By VINCE PELUSO
When Beth Simpson signed up to help the Edgewood track program last season, she had no idea what she was getting herself into.
As a thrower at Conneaut high school then at Youngstown State University, Simpson was interested in helping the Warriors thrower, but boys track coach Jim Sanchez felt Simpson could do more.
“Last year, I originally put in for an assistant position then I kind of got talked into head coaching,” Simpson said. “I knew the basics of coach and I knew my throwing inside in and out but he kept telling me, ‘you can do it, you can do it.’ But with the process of doing all the paper work and everything I got a late start so I missed the first week and really the whole year I was playing catchup as an assistant.
“It was a really good, and chaotic, experience for me.”
Simpson won’t be behind going into this season, as she worked with the Warriors throughout the indoor season and will take over as coach of the program this spring.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “Our numbers are definitely up, I only have two seniors. But I have a huge freshmen and sophomore group that have run some amazing times and are great athletes and workers. I have a junior thrower in Cortney Humphrey that broke the school record as a sophomore.
“I have amazing distance runners and hurdlers coming up as freshmen. I can’t slow these girls down, they hit the ground running and have really impressed me with their work ethic and dedication.”
Those unfamiliar with the Edgewood landscape probably have never heard the excitement coming from Simpson’s players and students when she enters a room.
The science teacher regularly tops the charts as the most popular teacher at the high school, why?
She believes it’s because of the way she cares for her students.
“One of the things when surveys come back and they ask them why I’m their favorite teacher, one thing that comes back is the kids know I genuinely care about them,” she said. “I joke around and say, ‘I don’t have a life.’ That’s because my students and my athletes are my life. I’m not just trying to develop good athletes but good people, too.
“I think just knowing that I care about all that then I build a rapport with them and they respond to that.”
Much of Simpson’s attitude comes from her parents, Dave and Pam Simpson. Dave is best known for his announcing at Conneaut athletic events and had long tenures as a head coach in several sports.
“It’s in our blood a little, both my parents are teachers, they’re very committed and I was raised that way,” she said. “They’re very involved with the community itself. My dad, even in his retirement, runs the clock at games, he’s the ‘Voice of the Conneaut Spartans.’ My mom runs a lot of extracurricular things at Conneaut, as well.”
Although her parents are supportive of everything she does, as Conneaut supporters and Simpson being a Spartan alum, it makes for some interesting conversation among the family.
“It’s been fun, I’ll be honest, the first time I went to a football game they started playing the Edgewood battle drum and I was clapping and it kinda felt wrong,” Simpson said with a laugh. “But really it comes down to the kids. Whether it’s Conneaut kids or Edgewood kids, it’s all about being supportive of them. My parents are very supportive of me, they were the first ones to go to Sports n Sports and buy me all this Edgewood pride wear.
“They keep joking that I need to make a half Edgewood, half Conneaut shirt.”
Simpson said working with a coach like Sanchez will make her life much easier as she enters the world of head coaching for the first time.
“Oh my gosh, absolutely, I’m pretty sure he’s like my No. 1 fan,” she said. “He has a lot of experience and is very flexible and willing to work with me and hear my crazy ideas. He’s been a huge supporter of me and just has a wealth of knowledge. I was very hesitant about taking over and he kept encouraging me and said he trusted me. It’s been amazing.
“I can’t ask for another coach any better than that to have in my first year and I think we’re building a great program together.”
While Simpson is the girls coach and Sanchez the boys coach, they’ll split their time between both as Simpson focuses on the throwers and Sanchez works with the sprinters.
“I’m the thrower coach and the way we’re approaching this is to really run the track and field team together,” she said. “I think my experience with having been an athlete, I think it’s more of an advantage for girls to be mixed in with boys because girls are competitive and if they’re up against a boy they’re going to push even harder. So to train them together gives us an edge I think.”
Although the experience of being a head coach will be new, Simpson believes her experience last year as an assistant will be a great benefit for her.
“Last year, I learned a lot about what I want to do as a head coach,” she said. “I think we’re going to have a really good season. That first week is really critical and last year, I kind of missed that, so it’s exciting to be there for that. The kids that don’t do a winter sport made it a point to come to the indoor track out at Spire and it’s such an amazing facility I’m so happy we got out there.
“I seriously feel like the indoor track is crucial and is going to lead us to having a great season.”