After 40 years as a coach, teacher and athletic director at George Wythe High School, Rusty Beamer is hanging up his cleats.
He retires this summer.
“When I think of George Wythe High School, the first person that comes to mind is Rusty Beamer,” said GWHS Principal Dante Lee, who also retired this year. “He’s probably watched more athletic events than anyone in the history of the school. He’s been associated with the school as a graduate, 40 years as a teacher, a coach and athletic director. When I think of GWHS, I think of Rusty Beamer being the biggest supporter I know of George Wythe athletics.”
Beamer started his career at GWHS in 1980, after student teaching at Rural Retreat High School and graduating from Radford University. While at RRHS, he helped with the football program there. But in 1980 he was hired at GWHS and never looked back.
The high school didn’t have any openings on the football coaching staff, so Beamer helped coach the track team.
“But I helped with the football program, too,” he said, adding that football is his first love -outside of his family.
Beamer has been married to his wife, Stacy, for 26 years. She is a teacher at Spiller Elementary School. Together, they have two children, Leigh and Deacon.
His second year, GWHS put him on the football coaching roster, where he remained as an assistant coach from 1981 to 2006, when he became the school’s athletic director.
As the AD, Beamer oversaw all athletic programs, ordered supplies, handled transportation for the teams and was in charge of scheduling and rescheduling games. He also worked out situations between coaches and parents.
“I tried to soothe the waters there, I guess,” he said. “I also gave guidance to coaches. I tried to be somebody they can talk to and talk out problems.”
Over the years, he came to learn that the most dreaded part of the job was not upset parents or disgruntled players - it was rescheduling games.
“You have to work with other schools and your school to find a common spot to put a game in without the risk of having kids play too many games in a row,” he said.
As the athletic director, he also made the call to cancel games, which could be tricky at times.
“You have to make sure that the playing surfaces are safe for a competitive ballgame,” he said. “I relied on the coaches a lot for that; they know their surfaces best. You try to keep games scheduled, but Mother Nature wins out most of the time.”
Beamer said he always hated to call off games because people want to stay in the same routine. And, sometimes, he’d call off a game only to have Mother Nature play a trick on him.
“Sometimes the weather would never show, and you feel like an idiot sometimes,” said. “That’s happened a few times, too, and you just feel bad.”
Beamer said the No. 1 concern of the parents of athletes revolves around playing time, specifically too little of it.
“As a coach, sometimes you have to be truthful with parents and tell them that their child is not as good as the person in front of him; that he needs to get better and here is what will make him better,” he said.
Beamer’s biggest joy as a coach, social studies teacher and athletic director doesn’t have to do with wins, losses or SOL scores.
“Just watching the kids mature and get better, that is always a great reward,” he said. “To watch them come in as ninth-graders and by the time they are seniors, they go through a maturity process that is always great to see. As ninth-graders, they are a little immature. You see them grow into young adults by the time they graduate. A great deal of change takes place, and they always go out better than they came in.”
Beamer didn’t keep track of his win-loss record.
“It’s probably about 500; that’s all I know. You are going to win games and you are going to lose games,” he said. “I always tried to go through the philosophy that you want to be a good winner, but you also want to be a good looser. The wins are going to come.”
Beamer’s favorite sport, football, teaches players about more than touchdowns and tackles.
“You are dealing with the possibility of 22 starters, so the kids learn to work together. There’s a lot of bonding and comradery between players. Kids work out a lot of problems amongst themselves to be able to work together. They want to win, and they work to win. When they are defeated, sometimes they come back and work a little harder. They sort of work it all out.”
During Beamer’s 40 years at GWHS, teams have won 19 state championships and students have won numerous individual state championships. Before he arrived, the school had won only one state championship – girls basketball in the late 1980’s.
“We’ve had a good run in athletics,” Beamer said. “Out of the 19 championships, three have been academic championships.”
As for the future, Beamer plans to maybe trout fish, play golf, substitute teach and become George Wythe’s biggest fan at sporting events.
“It’s time for me to become a fan instead of an administrator,” he said. “To just sit back and enjoy and take in the atmosphere of the game instead of worrying about this could go wrong, that could go wrong. (As AD), you are always on pins and needles making sure people get in safely, behave correctly and exit correctly.
“I can come to a ballgame and maybe I can start second-guessing the coach’s decision. Everybody in the stands does it, so maybe I will, too. I’m kidding – I would never do that because I know what it’s like on the other side of the fence.”
To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email firstname.lastname@example.org