By Bob Schaller//Correspondent | Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Allison Beebe had a great run at First Colony, and moved onto Santa Clara. She’ll be coaching the U.S. women’s team at 2018 Pan Pacs, reprising a role she had for Junior Pan Pacs in 2012. She talks about how hard it was to leave Sugar Land, Texas -- and the Houston area -- but how the move was about growing as a person, in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. I catch up with you again away from home?
Allison: I am (laughs) on the road again. I’m doing well. Living the dream is what I say when people ask how I am or what I am doing!
2. Your adorable, hilarious, clean kids jokes on Facebook are a highlight of my day, where did that begin?
Allison: It started randomly, at an Austin series meet a few years ago. I was with (coaches) Kate Lundsten, Rachel Stratton-Mills and Dan Jacobs, and someone had a Laughy Taffy, and there was a joke in it. It asked, “What is brown and sticky? The answer was a brown stick. The rest of the week, we were trying to find the most awful-but-funny joke, It’s just really fun.
3. Why leave Sugar Land and First Colony?
Allison: I loved Sugar Land and the families at First Colony. But I was not doing a good job of balancing my work and personal life. When I moved to California, I refocused. I found an amazing church. I’ve been able to make friends and network like never before. Here I am in Silicon Valley, finally with some balance in my life.
4. That balance is hugely important, isn’t it?
Allison: That was my main objective. People who grow up in the sport know athletes can be pretty obsessive. I was about to turn 40 and realized I needed to change.
5. So you knew it was the right decision when you made it?
Allison: I knew that I was making the right choice for me personally. I had no idea what I was getting into moving (laughs) to California -- but I soon realized that California and the south, and Texas, are very different.
6. Did California end up offering what you needed in terms of perspective or could it have been somewhere else?
Allison: I just needed this space and time. I’m not sure it needed to be in California per se. I was just stuck in a rut. I loved Sugar Land. But I had stopped growing. As a person, I felt like I had to move to start growing again.
7. Not an easy process -- I say that having done the same thing at that age -- was it?
Allison: Relatively speaking, it was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. I’m one who wanted to put myself into a different situation to grow. I had no idea how challenging it was going to be. I learned a lot, grew a lot, and now have a different appreciation for life.
8. You never fail to cheer me up when you talk -- where does that positive vibe come from?
Allison: I think a lot of it is my attitude. You learn when you wake up in the morning, that you make the decision of how you are going to approach and carry yourself during, and by extension, how you are are going to impact others lives. That’s easier for me now that I have that balance. Because with it comes a very healthy mindset. So it was a much needed change.
9. You miss Texas?
Allison: I definitely miss the south -- and Texas. Being in Houston, with my parents in Mobile, Alabama, they were just an hour flight away. So a few times a year I could have our last practice of the week and fly home for a long weekend. Now, there are no direct flights from where I’m at -- it’s a whole day to get there. So I miss certain things, but I know this was the right move for me.
10. What do you miss food-wise?
Allison: I miss grits. It’s (laughs) so strange! They don’t have them in California! It’s a comfort thing; it reminds me of my childhood. They don’t have a strong taste, it’s just that I feel at home when I have them.
11. Since I was raised in the Bay Area, I know the weather is so good -- or do you miss Houston’s weather?
Allison: That’s the one thing (laughs) I don’t miss about the south, the humidity! My first summer in California, I wore a jacket to morning practice. I didn’t (laughs) realize it was summertime until August! Back home, It could hit 100 in January, so I would dread the summers. So the weather in northern California has been one of the best parts of the change.
12. I think what I remember about California was doing something different every weekend for a whole year -- and still having a full list -- are you finding tons to do?
Allison: Absolutely. And again I had no idea of what i was getting into. I’ve been in California for 3 ½ years now, but I’m nowhere near running out of things to do, and you certainly can’t say that about a lot of places.
13. So do you feel more balanced now?
Allison: I definitely am more fulfilled and complete. Santa Clara, (CEO) John (Bitter) had approached me about it 14 months earlier, so it took a good year of thinking “Do I want to do this,” and I put a whole lot of thought into it.” And even then I still didn’t know for sure. It was a leap of faith.
14. But isn’t a leap of faith just another step forward if you’ve thought it out and believe in what you’re doing? Or has it been that transformative?
Allison: Absolutely, yes it has been. I think it just reaffirmed that I needed a change. I’m pretty good at taking a step back and taking a look at the big picture rather than letting little, tiny things blow out of proportion. The challenges were pretty overwhelming (as far as moving) compared to other things I have done. Within the first six months, I lost my grandfather and it was a little overwhelming. But I learned how to cope with things, how to manage it all. Or maybe I just re-learned how to cope with things, and to learn from my mistakes. I evaluate what went well or did not, and understand what went into that. For the first time in my life, I have had some time to work on me, so that was important for growth.
15. We talked about the jokes earlier, who is your favorite comic?
Allison: I don’t know if there is an easy answer or one that is politically correct (laugh) across the board. I love the Big Bang Theory, and I love Will and Grace --I don’t know if there are specific jokes I like. I like the story lines and characters who are funny, who can make you smile and laugh at life. I binge watch that when I need a smile and I always come out of it feeling better.
16. I used to go to the old Candlestick Park to watch the Giants and wear a down jacket -- in the summer! There’s a chill in the Bay Area at times, isn’t there, or is that enough to miss the Texas heat?
Allison: Houston has too many great things to even start to list, but as far as being outside there, the humidity, heat and pollen affected me. But certainly, even the water here -- I’ve been to Half Moon Bay a few times, which is beautiful -- and the water can be cold. So I miss the Gulf Coast in terms of beaches. But here we do have the water and mountains, just about anything you can imagine. And it is expensive to live out here, but with it comes with great comforts and scenery.
17. How about Simone Manuel, your standout at Sugar Land, and what she’s become as an adult at Stanford?
Allison: Oh yes, she’s so impressive, and along with the choices she has made, you can credit that to her parents. Obviously, they supported her as a swimmer, but it was more important to them that she develop as a person -- that was the much greater priority over athletics. So I wasn’t surprised to see how amazing she’s become as an adult now because I saw her parents make her take mistakes as life lessons for her rather than make things easier on her or make her feel entitled.
18. You did a lot of smart work with Simone, and part of it was restraint in terms of no weights, but also swimming other events where she had little chance of winning -- how did you fare so well in what you did with her?
Allison: I think again you have to take the cards you have been dealt and put a lot of thought into how you are playing your hand and how it affects what they’ll face down the road. It was challenging because I knew Simone was talented but I also didn’t want to see her not improve. So she stayed off weights in high school, which made it more challenging to help her go faster, especially without overdoing the yardage. So we did a lot of work teaching within the process, like why you have to kick really hard in workouts when you are really tired. And that’s so you have the legs in the last 15 meters of a 100 when you need them. It was fun helping her connect the dots, because it made me do better. That’s such a critical role for club coaches, to make sure you only do things that are going to help them to improve and get better in the future. You have to give your athletes the tools to succeed without overloading or overwhelming them, especially at younger ages and stages of development.
19. Simone changed the world in Rio, but I thought Budapest was just as important to back it up -- am I off in that thinking?
Allison: Not at all. I don’t want to say it’s frustrating, but not everyone understands what goes into that. She was incredible at Worlds. And that’s what makes Simone so incredible -- that she can get up on the blocks and race someone who just broke the record two days earlier. She learned that from rehearsing it and learning that in her workouts. She knows how to give it everything she’s got. I was actually more surprised that people were surprised that she won again. She has always risen to huge challenges her entire career. A lot of that goes back to her parents putting her in situations that weren’t easy. She doesn’t get complacent, and that helps her step up when it’s time. Her coaches have all done a great job, and whatever I did working with her, well, that was just me doing my job. But her career would not be what it is today had her parents not allowed that journey to be made more difficult at times and for her to have to deal with it. The value of that cannot be overstated.
20. We’ve talked at some odd times, after international incidents, even terror attacks -- and you have this wonderful calm and kind perspective -- first of all thank you, and secondly and finally, from where does that come?
Allison: Well, I don’t (laughs) know what to say except thank you! I’m the oldest of four and my three younger siblings are all incredibly different. As a kid I learned how to approach, how to communicate, how to help people with completely different thought processes with younger people who were counting on me. As a kid, I learned from that. One of the things I read last year after a terror bombing was how the underlying tone in all religions, regardless of what you read or what you believe in, is the value of the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you’d have done unto you. If everyone embraced that, even if they aren’t religious, how much better of a place would the world be? It wouldn’t be fair for me to ask others to embrace that if I didn’t myself. So I’ve tried to, and always continue to, making that a part of myself, and who I am, every single day.