University of Idaho director of tennis Jeff Beaman spent his time at the WAC Championships running between courts, coaching both the men’s and the women’s teams.
A weather advisory warning required tournament officials to reschedule, causing the teams to play their final matches at the same time. This forced Beaman to split his time between the two teams — like he often does during the regular season as coach of both the men’s and women’s tennis teams.
“I certainly got my workout in with running between matches,” Beaman said.
Despite an early start time and rescheduling, both teams went on to win their respective WAC Championships, and assure their spot in the NCAA tournament. After Beaman and the UI athletic department campaigned to send the teams to the same site for their first round of matches in the tournament, their pleas were heard and both teams will play at the University of Southern California on May 9 and 10.
Beaman took over coaching the women’s program in January, after former women’s coach Myriam Sopel left UI for to be the coach at UTEP two days before the spring season began. It wasn’t the first time in recent years the women’s coach has left UI for another Division I program.
Daniel Pollock, the women’s coach from 2011 to 2012, left UI to take a men’s assistant coaching position at Brigham Young University.
The constant turnover means the women’s tennis team has had four head coaches in the past four years.
“We’ve had some great people here, but it’s hard to keep the good people when they get paying opportunities,” Beaman said.
A tradition of turnover
John Wallace, associate athletic director for internal operations, said Pollock and Sopel were graduate students while serving as the women’s tennis coach. Both were paid through an academic scholarship from the athletic department — Pollock at $28,000 for one year and Sopel at $30,000 for one year.
Currently, Beaman is paid for both the men’s and women’s coaching positions — a base salary that comes to $36,640, $18,138 for the men’s position and $18,502 for the women’s position.
Wallace said Pollock and Sopel were commonly known as graduate assistants, but were officially listed as associate coaches to comply with NCAA regulations.
Pollock and Sopel were not U.S. citizens, and attended UI on student visas.
The salaried positions offered to Pollock and Sopel after they left UI allowed them to receive a work visa that wouldn’t require them to continue their education.
Pollock left UI because BYU offered him a salaried position worth approximately four times more than his scholarship at UI.
“If UI had offered me the same situation that BYU has offered me it would have been a no-brainer to stay,” Pollock said. “I loved the team there, I had a great group of girls, we just brought in a fantastic class of kids that I loved working with.”
Pollock said BYU sponsored his work visa, which allowed him more time to dedicate to coaching.
“I no longer had to go to school. I could really focus on what I really enjoy doing, which is working as a college coach, as opposed to being spread really thin and just being exhausted all the time,” Pollock said. “BYU stepped up and offered to give me a great salary.”
Pollock said he does not know of another Division I tennis program, besides UI of course, that has a graduate assistant serving as a head coach.
He imagines that the women’s team would have some difficulty adjusting to four different coaching styles in such a short period of time.
“Those kids that came in four years ago, they haven’t really had a continuous coaching philosophy in place,” Pollock said. “I’d imagine that must be difficult.”
Wallace disagreed and said Beaman has provided a clear vision and coaching philosophy for both teams. He said the replacement of women’s coaches did not have a large impact on the performance or constancy of the women’s team.
“There’s been stability at the top of the program,” Wallace said.
Wallace said there will always be a large turnover rate with assistant coaches as they try to move forward in their professional career.
Rita Bermudez, a sophomore who has had three coaches while at UI, said it would be beneficial to the women’s program if UI had a salaried position for a full-time women’s coach. She said a salaried position would allow for a coach to focus their attention to the women’s team, instead of splitting their time between academics and tennis.
Bermudez said it has been difficult to readjust to a new coach every year.
“For me, it wasn’t great having so many coaches,” Bermudez said. “You make good connections with each coach you have, so making that connection is hard and then you have to make a new one.”
Bermudez said the continuous coaching turnover has helped the women’s team bond.
“You really had to pull together,” Bermudez said. “Every time we have lost a coach, we have probably gotten closer as a team.”
Abid Akbar, an assistant undergraduate coach for the women’s team, agreed the program would be more successful with a full-time women’s coach.
“Jeff has shown it is possible to run two programs with the help of three assistants, but it’s not ideal,” Akbar said.
Senior Alejandra Lozano said she learned about different parts of her game with each coach, and did not think the coaching changes negatively affected the team.
Lozano said she is grateful to have worked with so many coaches who each contributed to her success as a player.
“It wasn’t really that hard, it was more just like an experience of learning different stuff from different people,” she said.
Facilities and scheduling
Beaman seldom finds himself at home on the weekend during the spring, especially this past spring, which saw him travel with both UI tennis teams.
The week before the conference tournament was especially hectic, as Beaman coached the men’s team in Missoula, Mont., on April 17, returned to coach the women’s team at home against Oregon the very next day, coached the men’s team to a home victory over Lewis-Clark State College on April 19, only to travel east once again with the women’s team, which played in Missoula on April 20.
Beaman, who said it’s uncommon for one coach to be responsible for two teams, has been on the road every weekend except for one since Jan. 15 with either the men’s or the women’s team.
“It’s been a lot of time put in with both teams,” Beaman said. “A lot of 7:30, 8 a.m. mornings, then finishing up back in the office at night just trying to get on top of paper work and recruiting.”
The tennis program cannot host any home matches during the winter because of the limited number of indoor courts, and rarely hosts a match at UI during the spring. All but two of the 48 combined men’s and women’s matches have been on the road.
During the winter, both tennis teams often travel to Washington State University and LCSC in Lewiston to practice because of the lack of availability of the Kibbie Dome courts at times. He said it’s not unusual for tennis practice to start at 10 p.m. and go until midnight.
Bermudez said it is challenging having to balance practice with schoolwork, especially in the winter, when practices go late into the night.
Akbar said the late practices and consistent travel have had a significant effect on the athletes and their ability to perform.
“It affects your physical health, your mental health, you’re not taking the best care of your body,” Akbar said.
He said if UI had a tennis-specific indoor facility on campus it would give UI a better chance to recruit higher-level players, and reduce the amount of stress on players.
Pollock said Beaman has done a remarkable job with the resources he’s been given by UI.
“What he has done, I think, is miraculous with the Idaho program, from any stand point that you look at it,” Pollock said.
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