By John Orrell , Contributing Writer
Grafton – Is it possible for a high school coach to go to bed one night, wake up the next day and discover, quite by accident, that he or she has been bestowed with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (MIAA) highest coaching honor not knowing whether they were even in the mix?
Yes, said Steve Beckwith, coach of Nashoba Regional High’s cross-country and track and field teams. The Grafton resident knows the feeling because the surprise recently became very real for him.
Beckwith has been nominated and selected as the recipient of the 2017 MIAA Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year Award. His selection was based upon excellence of character, impact upon students and community and coaching credentials. Beckwith was selected from all nominations across the commonwealth by a screening committee of MIAA Coaching Education Instructors. He also becomes the Massachusetts nomination to the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) Section I Coach of the Year Award for 2017-2018.
But if Beckwith claims that all of this came down as an unexpected surprise, he means it. He was nominated by Nashoba’s Athletic Director Tania Rich along with players on his track and field teams who appreciate the veteran coach for all he has done over his nine years coaching the Chieftains. The trick was submitting the nomination without him knowing it.
“I didn’t know anything about being nominated,” acknowledged Beckwith. “Apparently, one of my captains had a lot to do with this. He came up to me during indoor track session and said he was doing a psychology project about coaching. He asked me to fill it out but I didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t a psychology project but a part of the nomination process.
“When I was notified of my selection, I was stunned and humbled. I didn’t realize where it all came from but it really blew me away. It wasn’t something I looked for or thought about. I feel really good about it and when I found out that some of the boys on the team were behind it, I was amazed.”
Beckwith has been coaching student-athletes in cross-country and track since the ‘90s and has made countless friends involved in the sport along the way. He himself has run virtually every length race there is from short sprints up to marathons. His passion is to pass on that knowledge of how to be successful to younger athletes looking to improve.
“My goal is to get these kids to run their very best at the end of the season,” he said. “I enjoy watching kids constantly improve. I get just as big a thrill when someone who may not be the fastest runner on the team gets a personal best. I get just as big a thrill as they do. A lot of it is because the kids put in the time and the work and it pays off.”
Many of his students have gone on to accomplish success at the collegiate level with programs at UMass Lowell, UMass Amherst, Bowdoin and more. Many have set school records along the way.
Beckwith is also the owner of Beckwith Strings in Grafton. He can be found stringing handcrafted acoustical guitars and other stringed instruments in the early part of the day before venturing to Nashoba in Bolton in the afternoon for practices and meets.
“My philosophy is that if you put the time into the training and you put the work in and you’re true to yourself with the effort then you’re going to improve,” he said of his overall approach to coaching. “I look for improvement. I don’t necessarily look for records or wins, just improvement from everybody on the team.”
The Coach of the Year Award will be presented to Beckwith at the MIAA Awards Recognition Banquet on May 25 at the Doubletree Hotel in Milford, Mass.