She was damaged. Physically unable to play the sport she loved, and mentally doubting whether a return to the court would ever be possible.
Flash forward through four knee surgeries, and thousands of hours of physiotherapy and training at the gym, and Burke Bechard is back, doing the thing she loves, and proving she is one of Ontario’s top women’s basketball players with the University of Guelph Gryphons.
“I have had four knee surgeries over the course of two years which really physically and mentally did some damage to me,” explained Bechard of her torn ACL, an injury that continued to recur throughout her early teens.
“Knowing all the work I put in, the countless hours at physio and at the gym paid off, is a relief and such an amazing feeling. It was a roller coaster of emotions, but just the fact that I made it through my first season healthy and happy makes everything I went through worth it.”
She not only made it through her first season of OUA basketball with the Guelph Gryphons women’s basketball team, but she starred for Guelph in the process.
Bechard, a Dover Centre product, and Chatham-Kent Secondary School graduate, was named to the OUA All-Rookie Team, averaging 10.8 points per game, and leading the Gryphons with 2.4 steals per game, while averaging 28.4 minutes per game.
Admittedly a competitive person, Bechard now brings the energy and commitment to the court she used to overcome what many would consider a catastrophic injury for an athlete.
“I’ve been told I bring energy to my team,” says Bechard, who was named to Team Ontario multiple times in her youth. “My favourite thing to do is play defence, and that’s where our best offence as a team comes from. I would do anything for my team, and I know they would do the same for me. Being all in, 100 per cent committed, ready to do whatever I can, certainly is a main reason for any success I have had.”
A London Ramblers alumni who is studying psychology, Bechard was thrilled with her choice of team and school, feeling at home in Guelph and back on the court.
“My first season was amazing,” she explained. “I love and 100 per cent stick by my decision to go to Guelph. My team is one of a kind and we have such an amazing chemistry. My coaches stand by me always, they are supportive, encouraging, and loving. It’s an honour to be able to play for them, and be a Guelph Gryphon.”
That’s a lot to say for an athlete who only a few short years ago had no idea if or when she’d play again. And now, for Bechard, with her comeback complete, the future looks bright, and more importantly, she’s happy.
“Back in Grade 9 and 10, I had my doubts. I knew because of my injuries it was going to be tough, but I love basketball. I had no idea where I’d end up, but I’m so glad this is where I am.”