Heartbroken to miss this summer’s Women’s World Cup while recovering from knee surgery, Janine Beckie is keeping busy off the pitch.
After tearing her ACL in a March preseason game in the National Women’s Soccer League, the 28-year-old is in the midst of a long recovery, unable to help the Portland Thorns defend their NWSL title, or to suit up for Canada this summer in Australia. She could have travelled with the Canadians just to be with the team, but recently decided she won’t.
“But there’s a silver lining in this injury,” she said, before she made a quick trip to Toronto this week.
The outspoken winger went to Toronto to negotiate on behalf of the women’s national team with representatives from Canada Soccer. Both the men’s and women’s teams have been embroiled in a months-long labour dispute with the national governing body, trying to negotiate terms of a collective agreement.
She was also in Toronto ahead of the WNBA’s first exhibition game in Canada this Saturday – a game at Scotiabank Arena that sold out in minutes – lending her voice to a pay-equity campaign for the charity Fast and Female, which hopes to empower girls through sport.
“An NBA mascot earns three times what the highest-paid player in the WNBA makes, like isn’t that concerning?” Beckie said. “The biggest argument I see from the sports Twitter trolls is that ‘women’s sports don’t make any money, so no wonder they’re not paid as much’. I think we’re seeing if women’s sports are given the opportunity to drive revenue, they will.”
Beckie made time to speak with The Globe and Mail.
How are you feeling? How is the recovery going?
I’m doing really well, thanks for asking. I’m in Miami. I got my surgery there and my boyfriend and his family live there, so I have lots of support and I started my physical therapy there. I’ll go back to Portland soon. This is my first long-term injury, so there’s a learning curve, but I’m also thankful that I have an amazing support system and lots of friends and teammates, who have gone through this, giving advice. The Thorns and the Canadian staff have been fantastic, too.
When and where were you happiest?
The first time that I spent time in Florida with my now boyfriend. It was closer to when we first met and I just love being in the sun, I love palm trees. We live in Miami in the offseason and I just love it, so being here and then adding him to the mix. It was kind of euphoric.
Is he a soccer player?
He is a former soccer player. He owns his own soccer training company now. He played professionally for a few years and then got sick of the politics in the game, understandably, said ‘I’m going to do my own thing’ and he’s an entrepreneur. He’s got a really great business in Miami. To be honest, I didn’t see myself being with someone involved in soccer, but life has a different plan.
What is your greatest fear?
Gosh. Probably losing my family.
Who is a person you most admire?
My mom, she’s a superwoman. I lost my dad when I was young, and I have three older siblings. So she raised four kids on her own, went back to school, worked two jobs to put herself through school and got her master’s degree in counselling. I’ve never heard her complain. She’s an incredible human being, very selfless.
What is your greatest indulgence?
I spend a lot of money on coffee.
You have fancy, special coffee orders?
Just kind of depends on the day. I’m enjoying a good matcha right now, and I love any iced coffee. For my birthday last year, my boyfriend bought me a nice espresso maker. So I enjoy making really good quality coffee at home, too. I love coffee and probably drink way too much of it.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be musical, to play the guitar and sing.
What is a trait you most dislike in others?
There’s a long list, but probably selfishness and arrogance.
What do you dislike about yourself?
I’m very impatient. I’m a bit OCD about things like being on time. I like to see myself as an adaptable person, but I don’t do very well with change of plans.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Winning an Olympic gold medal.
What’s a book that resonated with you?
It’s a book that our former psychologist on the national team recommended, The Power of Habit.
What is your greatest regret?
I try and see things with a lesson lens instead of a lens of regret, but to be honest, probably not having as much balance in my life when I was younger. I credit my success to being so disciplined, but at the same time, I think I learned the work-life balance a little bit late, and I didn’t have as much fun as I should have when I was younger.
What is one thing in which you have impeccable taste?
I feel like I watch good TV shows. Every time a teammate is like ‘what should I should I watch?’ I’ve got a long list of stuff they will love.
What is an invitation you would love to receive?
I’d love to go to the U.S. Open. I didn’t really pay attention to tennis and then in the last offseason, my boyfriend and I started to play and then we watched the Netflix show about the Tour [Break Point] and it totally got me hooked.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever given someone?
My siblings and I had a ring made for our mom that was similar to her wedding ring. I can’t remember what happened to it, but she hadn’t had a wedding ring for a really long time. We gave it to her for Christmas, and just to see her reaction and see how much she valued it, that was really special.
If not a pro soccer player, what job might you have pursued?
Interior design and construction, like flipping houses. I’m handy and I love design. HGTV is my favourite channel. Growing up with a single mom I learned how to do a lot myself. I do most things around the house that don’t involve electrical work or plumbing. I’m pretty handy at hanging anything and I can build things.
Given the injury, will you still travel to Australia this summer to be there with the Canadian team, or will you play a broadcast role?
Me being with the team was in the conversation for a long time, and [coach] Bev [Priestman] was really keen on having me around, and I would love that more than anything, but unfortunately the World Cup falls at an important time in my rehab. With it being halfway around the world and all the travel within the tournament, the team doesn’t have the capacity to handle my rehab, although full credit to them, they would have explored that. But I made the decision that I’m not going to go, which is heartbreaking. I’ll be in Portland for the summer, watching from a distance and hopefully I can be involved in some way in the Olympic qualifier in September. I won’t be broadcasting as a face for the tournament because mentally it would be too difficult for me to comment on my team. I’m planning on doing some work with TSN, maybe prerecorded segments. I’m grateful for them still wanting to work with me and they’ve been really open minded and creative.