Softball: A Major School Sport for Girls
By: J. Marlando
Do parents want their daughters taking an interest in playing team sports while in school? Mark Pierce of Camarillo, California says, “Absolutely yes.” He explains that it is not only a healthy thing to do, but the time and devotion any sport takes (when taken seriously) greatly diminishes the time it takes for doing the dumb stuff like trying drugs or getting too serious with boys. He never dreamed however that his own daughter’s interest in the game would eventually win a scholarship for her to one of the country’s most prestigious colleges, University of the Pacific, ranked among the top 100 universities in the United States.
Today Lindsey is a grown, young woman, teaching school and beginning to build for the future. She’s still athletic, a jogger and bicyclist; quite lovely with a most beautiful smile and gracious eyes and so looking at her today no one would suspect that she was a determined, competitive slugger. We’ll talk about how she got that way next.
Softball: The Early Years
As with many, perhaps most girls, Lindsey took an interest in softball for the socializing and the fun of playing. She was ten years old when a schoolmate asked her to try out for the team. She did and was accepted. At ten the girls are playing “recreational softball” which means there is little competition between teams and mostly the game is played for….well, recreation.
Lindsey was a little different than most of her young teammates, however. While she was simply having a good time playing the game, chattering and laughing, having a great time, she was experiencing something else—a surge of competitiveness.
At this young age she got to play a lot of positions as the girls are moved to different positions so they get to pitch, play the infield, play the outfield (not much to do there for ten year old girls during a game than chat) but playing the bases could be exciting and was from time to time. Lindsey was a hitter for her age and she would eventually run between bases in 2.7 seconds so she was also fast. What she had behind the dynamics of her play, however, was a love for the game.
As an aside, a lot of girls play softball at the “recreational” stage of the sport but very few are softball players. That is, it remains a game for them as opposed to a serious sport. Lindsey was amidst the few little girls who had discovered an inner-drive to play but playing wasn’t enough, she wanted to play well. For both boys and girls playing any sport well, takes practice, takes concentration and commitment. Indeed, the friend of Lindsey who had inspired her to try out for the team quit playing in the following year while Lindsey would continue playing through high school and college—she had found her sport!
Growing Up in Softball
When Lindsey was 15, she was running between bases (60 feet) in 2.6 seconds—these speeds would decrease as she blossomed more and more into womanhood but we’ll talk about all that when we get into college games.
By the time Lindsey was thirteen softball was going from recreational to competitive. Nothing could have been more pleasing to her since she had, by and large, been highly competitive all along. To the true athlete competition is the heartbeat of the sport; it is in the Olympian bloodstream of players—tennis to football, swimming to gymnastics, it is the competitive spirit that drives the individual to drive him or herself toward the ultimate performance; to be the best that he or she can be.
Once Lindsey was old enough to play Club Team, softball competition became stronger and far more serious. Club Team would compete with teams from across the country and at least the majority of team players were, like Lindsey, playing for the love of the game with a drive toward the competitive edge. Lindsey was in her heyday as a player. At age 15 she was timed running between bases in 2.6 seconds, her top speed but, she was growing up by then and so soon enough Mother Nature would be slowing her up. It didn’t matter, she continued playing and giving top performances so little did she realize at that stage of her playing that college, recruiting coaches were giving her notice. She was destined to be offered scholarships from a number of colleges. As said earlier she would choose University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.
At the university, Lindsey discovered a new inspiration when it came to her sport—even during her first year she realized that most of the girls on the team, were as committed as she had always been this was a lot different than in high school where only some of the team players were truly committed so Lindsey was thrilled. For one thing, the practice was dedicated, all the girls on the team were motivated to playing their best and each was competitive strong players.
Incidentally, we have been talking about fast pitch softball here. In slow pitch, the ball is thrown in a high arch to the batter—fast pitch is considered the most competitive form of softball and was played at the Olympic Games in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. This same style is used in college softball and international competitions. The pitcher throws the ball with an underhand motion at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
As another quick aside, softball pitching isn’t just simply speed—there are a great many ways of pitching a ball that the player must master such as—two drop balls, curveball, off-speed, screwball, knuckle ball and others. The game when taken serious becomes a serious challenge for the player to master but of course mastering the sport is a never-ending challenge.
In college many of Lindsey’s teammates were like her—they had grown up in the sport and, like Lindsey they were ready and anxious to meet the best on the field.
Because of softball, Lindsey won scholarships that assisted her through her higher education. Year one she was given a 75% scholarship, year two 90% and year three and four full scholarships. She did well both in academics studies and her sport. However, softball is much more intense in college than at high school and young levels—Lots more practice, many more games and travel. During her softball career from 10 years old thru college, Lindsey played softball competitions in South Dakota, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Colorado and other statess an education in and of itself.
In college, all travel and expenses were paid for of course and the players were treated pretty much as super sport stars. Colleges tend to be extremely proud and caring about the athletes that represent them on the competitive field of sports.
Along her way Lindsey was team captain twice in college, was offensive player of the year twice in high school; holds two records for stealing bases and mustered a “hitting streak” getting at least one hit in 13 consecutive games.
Not everything is as easy as it sounds of course: Because Lindsey’s practice and game schedule was so heavy she spent an additional year of academia to gain her teaching credential but, as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well.
Softball, especially fast-pitch softball is a highly competitive game and Lindsey calls it a tremendous opportunity for girls to express their athletic abilities. Being part of a team, Lindsey made lifetime friendships. She learned how to work with people that she didn’t always like or agree with. Lindsey also learned to respect others, like her coaches and teammates. Certainly it builds character and can instill self-esteem and self-confidence, qualities that support individuals throughout their entire life.
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