Character in Fastpitch Softball

As parents, fans, players and coaches of fast-pitch – the reality is that we are often faced (and hear about) the negative side of the game. Softball is a passionate game, and as human beings, we can suffice it to say that it doesn’t always bring out the best in everyone.  Here at Softball is For Girls, both on the blog and on Facebook, we strive to share the good, reignite faith, and mostly empower the girls at all levels of the game to BE MORE today than they were yesterday.

Today, we share a story of this girl.  Pretty blonde hair and warm brown eyes with a bubbly personality to match, and a spirit of character that was both surprising and admirable, ESPECIALLY for a girl her age.

haley cookThis girl is a true student of the game.  She is a SUPERSTAR by all measures of the word.  She has a phenomenal bat, and incredibly precise arm, fields cleanly in the infield, and knows the game of softball inside and out.  She is smart. She is fast and embodies the term ‘hustle.’ An amazing pitcher.  In other words, she is a coaches dream.

In our small, little town she has earned the reputation of being the ‘total’ package between the foul lines.  She also knows the realities of hard work and spends long hours in rusty batting cages and on dusty diamonds, fielding ground balls long after her team practices are over. Taking nothing, not even her talent, for granted.

Last weekend when one of our players dropped out 2 days before a tournament, we were fortunate to get her as a pick up player for our start-up, young 12U team.

But you know how it is with pick up players, especially ones who are reputed to be ‘superstars.’ You never quite know what you are going to get.  Sometimes you get a girl with a ‘big head,’ who thinks she is better than everyone else on the field.  Or you may get a primadonna, or a girl with a personality that throws the entire balance of the team off kilter, especially when you are dealing with 11, 12 and 13 year old girls.

But we got NONE of those things. Not. Even. For. A. Second.

What we did get, was an incredibly touching experience to meet a young girl who is going to go far in life.  Not just because she is a good softball player, but because she owns something in her heart, that so many people lack today. Character and genuine compassion for others.

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From the moment this girl put on her jersey, she was all smiles and laughs.  She carried herself in and outside the dugout as if she had been playing with this group of girls for years. She cheered for her ‘teammates,’ gave high fives, listened to the coaches, was willing and cooperative, positive and genuinely happy to be there, putting 110% of herself on and off the field at all times. There was never a hint of ‘her and us,’ just a sense of sheer happiness and gratitude to be playing the game she loves.

It was as if she was immediately bound to the others, quite simply through a sisterhood of sharing a singular passion for softball.

More than that, whenever she noticed another player getting down on herself for making an error or striking out, she was the first one there to offer encouragement and strength, pulling them out of their self-inflicted slump back to a place of confidence and belief in themselves.  When one little shortstop, two years younger than her bobbled two hard hit infield balls and got particularly upset, she pulled this player away by the arms and told her “I would have bobbled those two, they were hit so hard and you did a great job keeping them from getting to the outfield!” Any of the adults, or coaches could have said the same thing to this kid, but it somehow mattered more coming from another young ball player that the girl respected and admired.  Whoever said a 13 year old couldn’t be a mentor, was wrong!

Interestingly, in a short conversation with this girl she admitted that she too is put under and enormous amount of pressure from others to perform.  She even admitted that she had recently been blamed by teammates for ‘losing a game,’ for the entire team.  I realized at that moment, that her success and hard work has not come without a price to her as well.  With greatness of any kind in life, comes an expectation and a whole lot of people waiting in the wings (sadly hoping) to see you fail.  Whether it be jealousy, or just ugliness – chances are this girl has been on the receiving end of it a time or two. Yet, she seems to handle this pressure with poise and humility, and character as well – without allowing any of it to change who SHE is on the inside.  In hindsight, while her performance on game day was flawless, it was her inner talents that were most impressive.

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At the end of the day, after batting a thousand and receiving two MVP tags (opposing teams pick one player from each team to give them to after games), this little girl did another surprising thing.  She asked our coach if she could give her MVP tags away to the players she felt deserved them from our team.  Not because she had to.  Not because she already had too many trophies and awards at home. Not because her parents urged her to do so. Not because those marks of her achievement meant nothing to her during an inconsequential tournament,. Not because she had something to gain, or because she was trying to make a good impression, or please others.

But because she was GENUINELY compelled to offer some of the same success that she has experienced to others.  Because she had goodness (and greatness) in her heart.

As an adult, it is touching to see a young kid (YES A KID) exude such beautiful qualities of character. We talk a lot about passion here at SIFG, and this kid has passion too.  Evident by her behavior – and by her attitude – her passion far outreaches just softball and extends to humanity as well. Her positive presence in our dugout, even for just one tournament, was a blessing to our team.

Proving once and for all that you are never too young to make a difference in the lives of others. Perhaps when we expect MORE from our kids, our kids will BE MORE!

One thing I know for sure – this kid is going to go FAR, and our team is better for meeting her!

 

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