You can count wins in two ways. One becomes just a numbers game where more will always be better. Statistics determine the victor, and valor goes to those who beat the clock, battle for the comeback or cruise to acclaim by scoring more. Then you can count it where hash marks don’t matter, but heart does. The intangible where victory comes from beating back the past, forging through despite our fears and finding even in life’s darkest moments when we face the demons determined to hold us down, a light that leads us to a better place.
Beckie Francis can count her wins both ways. It would be easy to run down what makes the Oakland University Women’s Basketball Coach successful to the staticians. Watch her during a game and you see every fiber of her brings a ferocity and a tenacity to win. And yet, sitting just below the surface of her screaming plays and shouting words of encouragement and strategy, a soul at peace seems to sit. Because I believe, for her, the bigger win would be one that no record book could measure.
I met Beckie the day before her team played in this year’s Summit League Tournament. As a journalist, I know like reliability and weather in South Dakota, feelings and interview subjects should never mix. But I sitting across from Beckie, I left behind by stoic storyteller facade and faced her as a sister, a survivor sister. Beckie took that booming voice of a basketball coach and cut through the silence of sexual abuse, slicing the stigma by dedicating herself to making sure no other child encountered the same hell she did. By sharing her survivor story, and working to pass legislation known as Erin’s Law to create educational programs about sexual abuse for children, she beat her abuser. While different circumstances defined our childhood, and the lack of innocence left to it, a bond exists where we knew we both came through days so burdened by memories of the past, living even in the moment or making it to the next minute seemed a struggle.
Sunday Beckie received the 2013 USBWA Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award. Courage seems like a simple word to describe the way she’s gone from victim to victor, but I cannot think of a woman or a winner more deserving.