BY LAUREN LUND | EDITORIAL INTERN
“Softball isn’t a sport, it couldn’t have been that hard to win state.” I cringe whenever I think about the kid at school saying that to me. To someone who has not experienced what I have by playing high school softball, it might seem to them as if it is a lesser of a sport because it appears to not be as intense and physical as other sports, like basketball or soccer. This is far from the truth. It’s hard to know what it’s like to play softball until you have sat in 100-degree temperatures in the middle of the summer on a turf field where the heat radiates off the field. Not to mention the fact that you might not be playing one game or even two games, but potentially five games in a day. You don’t know what it’s like to put in two hours of batting practice or the constant repetition of exhausting infield drills, going over different scenarios over and over again.
“You guys don’t even run,” he says.
My mind immediately goes back to the time when I ran 16 fouls poles in the blazing heat. Sweating so much it seems as if I just jumped in a pool. Looking back and forth at my teammates running along side me, pushing me to run harder.
Just this past year, as a sophomore in high school, my high school softball team was able to win not one or two titles, but four. We were Kingco champions, Kingco Tournament Champions, District Champions and State Champions. The titles aren’t what’s as important to me, it’s what we did and how we got there that means the most and will be one of the most memorable and impactful things in my life. How hard we worked, the hours we put in, and the hours we practiced. There was never a point in the season that I felt my team wasn’t giving 100%. We practiced to perfection, and I mean perfection.
21 outs was the drill. The drill we all hated, but learned to love because of how much it helped us. As a team, we needed to get 21 outs in a row (a full game worth) without any mistakes. Any bobbled ball, any overthrow, and dropped ball, we went back to zero. Just thinking about the drill, I can feel it, the feeling in my stomach sitting in left field knowing the ball could be hit at me, and if it was I couldn’t mess up. I couldn’t make my team start over.
Not only did we practice to perfection we practiced no matter what. One practice before a big game there was a thunder storm that would cause most teams to cancel practice. But, it didn’t stop my team, nothing stopped my team. We practiced going through our hitting stations in the rain and through the boom of thunder and flashes of lightning. During the practice I can remember rolling my eyes at the fact we were practicing in such horrible conditions, but in the final out of the state championship game it felt so worth it.
As much as we’d like to believe that our talent carried us to the final game, it was our work ethic that we developed, and our coaches always pushing us. Although at times we felt like we couldn’t do anything right, they believed in us. They inspire me and have shown me that what makes a coach so great is pushing you to make you better than the day before. If I ever am able to be a coach, which I hope someday to be, I will take what I have learned from those group of coaches that led us to all of those titles and use that as motivation.
While I was able to experience the success of these above achievements, I know not everyone will have the same story. Through all of the hard work, and lots of tears, I was able to find and experience the most fun I have ever had on a team. My teammates made me laugh, made me smile and most importantly picked me up when I was down. Through softball, I learned what it means to be a good teammate, a friend and a student of the game. I have learned what it takes to succeed not just as individual, but with a group of people who have the same passion as I do. In softball I have found what’s most important about women’s sports and being on a team. Lessons and skills that I will use to better myself in anything life throws at me. I am now always able to hold myself to a higher standard because I know what it takes to be the best.
People ask me what it feels like to be a state champ, but the more important question is, what does it mean. The feeling only lasts a few hours, but the meaning will stay with me forever.
The Awesome Sports Project is an online journal committed to inspiring girls’ and women’s voices in sports. We publish every Tuesday between November and June. Submit your own story or enter our Awesome Sports Writing Contest by February 15, 2018.