Apr. 18—Kelley Beane’s Hall of Fame racquetball career started when her mom, Barbara, won $5,000 on a scratch ticket.
Beane, who was 22 years old at the time, used the $100 her mom gave her from the winnings to join the old Manchester Court Club so she could learn to play racquetball. That membership led the Candia native and Manchester resident to a 30-plus year career in the sport with stints as a club professional, New Hampshire Racquetball Association president and, most notably, the Team USA Junior National Team coach from 2003-2013.
For her many contributions to the sport, Beane will be inducted into the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame on June 6 in St. Louis.
Beane, 58, said former Team USA player and three-time amateur world champion Mary Dee, who is from Weare, took Beane under her wing at the Manchester Court Club.
“Off we went from there,” Beane said. “It was the convergence of good luck, good timing.”
Beane’s Team USA career began in 1997, when she was asked to serve as team leader for the adult team on a trip to Mexico. Beane, a Raymond High School graduate, accepted the invitation, which also led to her meeting her best friend.
During the flight to Mexico, Beane was reading a book by legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt before Team USA player Cheryl Gudinas struck up a conversation.
“She was the new team leader,” Gudinas said of Beane. “I wanted her to feel welcome. I started talking to her and we’ve been best friends ever since then.”
Gudinas was Team USA member for 23 straight seasons, ended the pro tour season ranked No. 1 four consecutive times, won two U.S. Open championships, three International Racquetball Federation world singles titles and two gold medals at the Pan American Games. She also served as Beane’s assistant during the latter’s 10-year run leading the Team USA Junior National Team and as head coach for three years after Beane stepped down for medical reasons.
Beane inducted Gudinas into the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame in 2019. Gudinas will do the same for Beane this summer.
The junior team, which has age groups from 8 to 18 years old, won seven world team titles over Beane’s time as both an assistant and head coach. She was named the U.S. Olympic Committee Coach of the Year across all sports in 2000, 2002 and 2012.
“The greatest thing she did was she worried about the kids’ lives outside of racquetball,” Gudinas said. “Sometimes I would say coaches or organizations, the most important thing, they say, is to win world titles. We said, ‘Well, no. We have to have successful, confident, emotionally stable individuals first. Only then will we be able to win world championships.'”
As a coaching duo, Gudinas said she liked to be the good cop to Beane’s bad cop. Beane was a tough coach but took that approach because she wanted to make her players better and tougher, Gudinas said.
“I’d have to say she’s probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the world regarding the game and strategies, walking that line between, ‘I’m going to be your friend but I’m also going to be hard on you, tell it the way it is, I’m not going to sugarcoat stuff,'” Gudinas said.
Beane said her favorite times coaching the junior national team were during training camps held at the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“For me, that’s my Disney World,” Beane said. “I love being on that campus, having athletes there, running them through all the practice sessions. It’s such a good place to be, to work out.”
Gudinas remembers many days coaching alongside Beane where they were outside for 16 or 17 hours before going to bed exhausted and cursing at their alarm clocks the next morning. “The reality was we loved it,” she said.
Beane also occasionally coached Gudinas ahead of or during tournaments, which Gudinas said always gave her an edge.
“One of the greatest things she brought when she’d show up to my tournaments is every time she’d sit down to get ready to coach me, I knew for a fact my opponent — I’d see their shoulders kind of fall like, ‘Oh (no), Kelley is here,'” Gudinas said. “The opposing coaches would be like, ‘(No), Kelley Beane is here.’ They knew she was going to make it harder for their athlete to beat me that day.”
While she no longer does it on a racquetball court, Beane still coaches, now as a personal trainer. Beane said it is just as rewarding to see the people she trains make strides as it was when her club or national team players learned a new skill.
“I’m fortunate that’s what I chose right from coaching into helping regular people, watching them succeed,” Beane said. “I still get that rush and excitement for what I do.”
Beane, who started playing racquetball again casually last year and plays pickleball every week, said she is looking forward to renewing friendships at the Hall of Fame ceremony this summer.
“To have this come my way is an incredible honor,” Beane said. “It’ll be nice to be able to speak and let people know that.”