New Arabians tennis coach says life has taught him how to motivate others
By Brady Extin | The Times-Post
PENDLETON — Bryant Beard has lived a life much different from your typical 32-year-old.
For the Middletown, Indiana, native and now Carmel resident, that all began when he was a child.
Beard was born with a coarctation of the aorta — a narrowing of the main artery that leads from the heart. This type of defect is typically discovered at birth, but for Beard, went undetected until he was 9.
After dealing with pain in his chest after running or performing physical activity, and after having tests done, a doctor diagnosed him with the condition, and at that point Beard was forced to stop participating in all sports, which at the time for Beard were AAU wrestling and baseball.
Beard had his first surgery at Riley Children’s Hospital at age 9 and a second — angioplasty — at age 10.
“It’s something I never really reflected upon too much until recently as more people find out that that’s my past. I think coming out of that experience, and for anybody that comes out of that experience and spends time in the hospital as a kid, your perspective on life just really starts changing subconsciously, and kind of organically without realizing it,” Beard said. “It’s funny because I think many people look at these kids like myself, and they admire the strength that they have, but the reality is, is that you don’t have a choice, and it just comes naturally with it.”
After the two surgeries, Beard was cleared to play non-contact sports, and according to him the years of development that he missed limited him on the basketball court and baseball diamond, but entering his freshman year of high school he found a new passion.
“I kind of came into tennis with a camp at school right before high school, and I think I just found myself,” Beard said. “I think it meant a lot more than a sport for me at that time and that age. It was very empowering and liberating. After that, I just tried to make the most of it, and every day.”
To say tennis would become a major part of Beard’s life from that day forward would be an understatement.
He would go on to play varsity tennis throughout high school, before going on to play collegiately at Anderson University, and ultimately becoming head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams at Anderson.
But it was the years in between playing at Anderson and becoming head coach that were maybe the most vital in sculpting Beard into the person and coach he is today.
With the heart condition already having a major impact on his life, it was another, lighter, aspect of the word that would be a part of the next big change in his life.
Beard, born on Valentine’s Day, met his now wife Alinka — also born on Valentine’s Day — in college.
With Alinka studying to finish her master’s degree, the pair lived in Germany and Sweden for a year, and eventually Honduras for a year. In all three stops, Beard taught English to the youth, and taught himself to speak Spanish.
“Naturally, I think I’m a very curious person. I love learning new things,” Beard said. “Looking back on the different places that I’ve lived, it was never my specific plan to do that. I think that’s just kind of where life took me, and I was open to letting that happen and making the most out of it.”
Those stops have had an influence not only on the way he approaches life but on the way he approaches teaching and coaching tennis.
“I think it’s completely impacted my communication skills and the way that I see the world and see people. I don’t see people as a part of a specific group, but as a person. When you’re working with so much cultural diversity all of the time you start to realize that although groups have things in common, you really start to learn who is behind each individual, too,” Beard said.
“As a coach, that really helps me to stop, slow down, and understand the why behind people and what motivates them, or maybe what doesn’t motivate them, so that I can start to build trust and transparency to find new motivation for them.”
Since his return to the States in 2015, Beard has had a huge impact on tennis in the central Indiana area. He was hired as the head coach at Anderson in 2015, and won coach of the year in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 2019.
In September 2021, Beard took his current job as director of tennis at Community Sports and Wellness in Pendleton, where he has since grown tennis participation more than 600%.
Now, Beard is taking on another role in the Pendleton community.
At the Feb. 2 meeting, the South Madison Community School Board of Trustees approved Beard as the new head coach of the Pendleton Heights High School boys tennis team.
Beard is taking over the spot left after previous coach Royce Hammell’s retirement.
“I always had it in mind. There were a few other openings in the past at nearby schools, and at the time I had some communication with them. I just didn’t think that me being so new into the role of director that it would be possible,” Beard said. “I am also very conscious of a conflict of interest with the role that I have of helping all tennis in the area, not just Pendleton. But I always said that if the opportunity at Pendleton opened up, it was one that I would consider, just because Community Sports and Wellness is in the town of Pendleton. I want to be connected, and I’m already working with many, many young kids, as well as our team is working with young kids in Pendleton.”
For Beard, the position at Pendleton Heights presents him with the opportunity to grow tennis in the community even more so than he already has.
“It’s important to know that my vision for the growth of tennis holistically has not changed with me taking this role. I’m sure that a lot of kids that I work with that will be competitors at other schools are probably like ‘Oh my gosh, I hope he’s not leaving.’ Absolutely not. For me, I don’t see this as taking away from what we’re already doing, but adding to it,” Beard said. “I think for the kids locally it’s going to create so many opportunities to play before school, to train over the summer. They just haven’t had the opportunity to train in the offseason this easily, and I think that is going to be vital for their growth.”
Having made an impact on many youth tennis players in Pendleton and surrounding areas, and having a state-of-the-art facility, already has Beard set on a path to turn Pendleton Heights into a tennis powerhouse in the future, and that’s exactly what Beard has his eyes set on.
“I think with the young kids we have coming around the corner, we have the opportunity to really be something special. One of my goals is to build upon the tennis program, and create a Top 10, Top 5 team in the state,” Beard said. “It’s going to take a few years to do that, and it’s going to take a lot of help from the community, but I have some ideas of what that looks like. But more than winning, I just want to be a part of the growth of these kids and this town. I look forward to down the road looking back, seeing what that’s meant.”