It’s game day! I’ve played softball for 12 years, and every day I play I wake up with butterflies in my stomach - today is no exception. We are playing Hawthorne at home, and I have been improving with each game this season, so my butterflies are more in anticipation for some “good” action in the game than out of fear. Due to softball, I have grown in more ways than one: the responsibility of participating on a team, and learning new sets of skills has added a great deal of value to my life. Softball has helped me succeed psychologically, academically and personally.
Being a senior in high school and playing softball competitively is stressful, but thanks to this sport I have learned how to better manage my challenges. For instance, regular practice has taught me to be prepared, which makes me feel in control of expectations, lessening my anxiety. My coach has also taught me stress-relieving tools, such as breathing exercises and meditation, that help me manage my thoughts before, during, and after games. The consequences of losing at the “travel softball” level are impactful, but we are taught that failure is inevitable, so I focus on growing from these outcomes. Preparation, stress-relieving tools, and the right mindset has helped me control anxious feelings, equipping me to tackle my goals head-on.
Softball has also supported my self-esteem by informing my identity as an athlete and advancing my purpose. It has given me the opportunity to understand that I have specific gifts and abilities that I can be proud of, as well as increasing my overall wellness, and providing entertainment for others. Softball has taught me how to pursue my goals and achieve my vision, which provides me with a sense of accomplishment and helps foster a healthy identity.
Likewise, touring regularly, while an added pressure, brings with it additional skills that nurture my academic development, such as forethought, discipline and self- advocacy. Traveling necessitates many considerations when it comes to producing high-quality work on time. I have to account for the fact that I will be away on certain tests and assignment due dates, which has required me, from a young age, to advocate for myself, and manage my time and work-load, in order to juggle a busy schedule. This added responsibility has equipped me to handle more complex situations, and the privilege of being able to play this sport competitively has helped push me to higher academic levels.
Character-building is another way I have benefited from playing softball, by increasing my social development. I used to be quite shy, but being part of a team has helped me learn how to operate successfully in a group, providing me with an opportunity to love others. I have had to look out for my teammates as individuals and to value the success of my team as a whole before personal glory. Softball has contributed greatly to shaping my values by reinforcing that building community is a worthy pursuit; I have learned in a deeper way to be compassionate, friendly, and self- sacrificial. As a result, I have made life-long friends, and have been given an opportunity to discover my own strengths and weaknesses in relationship-building.
Thanks to my involvement in this sport, I have become a stronger friend, worker, and team-player, which characterizes everything I do, so when I am in the dugout, I am one of the loudest, cheering all my teammates on, and my strength as a batter puts fear into pitchers because they know my hard work has paid off - when I step up to the plate, excitement rushing through my body, I might hit a hard line drive or a home run, and as I round first, reaching for my goal, I am filled with pride in myself and those I love, and I thank God for being my biggest fan!