LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Lexington United Volleyball Club community mourns after founder and director Chris Beerman lost his nearly month-long battle with COVID-19 over the weekend.
Lexington United has about 230 current athletes who compete nationally. Chris Beerman and his wife Mary Beth started the club about a decade ago, coaching thousands of players—hundreds to the collegiate level.
Monday afternoon at Lexington United practices, players received a sheet of paper that reads 'CB Play for him.'
"Each player will get a piece of paper that they will write what they will do every time they enter the gym or compete in a match to honor Chris," Club Coach Jenni Morgan explained. "Chris was a fierce competitor, and they will continue to play for him now and in the future."
Morgan said the volleyball club is looking for ways to honor Beerman nationally as players are scattered across the country.
"As we grieve and honor Chris, he wouldn't want anyone to feel sorry for him," Morgan said. "Chris loved his life to the fullest. As the club, we will honor him in many different ways. Players will be getting shirts; they say United for Coach Beerman. These shirts will also be sold to parents and the community. The players of Lexington United will play for Chris."
Information on how to buy the shirts is forthcoming.
Caroline Cole, a senior at Dunbar High School, is on Beerman's current team. She said she would not be playing volleyball if it was not for him.
During her nine years with Lexington United, she knew Beerman as more than a coach.
"I think he really focused on, like, the player as a whole, instead of little individual things," Cole said. "So, you never really felt like if he yelled at you or something, you never felt that it was personal or anything like that. He was just truly trying to make you better and then moved on to the next thing."
Cole received a scholarship to Kennesaw State University to play volleyball starting in the fall, but due to COVID-19, she, like some of her other teammates, has not had her official signing day, something any college-bound athlete looks forward to with their family and coach.
"We actually haven't had our signing this year, which was part of the reason my team is really struggling with because he's the reason we're all going where we're going," Cole said.
Leah Edmond also played for Beerman. She went on to play at the University of Kentucky and earned All-American and SEC Player of the Year honors.
"I think because of him, I play the way I did in college," Edmond recounted. "He invested in me from the beginning. And he wouldn't let anyone undervalue me."
Edmond said he cared for all his players like they were all "his own daughters." She explained she knew he wanted her to succeed and still checked up on her in college to make sure she was pushing herself to be "the best version" of herself.
Every player that LEX 18 spoke to explained how Beerman's program put Lexington volleyball players on the map.
"When I first got here, I mean, Lexington volleyball wasn't anything when I first got here, and so seeing that change and people understanding that the volleyball players that have come out of this city are the way that they are because of him," explained Edmond. "Even if you didn't play directly under him, he probably did your high school camp, probably did a positional with him; you were somehow involved with him at some point in your volleyball career if you play in Lexington. And I think people just have to realize that, like he is a key reason as to why volleyball is so good in Lexington and why now we're respected as a city that has good volleyball players it's because of what he's done nationally with our club."
That club will continue with a tournament this weekend in Indianapolis that Beerman has coached teams to win, especially in recent years. Cole said her team would play for him.
"After people pass away, you talk about how many lives they affected, but he truly did affect thousands of lives across the country, coaching on multiple different levels, and then running a club and sending hundreds of girls to play scholarship volleyball, where they wouldn't, like I said, many of us wouldn't even imagine playing volleyball," said Cole. "So he really—to change a sport in a city is a big—It's not a light task at all...and he definitely did that."