“Softball is not a one-woman sport. You have to have faith in the eight other girls on the field, because you win as a team and you lose as a team.” – Unknown
Once I step on that field, all my stress, problems, and heartache go away; I have 11 sisters to encourage me and get me through any kind of difficulty whether it is on or off the field. If an athlete is lucky, a team is just another word for family… sometimes, our teammates become even closer to us than our own family.
There is a special bond teammates share that not many people have the opportunity to experience. Now don’t think that there is no work being put into the sport; it is quite the complete opposite actually. What begins to make a team so close is the constant practices, conditioning, pasta dinners, games, and tournaments that are put into seven days a week for hours on end… eventually, a team begins to spend more time with each other than our own families.
My teammates, have definitely been the best thing that has ever happened to me. These girls became people I not only played my sport with, but that I shared every high moment and every low obstacle I went through, on and off the field.
Dedication, Love, and Passion
From my seventh grade year up and through my junior year of high school, I played with the same girls on the Lincoln-Way Blue Wave softball organization. Throughout those ten years of my life, (at the risk of sounding like a cliché athlete) there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that were put into many wins and losses.
My team placed first in almost every tournament we played in each weekend. This only made us want to work harder, we focused solely on how to better ourselves because there is no such thing as a perfect game. Throughout the seasons, other teams from all over were excited to meet us and talk to us. In that alone, it was amazing that girls our own age and younger are looking up to us as athletes. But in June of 2011, Father’s Day weekend, there was one specific tournament that will never be forgotten.
The Tournament of a Lifetime
Six o’clock in the morning and the smell of fresh morning dew filled the air as my team and I got out on the field to warm up before our first game. I loved being out on the field; fresh cut grass, and the light brown sand perfectly shaped around the field.
Tightening my spikes and ready to start the game, Coach huddles us together before our first game for the usual pregame motivation, and then she announces that the team that places in first this tournament will receive a bid to one of the three nationals in the country at the end of July. Excitement and chatter filled the huddle and the news automatically sparked a fire in all my teammates as well as myself. We were ready to take the tournament.
By the end of our third bracket game, my team and I have never played worse. The first three games of the tournament we already lost. For some reason, the girls and I were in a rut, and this was not the time to be playing so horribly.
Throughout the day, nothing had changed and we continued to lose and play our worst. By the time we finished our softball games within that morning, we were at the very bottom of the bracket.
In order to have any shot at even making it to the winner’s bracket would take all day, back to back games. I could tell as I looked around that not a single one of my teammates had any faith that we stood a chance of winning this tournament or the bid; and frankly, nor did I. But like me, every other girl on that team had such a strong love for the sport that we knew giving up was never an option.
Sunday rolled around, the last day of the tournament and we still had a long way to go if we wanted to work our way up to the top. If we lost one more game, it was over for us; we would have had to go home.
And so it began, once again, at six o’clock in the morning we started our first softball game of the day. We had played well the first game and won; but soon after, we checked the brackets and realized that eleven more games had to be won in one day in order for us to even make it to the championship game.
The Journey’s End
Eleven more games plus the championship game is exactly what we did. That Father’s Day we were playing in 100-degree weather, dress in all black cotton pants and socks… I felt the sweat dripping down my face and I looked around at my teammates; everyone was beyond exhausted.
As tired as we were, we continued to cheer and build each other up, we had each other’s backs when a teammate was in need. We never let one another down, and with this, twelve games later, we took home a first place trophy and a bid to the USA Softball Nationals.
Through Softball, Tears, and Laughs
Even in the lowest moments, I was always so sure that my teammates and I would support each other through anything. And even though we no longer all play together, we still share a bond that not many people can say they have. To do this day, my teammates and I still get together when we can, and although we are all spread across the country; everyone is just a phone call away. This softball tournament was one of the most special memories I shared with these girls, but it was one of thousands that taught me I have ten other girls just like me that will be there in highs and lows for the rest of my life… softball related or not. And I would not trade that for anything.