Asmussen: Beckman isn't giving in

Remember the first time you drove a car?

You hit a curb or two. Maybe ran a stop light. You weren’t perfect.

But after a bit of practice, you had the ‘69 Chevelle (blue with a black top) humming along.

It’s the same thing for college football coaches.

Only with nicer cars and bigger paychecks.

They aren’t great the first day.

They learn from their experiences, both good and bad.

Coaches reach their peak at their own pace. Some hit the ground running.

Others need more time.

Tim Beckman enters his third season as Illinois coach and his sixth season overall.

He is not the same guy today who took over at Toledo in 2009.

That was 27 wins and 34 losses ago.

That was in another state and another conference.

Yes, there is pressure to win at Toledo. But it is not Big Ten pressure.

He is in the conference where his dad worked.

He is in the conference that he grew up following.

To survive,  coaches need personal growth.

How is Beckman different now than in the first year with the Rockets?

“I guess patient would be the word,” Beckman said late last week in his Memorial Stadium office, which included new jerseys from the Nike rebranding.

The first five years of his head coaching career have taught Beckman that you have to be patient.

It’s fine to set a standard as long as you accept the idea that it won’t always go your way.

A 2-10 first season at Illinos proved that to Beckman.

“It was terrible,” Beckman said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. It gave you a little reality check that you can be involved in something that is exactly opposite of what you want.

“In 2007, you’re undefeated and playing in a national championship game and in 2012 you can’t win a game. That was hard, real hard.”

The rules are different for head coaches.

No hiding. No avoiding the media after a bad loss.

Players can hang out in the locker room and wait for everyone to leave.

The head coach stands in the line of fire. Always.

As a defensive coordinator, Beckman dealt with the questions and the naysayers for half of the team.

Now he hears about the offense, defense and special teams.

Beckman doesn’t argue when you ask him about being a Type A personality.

Most head coaches fit the same category.

To make it work, some try to find a way to relax.

“Everybody says you have to, but I think my personality fits with the game,” Beckman said. “This game is a hard game. This game is a fast game. I love football, so I don’t have hobbies.”

Not yet. But one might be forming: Golf.

Last week, he snuck out to the nearby course and played nine holes with his family.

Shot a 46.

“It was me against (son) Alex on the ninth hole. He was up a stroke on me and I got him.”

Six more wins like that one, he earns a bowl bid.

And maybe a contract extension. And a nicer ride.

Bob Asmussen writes Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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