Brooke Beam has collected just about every individual accolade there is to collect during her storied soccer career.
The senior forward has earned First-Team All-Conference and All-State honors every year since arriving at Indian River High School for her freshman season. As a junior, she was named to the state’s Top XI list. And, recently, she became the Indians’ all-time leading scorer, as the first soccer player in school history to eclipse the 100-goals mark.
But there was still one thing that Beam hadn’t accomplished — something that she’d made a personal goal ever since stepping foot in the gym at IR some four years ago, a starry-eyed freshman looking up at banners for legendary IR athletes Jamie Jarmon and Caitlin Forte.
Little did she know then that one day she’d have a banner of her own hanging in the rafters, as last Tuesday, Beam became only the third athlete in Indian River High School history to be named a Gatorade Player of the Year.
“Freshman year, I would just walk into the gym, and Caitlin Forte’s banner would be up on the wall — it’s been a dream of mine for a long time,” Beam said. “It’s just a dream come true really. There’s no other way to put it.”
Forte had earned the same statewide award for girls’ soccer in 2011, with Jarmon following up with his statewide award for football in 2012.
But while Beam was all smiles after receiving the news and finally realizing her dream, she had a very different look on her face when head coach Steve Kilby called her and teammates Emma-Lee Merrick and Aline Check-Guzman into his classroom that morning at school.
“Kilby pulled Emma-Lee and Aline and I aside and sat us down and said, ‘You’re in trouble,’” Beam recalled of the odd occurrence.
At the time, she didn’t know that the girls’ long-time coach, going back to their days at the River Soccer Club, had already let Merrick and Guzman in on the prank, as he went on to tell them that he had gotten a call claiming that three girls in IR athletic gear had been spotted after the previous night’s game, up to no good.
Confused, the girls tried to explain that it couldn’t have been them.
‘He said, ‘Well, Mr. Murray is coming in here and Todd’s coming in here, to talk to you guys,’” Beam later recalled, with a laugh, of the seemingly serious situation.
“I got an email last week telling me that she was a finalist, so I’ve been checking my email like crazy,” Kilby explained. “I came in this morning and I opened up my email, and I saw ‘Congratulations Coach.’ I couldn’t get it open quick enough.”
In that email, Gatorade had suggested that Kilby surprise Beam with the news that morning. And while it didn’t say anything about elaborate pranks, Beam was definitely surprised when the lights went out and a video with Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt started playing.
“On the Smart Board, there was this video he started playing, and it said, ‘Congratulations —you’re Gatorade Player of the Year,’” Beam described. “I was shocked. It was just a really great moment.”
“She was just grinning from ear to ear,” said an also-grinning Kilby. “I just felt we needed to not make it easy on her.”
The moment’s excitement extended throughout the day, as word of the red-letter news spread through the hallways and into practice, where Beam was congratulated by teammates, teachers and coaches.
“The team is absolutely thrilled. They know that she’s so very deserving,” said Kilby. “Brooke is a huge part of what makes us go.”
“She just has such heart when she plays, and such dedication and love for the game,” said Merrick. “She’s amazing. She’s, you know… just Brooke Beam. It’s an honor to play with her.”
Heading into their final regular-season game at Ursuline, Beam led the team with 25 goals and 16 assists on the season, but Kilby said her leadership off the field was equally important in earning the award.
“Another big part of it is the type of person that you are — character really counts with this award,” he noted. “The amount of time and energy that Brooke puts in volunteering at the local churches, out at River Soccer Club and other organizations in the community, is really astounding when you think of the type of student she is.
“With the amount of time that she gives to charitable groups and then to be the type of player she is, and the type of energy and work that goes into that — it’s mind-boggling that she gets all of that stuff done.”
While she may not have any more individual accomplishments left to check off her list, an example of that character showed when Beam said that, really, her ultimate goal this year is to bring home a state championship — for her school, and for the team that she couldn’t have done it without.
“Definitely, winning the state championship would be the ultimate goal,” she said. “If I can help bring that back, it would just be amazing. That would just be the goal of all goals.”
“We’re a small school, but we’re just a strong group, and I’m definitely thankful for that,” she added. “Kilby and the team has helped me out so much along the way. I just want to thank them.”