Directing sports for 25 years – Barb Beckett
By Allison Knopp- Y Guest Writer

A woman who did not have the chance to play sports like the boys in high school has channeled her passion into giving women and girls – along with men and boys – of all ages the opportunity to play almost any sport they want right here in their own community.

Barbara Beckett, Youth and Adult Sports Director at the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA, has been working for the organization for over 25 years.  She started her career by refereeing for adult men’s basketball games three nights a week when they needed some help. From there she used her enthusiasm and creativity to create changes for the YMCA and herself.

“Occasionally at the Y they want to add new programs and I had some ideas,” Beckett said. “I started saying, ‘Hey why don’t we try this, why don’t we start a softball league, why don’t we start a women’s league, why don’t we start this and that.’”

The program that Beckett says she is most proud of, however, is the Pop Warner football program.

“That is the program that probably got me established,” Beckett laughed.

The YMCA started Pop Warner in 1995 with eight teams and 120 players and has since grown to 90 teams and more than 2,500 players in five counties. The teams have also given communities the opportunities to start cheerleading programs so that interested girls can get involved as well.

“It does a lot of good,” Beckett said. “It prepares a lot of players to play at the varsity level. Most the teams that have made the playoffs in the area have had Pop Warner teams.”

Beckett says she loves seeing the results of the program and how it changes kid’s lives.

“I see it all the time,” she said. “We have had several Pop Warner players go on to the NFL which has been great to see.”

As the sports director, Beckett is very excited about the future of the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA.

“I’m very proud that we are as close to building a new Y as we have been in the 25 years since I’ve been here,” Beckett said.

She says her duties will remain essentially the same but the new facility will make the programs much better.  Basketball, lacrosse and soccer will be among many of sports that will be able to utilize the new and updated courts and fields.

“My main goal though is to have a new office with a window that I can see outside,” she joked.

Beyond sports programs and the possibility of the latest facilities, however, Beckett says one of the most rewarding parts of her jobs is the opportunities and experiences she has and that she gets to see people have every day.

Originally from Mt. Pleasant, Mich., Beckett came up to Traverse City to go to school at Northern Michigan College, then after a little time away decided she wanted to come back for good.

While in school in Mt. Pleasant, Beckett did not have the opportunity to play sports because they didn’t have women’s teams. She played intramural sports and is now glad to have the opportunity to offer the community many women’s and co-ed sports programs.

“It is very important that girls get the same opportunities,” she said. “If we can add a woman’s program we do.”

Beckett remarked that another one of her favorite parts of the YMCA is that that the organization collaborates with schools, counties and other outside organizations.

“Making that network, that’s fun to me, I always want to know everybody,” she said. “The Y does that very well.”

More than anything though, Beckett loves seeing the happiness and difference the YMCA makes in people’s lives.

“People that come in here to play sports are always happy,” she said. “I never get tired of it.”

She said that people remember their time at the YMCA and keep coming back. She has had people in her sports programs and then years later have their children join.

Nevertheless, the most important part of Beckett’s job is what the YMCA says right it in its vision statement: “We build strong kids, strong families, strong communities.”

“We accomplish our mission,” Beckett said as she smiles. “I see it every day.”

Allison Knopp is a 2010 Michigan State University graduate in Journalism and is a free lance writer. The Grand Traverse Bay YMCA thanks her for this profile. More information on the Y can be found at www.GTBayYMCA.org .