Play for the little girl...

“Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back... play for her.”
~Mia Hamm

There were numerous times throughout my softball career where I wanted to give up pitching or quit the game all together. I specifically remember one of these moments following a 12U softball game where I walked 10 batters and lost the game for my team. As soon as we walked through the front door, I broke down crying and told my Dad I wanted to stop pitching and focus on volleyball. This was the first of many moments when my Dad pulled out this picture of me at 6 years old to remind me of the little girl who fell in love with this game and who never let the fear of failure get her down.

So I kept practicing, improving and challenging myself to be the best player I could be, reminding myself of the little girl who wanted nothing more than to catch fly balls for hours in the park and pitch to my Dad in the backyard till the sun went down.

At 16, my love for the game was one again questioned as I made the St. Louis elite A travel team, the Legion of Doom, where I rode the bench the first half of the season. My Dad continued to remind me of all the hours of practice and hard work that I had invested the last ten years of my life, and that it would all pay off because of my love and passion for the game... and again he was right. My opportunity to prove my hard work and love for pitching came at the ASA Nationals where I had to step into a starting pitching role after our No. 1 and 2 pitchers went down. I helped pitch my team to a top 5 finish and finally earned a starting spot on that team the following year.

After my devastating ACL injury and surgery my freshman year of college, my Dad wrote me a letter before my first UIS home game of my sophomore year, reminding me once again about why I need to continue to battle and play for that little girl who had worked the last 13 years of her life to become the best softball player she could be. So I trekked on and continued to work as hard as I could to help my young college program grow on and off the field. The following season we made UIS history, as we were the first UIS sports team to make the NCAA DII National Tournament.

I faced great adversity throughout my softball career, but never did my Dad let me forget how much I loved this game and how hard I had worked at it. Never once did I lose that fire and love for striking someone out or chasing down a fly ball in the gap or hitting a ball over the fence.

That little girl at 6 developed a bond and a relationship with the game of softball that is forever unbreakable. While I needed a few reminders along the way, I never forgot why I fell in love with this game from the beginning. I have the incredible privilege to continue living out my passion for this game by helping ignite that same love I have for it in hundreds of young softball players across the region.

Whenever you feel defeated or that things are not going your way, remember to "play for the little girl who fell in love with this game, and never look back!"

For more inspiration, watch the video Florida Gators Head Coach Tim Walton created to help motivate his team right before Regionals!!


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