Full Circle: Why I’m Rooting For Alana Beard
Her compelling journey back to the hardwood.
Or, write an entire article about it.
Usually, writers find a way to dance around the topic and find a dozen ways of saying they want a player to succeed without actually saying it.
But I’m more of a literal kind of guy; I’ve never been one to conform and don’t consider myself a “journalist” per se. I’m just a dude who loves and writes about women’s basketball.
So, here it goes: I’m rooting for Alana Beard.
On April 14, 2010, the Washington Mystics announced that Beard would miss the entire 2010 season to undergo ankle arthroscopy and ankle tendon repair surgery. To this day, few realize that could’ve ended her basketball career. At the very least, many people wondered if she could be the player she once was after rehabilitation.
Around that time, Beard accepted my invitation to write a blog for SLAMonline detailing her journey back. She wanted it to be called “Mind of an Athlete.” Perfect. We couldn’t think of a more fitting title for the blog. Hence, she began to take us through her early days of physical therapy and detail what her thoughts were, as an athlete, throughout it all.
Beard was honest. Thoughtful. Genuine. Real. In fact, it was where she first introduced her poignant catchphrase and mantra, “When they say I can’t…I will.”
Here’s the story behind it, from Alana:
“When they say I can’t…I will. This was something I said to myself after having a conversation with someone recently. The conversation was normal to start, but somewhere along the way they brought up the dreaded topic – ‘can Alana come back from her ankle injury?’
As a competitive athlete and of course, me being me, I had a normal reaction of what I refer to as ‘fire’. A fire started burning inside of me. A passionate feeling of determination, motivation, and the desire to persevere and prove the doubters completely wrong encompasses what I describe as my fire.
Considering I’ve never physically been in a fight in my entire life, ya’ll…I had that bull-faced look that I get on the court and I was ready to attack! I didn’t know who I was going to attack, but I was ready..chute.”
After that initial post, Beard took us through her long days of early physical therapy en route to her first time on the practice court putting up shots. The public just doesn’t get that type of access inside an athlete’s mind.
We saw the struggle and difficulties, especially when things weren’t going according to plan, and how Beard turned every negative thought into a learning experience to become better.
“So, on a rehab note I am on schedule and feel as good as I can feel at this point. I am now jogging at 100 percent body weight for the first time in five months. Can I get a ‘whoop whoop?’ It feels so good to actually use my legs again. It feels good to see that all my hard work is paying off. I have made it through the hard part, now its smooth sailing…four more months to go before I am back. I bet you think I can’t wait, but I can. This injury has taught me patience for sure. I mean, I just look at it as my first vacation in twelve years and in four months, the vacation is over. Not really a vacation because rehab is a @#$%^ , but you know what I mean, right?”
How could you not root for Beard?
In addition to hearing about her journey back to the basketball court, we saw what Beard was doing off it to promote women’s basketball. Over the summer of 2010, she was asked to be a guest speaker on how Title IX has galvanized women’s sports.
From her post:
“I was extremely excited when asked by Sheila Johnson to speak at such a prestigious event on such an imperative topic [Title IX]. Dr. J wasn’t able to attend so she asked me to go in her place. So, yes, the environment was a bit intimidating. However, women such as Beth Brooke and Nancy Hogshead-Makar made this experience worthwhile. After doing some research on both women, it became evident that they are pioneers. The fought and paved the way for my generation. They are why leagues such as the WNBA exist.
Women’s sports have come so far (despite what others may think) and I am so proud to be in a position where I am able to be an advocate for not only women in sports, but also women in general. A point I touched on in the discussion was about the struggle and ‘fight’ of propelling women’s sports. I referred to it as the ‘cycle of hope.’ It’s a very simple concept; just as women before me fought for my generation, I understand that I am fighting for the next generation…Keagan’s [her niece] to be exact.”
Today, ironically, Beard’s ankle is fully healthy…aside from a freak sprained ankle she recently received that has kept her out of the Mystics first two games in 2011. Sure, it’s frustrating. But Beard is one of the most resilient and hard working people in professional sports.
In a way, Beard has come full circle since her injury over a year ago. She’s put in the hard work to prove people wrong and she’ll be back on the court soon. We kind of feel like we’ve been on this journey together through her willingness to share her experience with fans.
We’re rooting for you, AB. Can’t wait.