Jayhawk Insider: Twenty Years of Memories

By Bryce Reedy

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Already in the early stages of the 2018 women’s soccer season, head coach Mark Francis has had to come to terms with a fact about his incoming recruiting class. Francis coached his first ever Jayhawk soccer game before any of his freshmen class were alive. That’s right, Francis hits 20 years with the Jayhawks this season.
“It just means I am old,” Francis said. “It is weird. When you coach high school or college athletics it is like Groundhog Day because you’re getting older but the kids you are working with are always the same age.”
Francis joined the Jayhawk community back in 1999 and brought stability and culture to the women’s soccer program that still exists 20 years later. Despite the number of years under his belt, Francis still uses his team to keep him feeling as young and in the know as the first day he stepped on campus.
“I really do think that it keeps you young,” Francis said. “You have to be up to date with what is happening in the current day and age, and that is what they are into. I have been fortunate in my time here that we have had some unbelievable young women to play for us.”
Francis wasn’t the only coach to come into the program in 1999. Associate head coach Kelly Miller was a part of the head coach’s first coaching staff at Lawrence and he is still by his side 20 years later.
“If I was to talk about Kelly in terms of his makeup as a person, the first thing I would say is he is very, very loyal,” Francis said. “The confidence that [I have in him to] know I don’t have to worry about certain things because I know they are going to get done the right way as if I was doing them myself.”
The two of them have seen a lot during their tenures. Breakout seasons, upsets, come-from-behind victories, playoff appearances. However, through it all, only one moment stood above the rest.
“Winning the Big 12 was pretty cool,” Francis said of his 2004 conference champion squad. “It was the first women’s Big 12 title that any KU team had won at the time. To be the first to do that as a program was awesome.”
But, as most coaches know, there is more to the game than just winning and losing, and that is what Francis has taken to heart the most over his two decades.
“When you coach, you do it for the kids,” Francis concluded. “When they are successful, whether it be in soccer or in life in general, and then they come back, and you see what they are now doing with their lives you feel like you had a part of that. That is probably the most fun part.”




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