R: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
J: I’m Janine Beckie. I’m originally from Colorado. Currently, I’m living in Manchester because I play football for Manchester City.
R: How did you end up here in the UK?
J: I was playing professionally in the States and I had wanted to make the move to Europe to play at some point. It was about a week before the transfer window closed and my agent was like, “We need a decision so we can move forward with the paperwork.” It was the fastest life-changing decision I’ve ever had to make; I knew absolutely nothing about the UK and I had no idea where I was going to live. I said yes and was in the UK about three weeks later.
R: What was it like arriving in the UK?
J: Looking back on it now, it was a complete whirlwind. The weather is definitely darker and more gloomy than I’m used to but the people make up for that. I’ve really enjoyed the cultural differences and it’s been a challenge for me, but I’ve loved it so far and I’m excited to explore more.
R: Can you just tell us a little about your faith journey?
J: I was raised Catholic. It was super traditional but I think that it instilled a foundation of faith in me, and it was while I was at a Christian high school that I started to learn more about Jesus and make my faith my own… It was in Year 9 of high school that I accepted Jesus, and I felt that was the moment my life completely changed, but I didn’t realise at the time that there would be so many highs and lows.
R: You went to college in the US. How was that for you, particularly from a sports point of view?
J: When people think of university in America, they think partying, staying out all night, lots of alcohol and, for some, drugs, and everything that’s portrayed in the media, unfortunately. But there’s so much about university that I think is really cool. It’s such a pleasure to be a part of an athletic department at university; especially one as big as Texas Tech. Being a student athlete is a really special experience. It kind of becomes like your own little community, which I think can be both beneficial and really detrimental if you don’t also allow yourself to have the wider university experience – I definitely think I got caught up in the student athlete experience during my first year, or two years maybe. After that, I started to get a little bit more involved in having friends outside of athletics and getting settled in a church which, looking back, I wish I had done more.
R: How did you find being a Christian in that environment?
J: There were times when I felt really far from God and times when I felt really close, and my convictions were different in those times. It’s tough to be a Christian in a student environment – to stand up for what you believe and not fall under the peer pressure of doing something that you don’t want to do or being somebody that you’re not.
For me, I had this fear of missing out, usually when my friends and team mates were out on a Friday night and I wasn’t there. But I tried it and it wasn’t for me, and I think it’s really important for people to find their thing – if going out isn’t yours, then that’s ok!
R: And were there any specific moments in college where you feel like God really showed up?
J: I was a part of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), which is represented at a lot of major universities in the country. In my junior year of college I felt really led to share my testimony, even though I didn’t really know how to go about it. My dad passed away from cancer when I was 8, so I shared about losing him, but beyond that I don’t even remember what I said. I went in there feeling so much pressure to say something memorable, but once I got in there and started it was like God was speaking through me. That was a big deal for me.
R: So here you are now at Man City. What has that been like so far?
J: It’s the dream team for me. Experiencing football in the UK has been so incredible in itself. You’re in the heart of Europe and the Premier League. It’s been super challenging but also so rewarding because I’ve been here for just under a year and the difference that’s made in my game has just been outrageous. But starting all over again and being in a new environment has its frustrations, and on top of that it’s a brand new country. Any transition is always really hard but finding a church community has been a saving grace in helping me feel more at home.
R: Can you tell us a bit more about how church has been an important part of your journey?
J: It was a pretty crazy story how I found my church, involving friends of friends and connections over social media, and it’s turned into something that I could never have imagined. I didn’t know a single person when I moved here and what’s so cool about church is that, wherever you are, it’s like another family and you can walk instantly into community. We play on Sundays, so it’s difficult to be around as much as I’d like, but even the limited times I’ve been able to make it have been life-changing and helped me grow in areas of my faith that maybe I had placed limits on in the past.
R: We talk a lot with students about being am ‘ambassador’ for Jesus on campus, in the hope that continues for the rest of their lives. What does it look like for you to represent Jesus in the dressing room of a professional football club?
J: As well as being American and Canadian, being a Christian is another thing that makes me different from most of my team mates, and I definitely notice that; especially because I’m so open about my faith. I get a certain amount of ‘banter’ and I’m still working out the best way to deal with that, but I’ve had cool experiences where people have asked me big questions about God. I also have a team mate who has come to church with me a few times and when certain things have happened I’ve been able to tell her, “You know that’s God, right?” And then it makes all those hard moments so worth it, even though they are things I wouldn’t want to experience. My church community has been so encouraging though, assuring me that God is doing something through me even if I don’t see all the fruit from the seeds that are planted. And it’s my job to just be me and continue to look as much like Jesus as I can in that environment, even when I make mistakes, like we all do.
R:How have you found being more in the public eye since your transfer?
J: Since I’ve come here my social media following has grown significantly, which is great, and one thing I do is make it clear that I’m a Christian because that’s what I want to be known as, even if that does mean I’m opening myself up to comments! But I also think I’ve caught myself being way too into it sometimes – those moments of comparison that are just so powerful and such a battle for this generation. But then I realised that what you’re seeing are just the highlights and that was so profound for me. Even I was doing it! I was looking for acceptance from people I didn’t even know, and even though it’s so silly I think we all do it. I’m someone who has a lot of self-esteem but still I’ve started to recognise triggers, particularly around how I look, and I’ve learned to remind myself when I’m going that way that I’m a child of God and I’m loved no matter what.
R: Looking forward, what are some of your dreams?
J: I want to win the World Cup, and be the best player in the world at some point in my career, and now I have the belief that I can do that. But I also want to take my platform and use it to grow the kingdom and I have a lot of ideas about how to go about that. Football gives me an incredible platform for networking through people that I know, and sport is so powerful – for young people, especially. So I want to start a non-profit that helps families who have been affected by cancer to get their kids involved in sport. When my dad passed away my local club dug in and helped my family out financially and that’s where my idea has come from. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get started on that but then I remember that I’m only 24 and it’s ok to just chill and enjoy the moment. But I’m seeing little seeds along the way and I know that when I’m ready the right people will be around to help me.
R: So we’ve invented a time machine and you’re sat across the table from your 20-year-old self. What do you say?
J: I know it’s a bit of a cliche but I would say it’s impossible to be perfect. We’re flawed human beings, and you’re not going to please everyone so you might as well just be yourself. Also, don’t be so hard on yourself. Pushing myself has definitely helped me get to where I am today, but I’ve also caused myself a lot of pain and wish I had learned this lesson four years ago!
R:Thanks so much, Janine. We’ll be cheering you on!