkola and Jacqui never thanked us for calling them out. It was so stressful for me and my teammates and I was just not sleeping. And I know Jared and his family were not doing well, because he was really worried about his job.”

Although other team members widely agreed with these grievances, many also felt that there were positive affects which came from the situation. 

“In hindsight, a lot of good came out of that difficult situation,” Morris said. “It kind of showed how close our team is and how much everyone loves our coach. As a first year here, it shows that our team is willing to stand up for what we believe in and how we really love Jared Beers.”

Other students agreed, “I honestly think in some way this process has made me more confident in my decision,” Hopely said. “The team is incredible, the people are incredible, and a lot of that culture is thanks to Coach Beers. I think it did prove how loyal the team is to him and how much he means to all of us.” Jared Beers declined to comment on this article.