I’m not even going to try to make an excuse for why I haven’t blogged lately.
Instead, I’m just going to get right to it because well, that’s why we’re all here.
Last spring, wow, that sounds really weird to say last spring because I had planned on writing this last spring and it’s mid-summer and these words are just now making it to this page.
Anyway, last spring I finished my very last softball season that I will ever play for a school/university. After high school and two years of college softball, I am finally hanging up my cleats forever- for that level of play anyway.
This sport means the world to me and I wanted to write this small piece of reflection over my old friend that is softball while the split is still fresh and weighs very heavy on my heart. I sat down and tried writing this piece so many times but there has just been no words to express how I really feel.
So here’s my best shot.
This post isn’t about a lesson learned or advice I can give you on something I have experienced, it’s just a story telling brought on by a MAJOR part of my life coming to an end.
Softball is my favorite sport and has been since I was 12 years old. Nothing compares to the feeling I get when I step between those two white lines.
Any athlete can back me up on this – when you are playing your favorite sport, no other feeling in the world compares. When you take that field or step onto the court- you are completely and authentically yourself.
You are home.
And your life would never be the same had you not started this sport all those years ago.
And my story starts all those years ago.
I remember the year I joined my very first softball team. I was 10 years old.
My older cousin was the first person to explain to me that softball pitchers pitched in an underhand motion (I had no idea-we only ever watched baseball) and I just remember from that day forward , my mind was made up- I was going to be a pitcher.
But it was my dad who first taught me the basics of how to pitch.
What I would give to be a fly on the wall during that practice because………
Let’s just say we have come a long way 🙂
When I was 12, I started pitching lessons with a real coach- who also had played professional fastpitch.
He’s like the all-knowing wizard of softball pitching.
And I owe every win, every strikeout to him.
At 12 years old, who would have thought that all the things I have been fortunate enough to experience all started in the OUL gymnasium (yes that’s where we had lessons)?
He literally taught me everything I know.
And so the road along my softball journey was paved with great coaches, and great teammates.
First came middle school where I met a new coach- who at the time was a stranger, but without even realizing it, he would change my life forever.
And then before I could even blink, I was off to play varsity softball.
If you know me at all, you know that I can’t say enough good things about my high school softball experience. I can’t express in words how grateful I am to have been a part of something as special as Berne Union softball.
And take it from a girl who has been a part of A LOT of softball teams, as a rocket-the fun we had together, the memories that have me laughing until my stomach hurts- there is truly nothing like it anywhere else.
In the past, I was a selfish player. Growing up, I didn’t really like team sports.
(Which is a huge reason why I didn’t play a lot of them)
I played for myself. I played so I could win. I played so I could have the trophy-so I could have the strikeouts. I never played for the team.
But that all changes very quickly when you genuinely care about the girls standing next to you. I liked my teammates so much- which I know is few and far between for a lot of school ball teams.
But I just had this new purpose- it wasn’t for me, it was for the team. I put my heart into everything- not for myself but for the 8 other girls on that field.
I remember watching from the other side of the fence as a little girl and thinking that varsity softball was this beautiful time and place in your life and I was excited for my time even though it was sooooooo far away.
And then it’s all happening to you and before you can even think about it, it’s almost over.
And you’re like:
What happened to that little girl who only dreamed about this?
She grew up, she had her moment, and now its time for another group of little girls to heave theirs.
And high school (mostly due to sports) was this nice time of my life where everything was simple.
The team, for the duration of softball season, was family. Softball was so special because the environment was full of good people, parents, and especially coaches.
And I can’t say enough good things about the coaches. I can run into them today and still find myself talking to them for forever about anything and everything.
That’s the thing about coaches, they really have an impact on not only your softball abilities but more importantly, on your life.
Coaches are so essential to your experience as a player.
There are coaches who can make you hate the sport.
But there are coaches who are so much of the reason you love it.
Over the years, as you can imagine, I have had so many coaches. And the thing with me, because I remember literally everything, is that I never will forget any of the coaches I have worked with or what they have taught me.
Or not taught me (to the ones who sucked).
Like I said, my middle school coach changed my life. Not because we won a significant amount of games, or did anything too spectacular, but because he was the first person who really and truly believed in me.
And yes at 12 years old- this was groundbreaking.
I never tell anyone this story but leading up to my 7th grade year of softball, I wanted to quit pitching.
It was too hard, or I was too bad – I can’t remember the exact reason I had. Bottom line: I wanted to quit and knowing me- I probably would have.
Had it not been for this coach, I don’t think my life would have been the same.
I thought I decided to continue pitching all on my own but in hindsight- the reason I was so doubtful of my potential was that I didn’t have a coach or someone I looked up to telling me that they believed in me.
But he did.
And pitching is the main reason I love softball.
It’s probably bad to say this, but I never wanted to play anywhere but pitcher.
Eventually, it became this huge part of my life, a huge part of me. I needed to pitch like I needed air to breath. When I was on the mound, I was in my happy place. I was safe, I was content, and I mattered.
In that circle of white chalk, I was home.
And I wouldn’t be the same person had I given up.
My high school coach taught me oodles and oodles in the four years that we were able to work together. But perhaps the most important thing that he ever taught me was that you can never be comfortable with where you are at today- you must always work hard and push yourself to be better.
Even when I did everything right, I could count on him to still yell at me for doing something wrong.
And I can’t thank him enough for all the things that I accomplished because he believed in me.
My last coach I will ever have was responsible for instilling in me a new confidence that I had lost since leaving high school.
I think believing in me is a reoccurring theme here but those of you who are pitchers know- it’s not easy doing what we do and confidence isn’t something you can build alone.
You need your coaches, you need your teammates.
And I’m blessed enough to have had both on my side for as long as I can remember.
Someday, I will have to move out of my parents’ house (I can’t stay here forever), and I will have to take down the 14 softball plaques that hang on my bedroom wall. I’ll cry because that’s what I do best 🙂
They’ll find a new home in a box where they will probably stay- until I feel like pulling them out and bragging to my children.
Just like my dad does.
When that day comes, I’ll pull out each one with a silent tear and let my children know that a shiny piece of metal that hangs on the wall will never truly tell you the whole story.
They can never tell you about all the hours I spent after school in the off-season trying to get stronger and better.
It can’t tell you all the hours my dad took off from his job to come down to the school and catch for me.
It can’t tell you all the anger I felt at losing all the games we should have had.
It can’t tell you about all the long bus rides home, laughing with your teammates, your family.
It can’t tell you the excitement you felt winning the league title game.
But the memories are all still there, tied into a piece of metal that hangs on the wall.
And I know that this is what I will miss most about the sport- the memories and friendships that won’t soon be forgotten. There is something so special about the bond that forms between teammates. I’ve met so many kind and beautiful souls through softball and the many teams that I found myself a part of. I run into old teammates years later and can still find myself talking to them about anything.
In high school, my very best friends were also my teammates. And the friendship we shared both on and off the field is something that I will always treasure, no matter what.
Softball has given me more than just a few plaques, medals, and scrapes. It has given me the ability to truly believe in myself and to always put my whole heart into everything I do.
It’s been an amazing ten years.