TRAVERSE CITY — Barb Beckett did not get involved in athletics to win awards.
But in two weeks the Traverse City resident will be honored with a prestigious one — the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Women in Sports Leadership Award.
Beckett will be the 26th recipient, and third from northern Michigan. Karen Leinaar, now the athletic director at Bear Lake, and Patti Tibaldi, athletic director and former basketball coach at Traverse City West, won the award in 1998 and 2011, respectively.
“I was very surprised, very humbled,” Beckett said. “A lot of the ladies on that list are my heroes.”
A 30-year MHSAA registered official — and the program director at the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA for the last 28 — Beckett will be presented the award at halftime of the Class A girls state championship March 16 at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
It was on that court that Beckett made history in 1995, becoming the first woman to officiate a boys state championship game. She was on a three-person crew that officiated the Class C final between Ishpeming and Lakeview.
“I’m excited about it (award),” she said. “You never start out thinking about these types of things. You start out because you’re doing something you love.”
That passion helped her gain acceptance into a male-dominated profession. Beckett went on to officiate in eight state final games — four in girls basketball, three in softball and one in boys basketball. In 2000, she broke another barrier, becoming the first woman to receive the Vern Norris Award for her work as an official.
Although she no longer officiates, Beckett’s still involved “big time,” she said. One of her duties through the Northern Sports Officials Association: Assigning officials for basketball, softball, baseball and now in volleyball.
“Barbara Beckett is a demonstrated leader, evidenced by her previously being awarded the Norris Award for her efforts in recruiting and training officials,” MHSAA executive director Jack Roberts said in a release. “In that regard, she’s a trailblazer for women in the officiating family, and her influence continues to be felt.”