Craig Beemer: From Classroom to Locker Room

Stingers Academic Coordinator Helping Student-Athletes Excel in Their Studies

Graphic Albano Anis

While the life of a university student-athlete may seem glamorous, balancing schooling with sports is no easy task.

Even with the recent installation of the Perform Centre, talented athletes still have a lot on their plate. 

Student-athletes at Concordia are expected to maintain a satisfactory GPA, while attending practices and playing in multiple games per week, whether at home or on the road.

Professional guidance is one of the best avenues for student-athletes to figure out a balance between school, sports and social activities.

One of the hidden figures that works tirelessly to ensure the overall success of student-athletes is the varsity academic coordinator for the Stingers. His name is Craig Beemer.

Beemer grew up in a small town in Ontario and realized his passion for playing sports at a very young age. By the time he reached high school, he was playing football in the fall, basketball in the winter and rugby in the spring.

After receiving an offer to play football at McGill University, Beemer decided to move to Montreal in 2000 to further his studies and continue to play sports at a high level.

During his stint with the McGill football team, Beemer took a break from the sport to pursue a degree in education. During his last year of schooling, he regained his status as a student-athlete when he chose to join the university’s rugby squad.

After graduating from McGill in 2005, Beemer worked as a football coach at the university, before transitioning to teaching at Loyola High School.

While teaching was something Beemer was extremely passionate about, he felt that he had more to contribute to student-athletes and their school experience.

Fast forward to 2014, Craig dove back into the sports world as an assistant coach with the Concordia rugby team and eventually got promoted as head coach in 2016.

After working as a head rugby coach for the Stingers, Craig received an opportunity in 2017 that permitted two of his passions to merge as one, allowing him to work with students and remain in the sports realm, as the varsity academic coordinator for the Concordia Stingers.

“As much as I enjoyed being in the classroom, the material itself became very monotonous,” said Beemer when comparing his time as a teacher to his current field of work. “Now I just have so many different things going on, which actually sounds terrible, but it's something I thrive in.”

Beemer’s job consists of many different elements. For example, he helps out with student-athlete recruitment, and their enrollment in the proper classes to ensure their graduation. He also communicates with coaches and teachers on a regular basis to help athletes in need of accommodations.

Beemer is seen as the bridge between the academic and athletic departments of Concordia University.

“Coaches are told to go through me for anything academic-related and stuff like that. Just so that the same people over there are not getting bombarded by multiple requests that are the exact same, which was one of the issues before I arrived.”, said the academic coordinator.

One of the coaches that communicates with Beemer is Tenicha Gittens, the head coach of the Stingers’ women’s basketball team. She strongly believes in the importance of academics and values her students’ efforts in the classroom just as much as their play on the court.

Coach Gittens is adamant about her players maintaining a high GPA and she holds mandatory study sessions on a weekly basis. She talked about Beemer’s role on the Stingers’ athletics staff team and reiterated his importance to the success of her athletes, as well as him being a stress reliever for coaches.

“He's (Beemer) somebody who's a resource that the student-athletes and coaches can go to, if they need any assistance, whether it'd be with class scheduling, figuring out, you know, their progress throughout the semester, making sure they're on track to graduate on time, and etc, etc.,” explained Gittens.

Before he was hired for his role in 2017, the respective coaches of each sports team were faced with the additional responsibility of communicating with teachers and ensuring their students are on the right track, which proved to be a heavy burden to carry.

Thankfully for Concordia’s athletes, Beemer’s open-door policy serves as a beacon for students to pop in and seek advice, help with their assignments, or a push in the right direction.

“The first thing I tell them when they say thank you is don’t thank me. I didn’t do anything to really get you your degree. You’re the one that attended class. You’re the one that balanced your schedule. I’m more of a guide than anything else.” — Craig Beemer

On a week-to-week basis, Beemer has a full schedule. He meets with multiple students per day to ensure they are on the right track, and addresses any scheduling conflicts they might encounter with their team practices, tournaments and regular classes.

“I understand that you're 20 to 30 hours a week in your sports, and then you have your studies on top of it. And unfortunately, you know, some of our students are even doing a part-time job on top of it. So, their free time is limited. So that's kind of where my job comes into play, I just try to help whenever and however I can,” said Beemer.

His experience as a teacher and former high-level athlete allows him to empathize with students on a deeper level.

Beemer is able to work as a hands-on tutor in certain subjects relating to math, science and even history, which is a formidable asset in addition to the role of an academic coordinator.

Sami Jahan, a third-year guard for the Stingers’ men’s basketball team is just one of the many student-athletes that have had a positive experience with Beemer throughout his time at Concordia.

“It’s no question many of us student-athletes need people like Craig to help us with success in the classroom,” said Jahan. “He’s taken a lot of stress away from me in many situations because I knew he would have the proper advice and knowledge to guide me in the many times I’ve been confused.”

The role of coordinator comes with a sense of fulfilment. However, to Beemer, the feeling is unique. Beemer explains that although he played a role in the process, he tries not to feel too attached to each case. He wishes for them to be proud of themselves instead of giving thanks for his services.

“The first thing I tell them when they say thank you is don't thank me. I didn't do anything to really get you your degree. You're the one that attended class. You're the one that balanced your schedule. I'm more of a guide than anything else,” explained Beemer when describing the impact he has left on the lives of student-athletes.

While simultaneously helping new recruits find their perfect program and helping current student-athletes find time to study effectively for exams, Beemer makes it a point to hold his students accountable and expects them to be on time and ready to go.

In the eye of the storm, Beemer does not take his position for granted and he strives to see that each athlete who comes through his office door leaves Concordia as the best version of themselves.

“He’s extremely personable and supportive but also direct and clear, all reasons why he’s so good at his job. He’s someone who probably doesn’t get recognized in the same way a lot of others do that are involved on the athletic side of things, but anyone on the inside knows how important he is to student-athletes at Concordia,” remarked Jahan.