Tolbert hangs up the coaching whistle after over 30 years

During any given meet, Coach Beale Tolbert could be found on the sideline near the finish encouraging her runners to stay in the race.  Tolbert will retire from coaching this year leaving her mark on high school athletics after 30 years. (Tricia Virtue photo)
During any given meet, Coach Beale Tolbert could be found on the sideline near the finish encouraging her runners to stay in the race. Tolbert will retire from coaching this year leaving her mark on high school athletics after 30 years. (Tricia Virtue photo)

“Its time to smell the flowers, and watch the trees turn and sit by a waterfall. But, I’ll probably be bored by January and I’ll find something else to do with sports to keep me occupied,” Cross Country coach Beale Tolbert said.

It is now the end of an era. Beale Tolbert, after 35 years of coaching, has decided to retire. What can you possibly say about a woman who accomplished so much in her life with coaching? A young woman who was born and raised in West Texas and was not able to compete in any sports once she entered college. When Title 9 passed, Tolbert was already in the middle of her college career. She then decided what she wanted to do with her life: coaching.

Tolbert coached a number of different sports for a total of 35 years. She coached cross country and track for over 30 years, basketball for 24 years, volleyball for 7 years, soccer for 2 years, softball for 2 years, and football for 2 years. Now before all of that happened, it had to start from somewhere. It started in Brownfield, Texas, she then went to private business for 2 years and also attended weight training clinics. Besides the coaching, Tolbert also was a teacher. Her career began at Gregory Portland. During the small amount of time she was there she won 2 state titles in track and her basketball and volleyball teams were unstoppable.

“I just thought it was easy, they had a wonderful junior high set up that fit into their high school,” Tolbert said “The coaches there were very technical.”

After her journey down past Corpus, Tolbert was recruited to be the track coach at Texas Tech and coached all of the field events and assisted the cross country team. She was only there from 1982-1984, before moving to Aledo where she stayed for 12 years and built most of her coaching resume.  Being there she won 280 basketball games, making it to 400 in total. That team went to state 9 out of her 12 years.

Tolbert always took an athlete to state. She thought it happened often. Over her years of coaching, she noticed that athletes now have different attitudes and concepts of going to state and working hard to get there.

“People didn’t start thinking about going to state, people just wanted to make it to playoffs. That’s what’s wrong with some sports teams today,” Tolbert said “People don’t care if they’re in 4th place, because they still get to go to the playoffs.”

Tolbert says that cross country is the hardest sport to make it to state, as there are over 300 people in the race. She also believes that Duncanville is in most competitive region in the state, her team goes from El Paso to Dallas. She knows that the athletes mentality has changed and believes that athletes are defeated before they even begin. She says she changed as a coach because of the mentality of the kids she coached after she moved to the metroplex area.

“The best way to prove to communities that you’re better than them, is by beating them in something that they’re good at,” Tolbert said.

Every kid that she has coached wasn’t rich, some of them even lived in trailer parks.

“I’ve been blessed with athletes who have changed their behavior to become an athlete, sport is about change,” Tolbert said.

Coach Tolbert has coached many kids, one however, is more special to her. Olympic silver Medalist Brigetta Barrett was a student of Tolbert’s in high school. Tolbert says that she can take some credit of helping her achieve what she has, she leaves the rest of the credit to Barrette’s college in Arizona. It took Barrett 6 years to jump 6’6 and her height is only 6’0. Tolbert helped her win state in her high school career. When she entered college she worked 4 to 5 hours per day to get where she is now.

When Barrett won the silver medal in the high jump in the Olympics in 2012, Tolbert remembers texting Barret saying “It’s really fun to be able to say you’re my kid, and that you’re good.” Barrett waited 6 years to finally hear Tolbert say that she was good, and it really meant a lot to her knowing who it came from. Tolbert believes that Barrett is the best in the world at what she does, and she was willing to coach an athlete that wanted to change.

“I only want to work with kids who are fully committed,” Tolbert said “I’m tired of fighting kids to try and make them great when they say they want to, but don’t want to change.”

Now there is one man that Tolbert knows she will truly miss with retirement. She met this man in Blanco, Texas, and that is when they began their friendship. They have coached together and have taught side by side for 15 years. She got him jobs over here in the Metroplex, and he helped her get on her feet when she needed it. Tolbert said that she doesn’t go on vacations, have drinks with anyone in the building, this is strictly a working place. Coach Lozier, however, is an exception. He is the only man that I’ve broken the rule for, him and his wife lived with me for 2 1/2 years.

“I can truly say that this is the hardest part in retirement,” Tolbert said “That I won’t see him 5 days a week, he is like a brother, son, colleague, and peer all tied together into one.”

She says that when they met, they couldn’t stand each other. She always complained about him to her friends and he would complain about her to his wife. Coach Lozier was a Yankee, and he didn’t understand southern women, and she certainly didn’t want to understand him! But, having both of them together filled in multiple gaps that they have. She says that he fills in what she lacks, and she does the same with him. They both believe that coaching is teaching.

“Her leaving is a bitter sweet,” Assistant Coach Jerry Lozier said “I’m excited that she’s had a full rewarding successful career, but we have worked together for so long that it’s going to be different not having her around.”

Tolbert says that she will miss watching a kid who has no clue what they’re doing, get a medal, and knowing that she had a part in that.

“I’m looking forward to retirement, I’m ready to not be here at 6:00 in the morning,” Tolbert said “But, it’s emotionally hard for me, I hide that. But, I will be healthier with more downtime and I’ll enjoy it more because of my health.”

From start to finish, she’s believed in her kids, even in the moments the kids lacked confidence in themselves. She never gave up, always pushing herself to go further as a coach and her kids to go further as athletes. She maintains contact with the students she coach, even the ones from 30 years back. Tolbert said the students are more than just students to her.

“My students can’t get rid of me, and I can’t get rid of them. We’re family,” Tolbert said.