After beginning her career with a selection to the America East Conference’s All-Rookie Team, Beth Spoehr enjoyed a four-year career for the Maine softball team. She appeared in ninety-five games during her career as a Black Bear and collected more than 200 career strikeouts.
When her collegiate career ended, Spoehr wasn’t done putting up numbers on the diamond, as she earned an opportunity to play internationally, serving in a player/coach capacity for a professional team in Sweden. She also served as an assistant coach for the Swedish national team during the European Championships.
Her time overseas included another remarkable experience: a backpacking excursion across Europe, with stops that included Berlin, Venice, and Paris, among others. Spoehr and a friend took on the month-long trip with just an ordinary-sized school backpack as their luggage. As she looked back on the trip, Spoehr said, “Sometimes I can’t believe we survived; it was the most freeing experience of my life and just an insanely unique experience.”
After returning stateside, Spoehr entered the world of college coaching, working as an assistant coach at her alma mater while she finished her college degree. The following year, less than two years removed from her own playing career’s end, she received a unique opportunity.
“I became a Division 1 head coach at 23 years old, at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay,” Spoehr noted. “It was an extremely unique experience; getting that opportunity at such a young age changed my life. It taught me many lessons about being in the professional coaching world, how to lead a group of people, and countless other [lessons]… honestly too many to list.”
Spoehr spent two seasons as the head coach at Green Bay, winning nearly forty games and leading the Phoenix to a .500 record in conference play under her guidance. Head coaches in their early 20s are a rarity at most college levels, especially Division I, and Spoehr recalls many highs and lows that came with holding the position at such a young age.
“”Being the head coach, at times I didn’t know if I had it in me, and other times, I was extremely sure of myself,” she recalled. “The biggest challenge was learning on the go… sometimes I created even more work for myself because I was learning while doing. If I made a mistake, I would create double the work, have to go back, correct the mistake, then redo it and make sure that I got it right for the next time. It could be come overwhelming at times, but it was such an adventure… Looking back, I am proud of how much I put into that program and how I challenged myself in just about every way possible taking that position.”
Now, years later, as she reflects on her tenure leading her own program, Spoehr is equally retrospective and insightful. “There are some things that I wish I knew then that I know now,” she said. “If I could do anything different about that experience, I wouldn’t put so much pressure on myself. I expected a ton out of myself in that position and was quite hard on myself, especially if I made a mistake. I would have acknowledged the natural process of success, knowing [that]failure at times is part of that process. I’ve matured even more since my time there and I have seen a lot of growth in myself. I wouldn’t trade that chapter in my life for anything.”
Following her two-year stint at Green Bay, Spoehr left the program and took the pitching coach position at perennial NCAA tournament contender North Dakota State. She was part of a pair of Summit League championships in Fargo, a tenure that ultimately became the finale of her college coaching days. “Throughout those four years of coaching, I learned more than I did in my four years of playing,” Spoehr now says.
Now, Spoehr is an adaptive PE teacher by day and a private softball instructor by night. Coaching individual athletes at a young age was a major part of Spoehr’s decision to leave collegiate coaching. “Personally, I felt that I could make a greater impact on the game [by]coaching more pitchers and players at the youth level,” she said. “That’s really where my heart is… [young players]are so moldable, and you can really impact their passion; self-esteem; belief; and purpose at that age.”
Reflecting on her own career thus-far in the game of softball, Spoehr shared a token of wisdom. “One of the proudest days of my life was graduating as a student-athlete,” she said. “You get to take that with you and no one can take away all of the work that you put into the journey, on and off the field.”