This is a difficult topic for me –– not because I’m emotional about it, but because I literally can’t find the words to describe how it feels.
I started playing softball when I was around 10 years old. My sister had already been playing a year when I decided to join, and I only joined because that past winter my sister played on a boys baseball team (and I thought they were cute).
I don’t remember everything about my first year, but I do remember thinking how much my skills probably resembled Darin Erstad in centerfield… 🙂 My older sister and I played on the same team (the Astros) and my dad was the coach. I wonder if my parents had any idea how much this sport would be a part of our lives.
Fast forward 8 years to my college signing day, when I committed to play softball at the University of Kansas (Rockchalk!). All of the tournaments, traveling and practices in the back yard paid off. Looking back now, my sister and I were so lucky to have parents that supported and pushed us as much as they did. I may have hated it at the time, but I’m proud of how focused and driven I was –– I knew exactly what I wanted and wasn’t easily distracted. When I talk to others about my softball career (10 years old – 22 years old), I get a lot of mixed responses:
So, you couldn’t… like… do anything else?
I was a very determined kid. My weekends were packed full of all-things-softball. If we weren’t playing, we were at team practice. If we weren’t practicing, we were going to watch college games. If we weren’t watching college games, we were going to softball camps. If we weren’t going to softball camps, we were doing extra work, replacing cleats or taking care of our equipment. I didn’t have time to really do much else and, more importantly, I didn’t want to be doing anything else.
You never went to parties with your friends?
I had softball team parties…. but no, I didn’t go to high school parties. I honestly wasn’t interested in it –– I don’t know how I bypassed that, but I’m glad I did. Mostly, I just had different priorities than a lot of my classmates –– finish school and get a softball scholarship. A lot of my nights and especially weekends were taken up with softball. My family would have to get up really early in the morning and pile in the car to head off to another weekend packed with games.
You’re parents must have been so strict.
I guess so… but really I think they were just being supportive. I don’t remember them ever forcing me or my sister to play. However, they were strict in the way they taught us –– they made sure that, if we committed to playing another year, we would need to put in the time and effort the team, and we, deserved. Practicing at home a few times a week was our softball homework –– and our parents would get on us if we weren’t doing it. They made sure we didn’t back out of our commitments. So, in that way… yes, they were strict.
My sister and I were so lucky to have parents who challenged us they way ours did –– it made us into the women we are today.
After college, I started coaching softball –– mainly private lessons to athletes from the ages 5 – 18. Being in that atmosphere really helped me feel like I was still an athlete, even if I was no longer competing. For a few years, coaching was my main focus, but I slowly started cutting back as I took on a new career. Softball was my life and my job, for at least 5 days a week, from the time I was 10 until I was about 25. Then, it quickly became a hobby. And a couple years later, it became a once-a-week-during-season volunteer day.
Let me tell you, I wasn’t ready for it. Emotionally, I was –– Bri and I were newly married and excited about our future together. There were, and are, so many things that we want to accomplish in our lives.
But, something was off. Something is off, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.