BSI Coach Tells Life Changing Story

As part of its 50th Anniversary Celebration, Canadian Interuniversity Sport presents the CIS 50th Anniversary Success Stories series. Each Thursday throughout the 2011-12 season, we will profile two alumni from CIS member institutions who have made outstanding contributions in areas such as sports, business, politics or in the community.

Inspirational MacLeod now encouraging a new generation

A rookie basketball player turned a horrific injury into a source of inspiration for all CIS student-athletes and now focuses on a new generation of students

BRANDON – When Tracy MacLeod arrived in Brandon in the fall of 1992 she was an energetic 20 year-old eager to start her first season of university basketball.

Fast forward 19 years, and some things have changed, while some things have not. What hasn’t changed is her love of basketball, her passion for life, and her unbreakable positive attitude.

What’s different is her last name (now Johnson), she’s a mother of four, and a she’s a grade 9 teacher at Canora Composite School in eastern Saskatchewan. What’s also different is that she has a national award for inspiration named after her, something the 20 year-old version of her never would have predicted, but then again no one could have foreseen the series of events that led her to where she is today.

In just the second game of the 1992-1993 season, a split-second freak-accident changed things for the Abbotsford, BC product forever. While attempting a layup, MacLeod came down awkwardly, snapping both the tibia and fibula in her right leg. The severity of the injury was apparent to everyone in the gym that night, as team-mates, officials and fans turned away and covered their ears from the horrifying sound.

“I remember it as if it was yesterday,” recalls Steve Dzubinski, Brandon University’s head athletic therapist. “I was sitting at the far end of the gym and before she hit the floor I was getting waved on the court. It will stay with me forever because I could tell right away it was bad. ”

MacLeod was rushed to Brandon General hospital where her leg was immediately cast. Over the next few days circulation problems arose that led to a cataclysmic series of events. Nine surgeries were performed over the next few months, at one point receiving 4800 cc’s of blood and having 135 staples holding her numerous incisions together.

“They weren’t sure if there was going to be an amputation, but I was aware that it would be a possibility,” says MacLeod. “I was told that my leg would never be as good as a prosthetic leg, and I would be in surgeries for the rest of my life. I knew I had to look at the rest of my life.“

fe0mo0gwrromkt8vWhile her friends and school-mates were deciding what to do for summer holidays, MacLeod was faced with the decision of whether or not to have her leg amputated.“I knew that (a prosthetic) would give me options,” remembers MacLeod. “Would I make the same decision again? Absolutely. I don’t regret the decision I made, and I’m just glad that it was my decision to make.”As difficult as the decision was for the young university athlete, more challenges were in store. Having been an MVP and multi-sport star at the high-school and college level, walking away from sports was not an option.

“When I got the call from Shawnee Harle (then Bobcats coach), I had barely learned to walk again, never mind run. Training camp was starting in a week, but I was going to be there,” says MacLeod.

The process of learning how to perform on a prosthetic was a steep learning curve, but when MacLeod returned to Brandon University to re-join her team, the only life she knew took over. Three months after having her leg amputated MacLeod took part in her first full practice.

“I needed to get my first basket. Once I got my first basket I knew everything was going to be okay,” says MacLeod. “It’s basketball. This is my comfort zone. This is my release and this is my passion.  I knew everything was going to be okay if I could play basketball.”

To say her story is ‘okay’ is an understatement. She finished a successful career as a Bobcat, including a 20 point and 10 rebound performance against the University of Regina in her first season back. She also earned two degrees from Brandon University. One of her most notable accomplishments is having a national award named after her, the Tracy MacLeod Inspirational Award, an honour given out annually by CIS.

“I think it’s great to have this award named after me,” says MacLeod. “It’s very humbling. I do try to be a role model. There are things that we can overcome. We just have to believe in ourselves. There’s a lot of tears and insecurities still, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”