CENTRAL POINT — Here on Valentine’s Day, it’s probably appropriate to talk about love.
For John Beck, there’s no doubt about his love for coaching football.
There’s also no doubt that he loves spending time with his family and lending his support to their endeavors.
It’s the latter that played a part in Beck submitting his resignation as head football coach at Crater High last Thursday.
And it’s the former that may bring him back to the gridiron before too long if you’re at all aware of the self-described “obsessive compulsive” person Beck is down deep.
“If an opportunity came up at a good school and they wanted an old dog like me,” said Beck, 55, on Monday, “then yeah, I would definitely consider it and take a look and see what the opportunity might be. You never know what the future might hold.”
“As of now, though, I’m happy with my decision,” he added. “It’s really tough on my wife and family in a business like this (as a high school coach) that takes you away from so many things. I need to focus on being a more present dad, that’s my first priority.”
As such, Beck spent the first weekend after submitting his resignation in Portland at his 7-year-old daughter Maddie Kay’s dance competition.
“She’s a good dancer … a really good dancer,” noted Beck, trying to take some credit for that skill before laughing off the notion.
Beck and his wife Molly also have 14-year-old son Brennick, who will be a freshman next fall, to consider as potential coaching positions come his way, and yes the phone has already been ringing with polite inquiries.
While time will tell whether Beck gets back into coaching, he's proud of helping forge a successful path at Crater High.
In 13 years at Crater, Beck compiled a 69-68 record that fluctuated in success depending on whether the Comets were competing at the 6A or 5A levels. At his peak, Beck guided Crater to the 5A state semifinals in 2015 after a program-best 11-0 start and Midwestern League championship.
“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and done with all these firsts at Crater,” he said. “We kind of keep track of pride points, which are little things we’ve done in the program and they’re not all about wins and losses. I’ve got three to four single-spaced pages with things we’ve done from fundraising to helping out Hugs for Heaven and all our community service and certainly helping get kids to college programs and things like that.”
“It’s more about the relationships with the players that I’m most proud of than the other stuff,” he added. “Helping the kids become successful men has meant a lot more than wins and losses.”
Going through this process has only served to remind Beck of the last coaching move that he made, stepping away from a successful stint at North Medford High to join the Comets in 2004. Beck had just finished his third season as head coach, going 28-7 with the Black Tornado, and guided North Medford to a runner-up showing in the 4A state championships when he shocked the Rogue Valley by accepting a sizable challenge at Crater.
“I remember like it was yesterday,” said Beck. “It’s kind of crazy to think about stepping away from arguably the best or one of the best football programs in the state at the time to come to one of the worst. I think it was kind of a crazy turn of events and kind of a perfect storm to come over here. But I’m really proud that this program can now compete with that program year in and year out on the field, and when I first got here you couldn’t say that.”
In reality, you couldn’t say much about the Crater program at that time. The school had zero playoff victories and a 10-year playoff drought before Beck took over. From 1986 until Beck’s first year, the Comets had gone 49-103 under Larry Baker and a succession of short-term coaches: Gary Taylor (five years), Hal Rose (three years), Randy Heath (four years) and Rich Cable (two years).
In fairness, Beck points out, those coaches had the misfortune of trying to compete in the tough Southern Oregon Conference and didn’t have the luxury he had when reclassification shuffled the deck more in Crater’s favor.
“Those guys were competing against a lot larger schools a lot of times,” said Beck. “If they get to .500 that was good. It’s really, really tough when it wasn’t really apples to apples during their tenure. But as I learned, no one really cares if it’s apples to apples and no one really cares how many kids you have in your school, you’ve just got to get them ready to play no matter what.”
“But there’s no question the 5A move helped us,” he added. “Competing against like-sized schools and demographics I think really helped us and probably Ashland, too.”
Whatever it has taken to get Crater to this point, and Beck has a long list of thank yous that includes instrumental people like John Anhorn, Harvey Tonn, Chris Parnell, Darren Turituri, Brent Bowker and Jim Powell, among others, the main thing is that the Comets are in a good spot for the next man up.
“I’m really excited for the new guy coming in because it’s going to be just walking into a good situation. It’s not like what I came into, I’ll tell you that for sure,” said Beck. “There was absolutely nothing in place to lean on for a successful program when we got here, so we really had to work hard to build systems in place for success, not just in football but in a lot of areas. But we did a good job of that in 13 years, from the kids in the program to upgrades in our facilities and ties within the community, and I’m proud of that. I’m not stepping away when there’s nothing around.”
Beck is also not stepping away without having some quality conversations with those who will find his successor.
“It’s been really good communication and I really like their ideas and like their plan for everything,” he said. “We agree on the type of person who would be successful coming in and I really think they’re going to find someone good to take over.”
Until then, competition is still in Beck’s blood as a Crater High teacher who is also in charge of the school’s mock trial team.
“We’re the defending regional champions and we have a really good team again, so I’m excited about that,” he said. “Hopefully we can win it again.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry