Drew Beckie was just 11 years old and his younger sister Janine only 7 when their father, Gary Beckie, passed away following a three-year battle with skin cancer.
It was a loss that molded both future professional soccer players in a major way.
“It shaped me and my siblings into who we are — it brought us a lot closer even though I think something like that can often tear a family apart,” Janine Beckie said. “We also surrounded ourselves with sports, and friends, and soccer coaches and teammates to help us get through it. Real Colorado was amazing to us during that time, and we owe a lot to the club for that.”
In the 16 years since his death, both players have done much to make their late father proud.
Drew, 26, starred at Arapahoe High School and the University of Denver before building a career for himself as a defender in the North American Soccer League, where he currently plays for Jacksonville Armada FC. Meanwhile, former Valor Christian and Texas Tech standout Janine, 22, is one of the top strikers on the Canadian Women’s National Team in addition to her burgeoning pro career with the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League.
Their success is largely a credit to the strength of their mother — Sheila Beckie raised all four Beckie kids by herself following her husband’s passing — as well as their participation in Kids Alive Colorado while their father was sick, a program that provides support for children whose parents have cancer.
Drew’s experience in the program caused him to found Walking In Grief’s Shadow (WINGS) in 2014, a program that helps kids and their families deal with the death of a parent. He earned the 2015 NASL Humanitarian of the Year Award for his efforts, which included grants from the city of Ottawa for the club to put on parties and other events for affected families.
“Kids Alive had a profound effect on me as a child on dealing with those emotions in the correct way, and I really wanted to bring that therapy I got from that program to soccer,” Beckie said. “It was about bettering someone’s life by bringing them around a professional sports environment and getting their mind off of whatever they’re going through. I’m certainly not a therapist by any means, but I know that support, and that talking about things, can make the process easier.”
At 15, Drew moved to Canada to sign with the Vancouver Whitecaps of United Soccer League, only to change his mind after two months and return to Arapahoe, retaining his amateur status for college.
“Everyone in that program wanted to be the next players to go over to Germany and play for clubs like Borussia Dortmund or Mönchengladbach,” Drew said. “At the time I didn’t think I was ready for that, even though a lot of players did stay and get those opportunities to play in Germany. But a lot of those players, maybe 75 percent of them, aren’t playing soccer anymore. They got burnt out, and I didn’t want that to happen to me and not have an education to fall back on.”
Meanwhile Janine, the 2012 Colorado Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year, continues to focus on honing her goal-scoring skills. She netted the fastest goal in Olympic women’s soccer history last year in Rio de Janeiro when she scored 20 seconds into Canada’s match against Australia, and has racked up 18 goals in 34 caps for Canada to date.
“My national team success has a lot to do with the belief the team has in me, and coach John Herdman has put a big emphasis on me doing big things in the game,” Janine said. “Playing next to a legend like Christine Sinclair doesn’t hurt, so this environment really allows me to be my best and I’ve found another level of my game. And I think there’s another level that hasn’t yet been unleashed, and that’s only going to come with time and experience against more international opponents.”
As for the future? Both Beckies are ready to jump on any opportunity that comes their way, whether that means Janine’s emergence into an international star or another shot at playing in the MLS for Drew.
“I’m a very spiritual guy, so I’m on God’s plan, and I know that if I get an opportunity, I’ll take it,” Drew said. “Right now, I’m excited I get to play soccer play for a living and I’m working on getting better everyday to get more opportunities with the Canadian national team or elsewhere.”