She Wouldn't Let A Bad Break End Her Career

Posted: November 20, 1997

Kendall Beck was looking forward to the 1996 season on the Kent State field hockey team. She was coming off a freshman season in which she had played a key role for the Golden Flashes, who finished the season 14-7. Beck had started all 21 games and had scored four goals and added two assists.

But as the season approached, Beck felt a pain in her leg. She had no idea what was causing it but attributed it to all the running she had done to get ready for the season.

The season began and the pain persisted. The team was struggling. She tried to put the pain aside. It wouldn't go away, so she decided to have it checked out.

``I just thought I was a little worn out from the preseason work,'' Beck recalled. While the ache was no doubt the result of her running, it turned out to be coming from something more complicated than she suspected. So complicated, in fact, it turned out to be career-threatening.

Beck, a 1995 graduate of West Chester Henderson, discovered she had a stress fracture of the femur. Athletes commonly suffer stress fractures of the shins and feet. A stress fracture of the thigh bone is rare.

``They kept asking me if I got hit [in the femur] with a ball or a stick,'' Beck said earlier this week while relaxing in her Kent, Ohio, apartment. Told she could be healed in a month, Beck was buoyed. She had played five games when Kent State decided to redshirt her so the fracture would have time to heal.

``I barely got the redshirt,'' Beck noted. ``Had I played one more game I would not have been eligible for it. It was hard to stop playing because the team was not having a good year and I wanted to help.'' Kent State finished the season 4-17 without Beck.

Beck, an outstanding softball pitcher as well as field hockey player while at Henderson, eventually resumed running to stay in shape. The fracture refused to heal, however, and started giving her pain again. She went through a series of CAT scans and X-rays. Last spring doctors put her on crutches. Then came the sobering news.

``Doctors talked about putting a metal rod in my leg,'' she said. ``They told me, `Maybe your career is done.' Emotionally, it was awful. My mother was freaking out. She kept saying, `My 19-year-old daughter may have to have a rod in her leg.'''

Finally, Beck found a doctor in the Philadelphia area who didn't think the rod was necessary. He told her that she needed to give it a rest. That sounded better to Beck, so she stayed off the leg as much as possible.

At the end of the summer Beck was all ready to give field hockey another try. But Kent State's team physician and trainer weren't in favor of it.

``I was fighting with them. My parents were fighting with them,'' Beck noted. ``They kept telling me that if I started running on it again I could be back in pain.''

Beck persisted. She was anxious to play under Kent State's new coach, Kerrie Horgan. And now Horgan is so glad Beck wasn't ready to end her career.

Beck missed her team's first eight games this fall but she finally returned to help the Golden Flashes to a 13-7 record. They made it to the championship game of the Mid-American Conference, where they lost to perennial power Ball State.

Beck got her first opportunity to play in Kent State's ninth game of the season. She got her starting berth back in the next game and kept it for the remainder of the season, scoring five goals and two assists.

In her first game back against Davis and Elkins, Beck scored her team's first goal. The Golden Flashes went on to win the game.

``It felt so great to step on to the field again,'' said Beck, an elementary education major. ``We had a good season. Ball State beat us, 5-1, in the championship game - we didn't play as well as we should have - but we lost to them by 1-0 scores during the regular season. The first one was in overtime and the second one we lost with about a minute to play.''

As a redshirt, Beck still has two years of eligibility left. And Beck plans to use them. That makes Horgan happy.

``Kendall's an absolute delight to coach,'' said Horgan, a former assistant coach at Wake Forest. ``It was quite an amazing feat for her to come back from almost 12 months away from the field and play like she did. She needs to work on her skills but she's such a good athlete. We have nowhere to go but up here. Kendall's commitment and drive should help her to be part of it.''

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