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Jayhawks share lessons, stories & top moments with Mark Francis

Player memories of a coaching milestone

3 min read
Kansas soccer coach Mark Francis meets with his team during a preseason match earlier this season. On Thursday night, Francis will coach his 500th career game at KU. [Chance Parker photo]

Thursday night's Kansas soccer match at the Kansas City Roos will mark KU soccer coach Mark Francis' 500th game with the program.

The match is set for 7 p.m. at Durwood Soccer Stadium, and the game will be broadcast on the Summit League Network. Francis, a native of London, England, is 261-191-47 all-time at Kansas.

Francis has been the Jayhawks' coach for 25 years in the 29-year history of the program, and his impact and stamp on the culture of Kansas soccer can be seen and felt in every corner of the program and throughout generations of current and former KU soccer players.

Wednesday evening, Wave the Wheat caught up with several current Jayhawks who will be on hand on Thursday night for Francis' and asked them three questions about their leader. Here are their answers:

What do you like most about Coach Francis?

“I honestly appreciate how honest he is. Personally, I just think that it's good to have a coach that’s just straight up with you and honest and keeps it real. I appreciate how honest he is with us, it honestly makes us better as players.” — Sophomore defender Assa Kante

“I like that coach likes to have fun. I mean he takes things seriously, obviously, and makes us work hard and pushes us to be our best, but he also likes to have fun while doing it.” — Senior defender Mackenzie Boeve

“My favorite thing about coach is his fun dance moves whenever he’s in a funny mood and he also always has these sarcastic comments and his laugh always makes me laugh.” — Junior midfielder Raena Childers

What's your favorite Coach Francis memory or story?

“When he said happy birthday Raena (Childers) on the bus on a trip when it wasn’t even her birthday.” — Sophomore forward Lexi Watts

“In 2021, when we beat West Virginia 2-1 in the 110th minute, I scored the game-winning goal and he gave me the biggest hug and told me he was proud of me, and I think at that moment, everything I did up to that point, was really worth it, and, like, just him pushing me was really worth it.” — Redshirt junior forward Brie Severns

“My favorite memory about coach would be the first day I got here (when) he told the whole team that I didn’t speak English. I don’t know why he did that, but he said to everyone that I only spoke French and everyone was like miming to me, they were like not speaking to me. So, yeah, I thought that it was pretty funny that he did that.” — Junior midfielder Magali Gagné

“One of my favorite memories is freshman year, we were playing away at West Virginia, and we were losing 2-0 at half, and we get in the locker room and we’re just sitting, waiting for coach to come in. He comes in, he just starts ripping us apart, like F-bombs everywhere, left, right, every other word, and like honestly it was what we needed. We still talk about it to this day how it got us going, got us fired up. Another memory I like is we traveled somewhere — I don’t remember where it was — and me and I think my roommate was Ellie (Prybylski), and we look out our window of the hotel and there’s like this little area poolside and coach was out there pumpin’ iron outside by the pool. Just hitting the biceps and I was like wow. Coach is always on that grind, so shoutout coach for constantly grinding even at 60.” — Senior defender Moira Kelley

“His dad jokes.” — Freshman defender/midfielder Caroline Castans

“His sense of humor.” — Freshman defender Olivia Page

What's the most important thing you've learned from Coach Francis?

“Making mistakes is OK and its also encouraged because that’s the only way you learn. If we make a mistake, like yeah it’s bad, but he’s also made a point to say ‘OK, we’ll get back, recover from it and just do better the next time.'” — Redshirt senior goalkeeper Gabbie Dawe

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