Newly hired Great Bend High School head football coach Erin Beck looked out across the members of the Panther squad gathered in the GBHS auditorium Wednesday morning.
“I see some familiar faces,” he said. But, “you’ve grown quite a bit.”
Although the Unified School District 428 School Board had just the night before approved his contract, Beck is no stranger to Great Bend or to many of the athletes in that room. He coached defensive backs under former GBHS head coach Bo Black from 2010 through 2012, at the same time helping with the boys basketball team.
He also coached some of those boys when he assisted with the Great Bend Middle School basketball program.
“I have high expectations for the men in this room,” Beck said. “We have a chance to do something pretty special, but its going to take some work.”
He said he couldn’t be happier about being back in Great Bend. “It is truly a great time to be a Great Bend Panther.”
Beck said the support he’s experienced since being back in town demonstrates the amount of pride in there is in the school and football program. “That’s very exciting to me and that is something we are going to build on.”
He admitted it has been an emotional roller coaster for the players. “It’s been kind of a crazy ride for you guys.”
But, “I couldn’t be more excited to be the next head football coach at Great Bend,” said. He is looking forward to meeting with each team member one on one.
“We have to figure out who is going to lead this team and the ones who are willing to step up and take control,” he said. “We’ve got some dang good players in this room.”
Now he has to figure out how much winning means to each of them. “That’s my job.”
Beck visited with the other coaches Tuesday night. “We started talking about each one you. Each one of you has a ceiling and we are going to push you to reach it, not only on the football field but in the classroom and with everything you do in life.”
Beck said he’s watched film of the Panthers. “I love to see the way you guys play. You play your tails off and that speaks volumes to your character and the kind of kids you are.”
Beck still has obligations in Independence, Mo., at Truman High School where he has to finish out this school year. He did say he will be back as often as possible.
“I want to talk you see what you have to say about this program,” he said. “I want guys who will put this team above themselves. You have to have trust in the guy next you.
“Leaders, its time for you to step up and hold each other accountable, hold your teammates accountable,” he said.
It’s about more than being in weight room now, he said. “It’s not just showing up, but showing how hard are you willing to work.”
Even though the 2016 football season opener with Coffeyville, a home stand, is still months away, “it starts now,” Beck said.
He is planning to take the team to a football camp for the training as well as to build camaraderie.
GBHS Activities Director David Meter introduced Beck to the team.
“I know that after coach (Tony) Crough resigned, a bunch of you were disappointed about that,” Meter said. But, “this is a big job and we’ve had a lot of people interested.”
A team of six district officials interviewed four of the 25 applicants. “We found the right guy,” he said.
“One thing about this coach is he’s a winner,” Meter said. He was part of winning teams when he played at Claflin High School and at Washburn University, and the Truman High Patriots went from no wins his first year there to be being ranked third in Missouri.
“We have a lot to look forward to,” Meter said. “I am very confident. There are a lot of things happening in our football Beck will also teach physical education at GBHS.
A little background
Beck’s wife Cindy (Keeley) Beck was a teacher at Great Bend Middle School before they moved away. However, Beck said they have three young children at home and a fourth on the way.
For now, he said she will be a stay-at-home mom but wants to eventually get back into education.
Most recently he was the defensive coordinator for the football team at Truman High School in Independence, Mo., a 5A school. “We’re still making the transition,” Beck said.
Leaving Great Bend was a tough choice, he said. But, the chance to work with coach Greg Webb was a great opportunity for him.
The THS football program was on the rocks, he said. But they turned it around.
“It was pretty special to see what winning did,” he said.
Now, he’s ready to come back. He wants to bring the energy he experienced at Truman with him.
“It’s a team concept,” he said, adding no on player wins or loses a game. “I base everything on trust. You have to be honest with the kids, they have to know where they stand with you.”
He followed the Panthers last year and their surprise season. The Cats were reeling after a series of high-profile loses but wound up making the playoffs.
“Man, they played hard,” Beck said.