Head Varsity Track & Field Coach Beverly Blackwell began her path in coaching and wellness like many—playing scholastic sports. The Signal Mountain native ran track, played softball, and cheered for Red Bank High School, and though she expected to leave the sports world behind with high school, her passion for competition and exercise science has kept her in the game.
Despite pursuing a mathematics major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, an on-campus job with the athletic training department inspired Blackwell to switch her studies to physical education with an emphasis in athletic training in order to pursue a sports medicine career. This redirected path provided hands-on experience with sports teams, fitness training, and her own personal endeavors in strength training. As a student athletic trainer, Blackwell worked with a number of the Mocs’ NCAA Division I sports programs, including football, women’s basketball, and wrestling, gaining the trust of coaches and earning the opportunity to lead additional workouts for athletes requiring extra fitness. “This is when I began to discover my passion for teaching and fitness training,” Blackwell says. When she wasn’t in class, the training room, or the gym, Blackwell was often at the local Sports Barn, maximizing her own physical fitness.
After her time as a Moc, Blackwell migrated south to Georgia Southern with plans to earn a master’s-level sports medicine degree. But once again, she slightly altered her direction due to a positive work experience. “As a graduate assistant, I ended up being more on the PE side of things, teaching PE classes, strength & conditioning, body conditioning, tumbling, racquetball, and more,” Blackwell says, who eventually changed her master’s studies to exercise science.
Ready to put her classroom knowledge into play, Blackwell joined the YMCA staff after graduating. Over the next 10 years with the YMCA, she served at gym locations in Nashville, Virginia Beach, and Atlanta. She became faculty of the YMCA of the USA in group cycling, teaching others around the country to become certified instructors. During her time in Atlanta, she developed a fitness initiative with the local YMCAs, which evolved into a national program that she spearheaded.
Also during her time in Atlanta, Blackwell connected with fitness industry leader Chip Smith, the founder of the MORR Sports Performance Training System and a prominent trainer for NFL prospects. Blackwell has collaborated through the years with Smith and led several cardio sessions for the combine that were hosted at YMCA’s Atlanta facilities, which were attended by NFL now-veterans including Roland “Champ” Bailey, Kirby Smart, Olandis Gary, and Brian Urlacher.
In 2005, Blackwell’s career came full circle with her return home as well as to the education field. She taught as an adjunct faculty member at UTC for two years before joining the P.E. and coaching staff at Signal Mountain Middle School in 2007. “This was really my first experience coaching, and I jumped in with both feet,” says Blackwell, who coached softball, girls basketball, and boys and girls track & field and was the assistant coach for boys wrestling—all during her first year with the Eagles. Blackwell soon expanded her coaching experiences when Signal converged its middle school with a brand new high school system in 2008. She was the assistant coach for the high school girls basketball and soccer teams, but being the head coach of the high school girls and boys track teams was where she found her niche. “Since the sport possesses many qualities and training regimens similar to long-term fitness, it merged really well with my background and existing experiences,” Blackwell says.
Building the school’s successful track program from the ground up, Blackwell quickly proved her coaching ability. She led the girls team to back-to-back state championships in 2014 and 2015 and was named both years as Tennessee Coach of the Year and Best of Preps Girls Track Coach of the Year as well as being twice-nominated for Scrappy Moore Coach of the Year. The experience also sparked Blackwell’s passion in coaching and for teaching girls specifically. “It made me realize how important it is for girls to know that someone believes in them, to know that someone supports them,” Blackwell says. “That realization, combined with the opportunity that arose at GPS, led me to believe I had something I could really give to the all-girls school and its students.”
Blackwell joined the Bruisers as the P.E. Department Head in 2015 and, within the past four years, she has served as an assistant coach for Middle School softball and varsity diving. She was also a varsity track & field assistant coach before heading up the program this year. Additionally, Blackwell has also taken on some of the strength and conditioning courses. “Getting into the strength classes here at GPS has really brought me full circle,” Blackwell says. “It has been like going back to the beginning at the Y for me, because that’s where I got my start.”
Blackwell enjoys how her position in the P.E. and fitness classes pairs with her coaching roles. “By being able to identify their potential in the PE classes, we occasionally help students recognize a talent they didn’t realize they had,” Blackwell says. “It’s like opening a new world for them.”
When Coach Blackwell is not wearing Bruiser black and blue, she is likely found in Auburn attire and is frequently spotted via the jumbotron or ESPN Sportscenter in the Jordan-Hare Stadium, where her two older children attended. She is currently training for the 10-mile Stump Jump in October and getting her daughter ready to attend the University of Tennessee.