Long Road to Glory
BY RYAN HATHAWAY // MAY 7, 2015 //
The list of accolades Kylie Beltz has accrued throughout her basketball career at Curry College is a long one.
She made the 2014-15 All-CCC First Team, and was named the conference’s Senior-Scholar Athlete of the Year. Beltz was second-team All-CCC her junior year, honorable mention her sophomore season, and was the team’s Rookie of the Year back in 2012. Beltz, who is graduating this month with a degree in nursing, has led the Colonels in scoring each of her four years, and recently became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,465 points.
And she almost chose not to play basketball in college.
Beltz grew up running and dancing, and still possesses a lean build. She grew up in Minnesota, and spent most of her summers at a camp that her mother, Marie Schmid, directed.
“All summer I was outside, doing every type of activity you can imagine,” says Beltz.
Schmid says her daughter loved being outside as a child. She describes Beltz as “fiercely competitive,” and says she was always trying to keep up with her older brother.
Beltz started playing basketball in the second grade. But her focus and dedication to the sport were tested as she was entering Pequot Lakes High School in 2007. At the end of Beltz’s eighth-grade season, her basketball coach, John Lueck, took his own life prior to a game. He had been her first coach, and had coached essentially the same group of girls, including his two daughters, from the time they were in second grade.
“We were all waiting for him at the game and he never showed up,” Schmid says. “It was devastating for all the girls.”
The team had an AAU game that day, and Lueck was supposed to meet them there. He was reported missing a few hours later and was found that night. None of the girls on the team learned about Lueck until they got home.
“I remember everything about that day,” Beltz says.
Except the basketball game itself, which is unusual for her. The game has since faded from Beltz’s memory due to everything that came after it. She remembers her initial reactions were shock and sadness, but she also felt angry.
“I wondered why he would do that, not just to me, but to his kids and wife,” says Beltz. “More than anything, I felt for them.”
Lueck’s death changed Beltz and her teammates. “That following season, I felt like we were all completely different people,” she says. They played with an increased focus and improved team chemistry.
“I played with the same girls through our senior year of high school, and he kept us together—when he was there and when he wasn’t,” says Beltz.
Beltz’s focus would be tested again at a young age. Her parents got divorced when she was a freshman in high school, and her father, Jeff, moved more than a 1,000 miles away to Missoula, Mont.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been that mad before,” says Beltz. “We tried to make it work, but a phone call once a week is not a relationship.”
Beltz says she didn’t speak to her father for almost a year after that, and remembers the “silly reason” she eventually called him.
“I saw the movie ‘The Last Song,’” she says. “It’s about a girl who doesn’t talk to her father for three years, and then finds out he has cancer and is dying. I called him on the phone bawling my eyes out right after.”
“It was challenging for her,” says Schmid. “She withdrew into that a little bit. She didn’t want to hurt or upset either one of us, but she would have preferred to have more involvement with her dad.”
Beltz describes most visits with her father as extravagant vacations, which her mother couldn’t afford because she was paying to put Kylie and her brothers through college.
“I feel bad for her and I feel bad about doing things with my dad, but I still want to see him,” says Beltz. “You just feel torn all the time.”
Despite the loss of her longtime coach and her parents’ divorce, Beltz’s basketball game continued to improve by the time she reached her senior season of high school. Her father did come back for her final game.
“At that point our season’s over, and basketball is over,” says Beltz. “I hadn’t decided to play at Curry yet.”
But even after choosing to pursue a college basketball career, it was a long time before her dad came to watch another game. Beltz says she often expressed to her father how important it was to her that he come to see her play. On many occasions she called and asked him to visit her for a weekend, but he only ever came to one game, and it wasn’t until this past season.
“He would say it didn’t work financially. But then he’d call two weeks later and ask me to go to Florida with him,” she says. Beltz was upbeat most of the interview, but looked at the ground and played with her zipper as she said this.
Her father eventually did make it to one game in Beltz’s time at Curry. It was against Endicott on Feb. 14, 2014, which Curry won. Beltz scored a team-high 13 points, but she also had a team-high six turnovers and was 0-for-6 from behind the three-point line. Nonetheless, she remembers that her dad sat in the top row of the middle section in the bleachers.
Beltz, a guard, led the Colonels this past season to the conference title game, where they fell to the University of New England. She averaged 14.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.6 steals per contest.
“He saw one game my entire college basketball career. And that will always bother me,” says Beltz. “But knowing my mom has been there is the biggest thing.”
Beltz describes her mother as the strongest woman she knows and uses her mother’s handling of the divorce as evidence that one can truly overcome any adversity.
“She has found the things that make her happy,” Beltz says. “It’s comforting knowing that, yeah, she’s alone but she’s doing so much. And she does everything for her kids, and that’s awesome. It’s why I try to be like my mom.”
Beltz tries to do things for other people, too. In the summertime she works as a counselor at her mother’s camp, Camp Foley, working with the teenagers. She also instructs waterskiing, wakeboarding and sailing. She led community service trips last summer as part of the camp’s Leader-in-Training program, through which they did some landscaping work and planted a community garden for low-income families.
Beltz has so enjoyed her time working with kids that she has decided to become a pediatric nurse after college. She completed her senior year clinical at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.
Beltz admits that being a nursing major and playing on the basketball team were a lot to handle at times. But her work ethic never faltered. She earned Dean’s List honors every semester at Curry, and will graduate with a gpa of approximately 3.75.
“I wanna make a difference. You can have such a big impact on kids even if you don’t know it,” says Beltz. She also admits that she could see herself as a basketball coach one day.
“My basketball career is over, but I’m definitely not done with basketball,” she adds.
Schmid says she is so proud of the woman her daughter has become. “She has found the positives in her situation, and she’s developed a compassion for other people with their own difficult situations.”