Robert Beverly of Bethlehem is pursuing a dream that requires dedication, determination and a lot of hard work.
Beverly is on the US Olympic Training Center Judo Team in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
As a high school competitor for Owen County, Beverly learned the sport from his mother Doris Beverly who competed in judo at Henry County High School in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Doris Beverly learned the sport from long time Henry County Middle School teacher Keith Ritchey who still works in the school system as the homebound teacher.
Ritchey, originally from Valley Station in Louisville, was a high school wrestler who turned to judo at Cumberland College (now known as the University of the Cumberlands).
After graduation Ritchey applied for a teaching job in Henry County. He got the job and spent his entire teaching career here. In his first year Ritchey became close to a student, Scotty Crawford, who convinced him to start a judo team at the school.
“Back during that time Bruce Lee made martial arts popular,” Ritchey said. “Scotty and some of the kids found out I was into judo and wanted me to start a club.”
That was during the 1975-76 school year. The judo team lasted until 1998 and over the years produced some excellent athletes.
Doris Beverly, her sisters Debbie and Donna, and her brother David were among those fine competitors.
Doris Beverly got involved because of a little peer pressure. “During my freshman year Susan Heitz, my best friend, got me into it,” she said. “Two years later my sisters and brother joined the team.”
Doris Beverly became so accomplished that she won a scholarship to Cumberland to follow in the footsteps of her mentor. At Cumberland she became a 5-time All-American and in 1985 she came in first in her division in the Junior Nationals and competed at the World University Games.
“I went to the Olympic Training Center after Cumberland,” Beverly said. “But at the time women’s Judo was not in the Olympics and would not be for another eight years. I decided to come home.”
Doris Beverly returned home and married Mark Beverly, a 1979 graduate of Henry County High School, in 1988.
She credits Ritchey with putting her on the path to success. “If he hadn’t helped me get the scholarship none of this would have happened,” she said.
Ritchey does not feel the need to take any credit or responsibility. “I’ve got interest in what Doris and Robert
have done and are doing but I don’t feel responsible,” he said. “That’s been their work and effort.”
When Doris Beverly says ‘none of this would have been possible,’ she is not just talking about her career. Ritchey’s interest and help put her on the path to eventually becoming a teacher in the Owen County school system, which eventually led her to start a judo team there. Her son started learning the sport as early as the first grade from her as part of the club she had started.
Over the years, Robert Beverly developed into one of the best athletes in the 100 kilogram (220 lbs.) weight class. As a freshman in high school his national junior ranking was fourth. By 2012, his senior year, he had moved up to third in the 100kg division and fifth in the open division which is for any weight class.
After graduating, Robert knew he wanted to pursue judo further but timing, as they say, is everything.
“After I graduated, I had one more shot at Junior Olympics so I wanted to do that,” Robert said. “I enrolled at JCTC as kind of a last second thing. I didn’t really know for sure what I was going to do but I wanted to try the Junior Olympics one more time. I had been invited out to Colorado Springs several times but it had never worked out to where I could go. Eddie invited me out again at the Junior Olympics in the summer of 2012 but he said I would have to wait. He had the London Olympics after the Junior Olympics and then the Para Olympics after that and then everyone got a month off so it was October before I could go out there.”
The ‘Eddie’ that Robert Beverly is referring to is Eddie Liddie, a coach at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. He was a bronze medalist in the 1984 Olympic Games and Doris Beverly’s former teammate at Cumberland.
When Robert Beverly finally got the opportunity to see the training facility there was no doubt in his mind what he wanted to do. “When I went out in October and saw the place, and practiced with the team I said, ‘this is what I want to do. This is the place to be.’ That first week is a gut check. It is intense. If you sum it up in one word the word is intense. You are surrounded by people who are all focused on a goal and want the same thing. People out there don’t play around. Iron sharpens iron.”
Robert Beverly’s decision to move to Colorado Springs meant that he would have to move out on his own, find a job and a place to live and work out whenever he was not at his job.
Not all athletes who are invited to train there receive funding. Liddie helped Beverly find work with a construction company that flips houses. Robert had experience in construction during his high school days and following graduation with Charlie MacDonald of Owen County who Doris Beverly said always liked Robert and supported his judo career.
“I basically get up at 5:30 in the morning and go to weightlifting,” he said. “Then I go to my job until 5 p.m. and then go back to the center to work out. I usually get home about 8 p.m. I do that four days a week and sometimes five days a week. We don’t receive money directly from the center. Their money goes to funding the training and taking athletes to competitions. I am pretty much on my own as far as money goes. I try very hard to support myself. My parents still help some but I try to make it on my own.”
Before moving to Colorado Springs, Robert Beverly competed in a couple of tournaments that led him to the realization that he needed to fight in a lighter weight class.
“I went to fight in Texas in my first senior level competition in November and got a rude awakening. Those guys were men and I was a boy and I knew I had to try a different weight class.”
In the five months that he has been in Colorado Springs, he has dropped from the 100 kg class to the 90 kg class, all while working and training. He has a goal of eventually dropping to the 81 kg class.
Robert Beverly, who is home for two weeks while his boss is on vacation is working for McDonald and working out with the Owen County team. His mother can tell that he has improved already.
“The difference since moving out there is huge,” Doris Beverly said. “His speed and quickness is so much better and he is much more mature now.”
Robert Beverly is following in the line of Ritchey and his mother by sharing his newly learned skills with the Owen County team, which includes James Thompson, who will be joining Robert Beverly soon in Colorado Springs. Thompson, who has been competing in judo almost as long as Robert, was accepted by the Training Center on the recommendation of Doris Beverly.
“I’ve kind of put on clinics with them and am putting on another one before I leave,” Robert said. “A lot of them have been surprised with how intense it is. James may be the only one to show up for the next clinic.”
Doris plans to continue to pay it forward with her club.
“I plan to continue coaching. I have a lot of little kids that I just love coaching. I have kids from first grade up.”
The Olympic Training Center is looking for sponsors for Robert and has set up an “Adopt-an-Athlete Program” to help with training expenses such as uniforms, sweat suits, travel and entry fees to local, national and international events. Individuals and businesses interested in helping out can send donations directly to USA Judo at the following address:
Werner J. Walter,
C/O USA Judo
Olympic Training Center
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Attn: “Adopt-an-Athlete” Fund-Robert Beverly