The Fear of Belonging

DEFINITION: Belonging / verb / 1. be the property of. 2. be a member or part of (a particular group, organization, or class). 3. (of a thing) be rightly placed in a specified position. (

Through every step up in your athletic career you face the fear of wondering, ‘Do I belong?’ Sometimes that doubt creeps into your mind due to people mentioning it or you just truly aren’t sure. I believe one of my biggest assets throughout my career was my mental toughness- having confidence, but not letting it ever waver too high or too low. The moments of finding you do belong are some of the greatest moments of your career, but the process of wondering if you do can be some of the toughest. There are 4 distinct times I’ve had this fear, 3 of those times it really didn’t affect me- then the real lesson was learned the time it did.


The first being in high school when it was my time to be the starting pitcher. Although, at this point in my life I was very optimistic and some might say naive. Therefore, I wouldn’t say I struggled with it too much because I didn’t know any better.


The next time being in college. I vividly remember my dad and I watching a Minnesota State vs. Winona State softball game and both of us sitting there wondering if I could ever pitch the way those girls were. Walking on to campus I had zero expectations, I was there to give it my all and see what happened. The first moment I felt I belonged was when a upperclassman catcher told me late in the fall that I was their “golden ticket”. At that point I was plugging myself in as the number 3 or 4 pitcher- so this came as a shock to me. Then finally, after throwing my first collegiate game and getting the win against University of Missouri St. Louis it really hit me. I believe that the combination of supportive/uplifting teammates and in-game experience is what you need to realize you can do things you didn’t even know you were capable of.

Photo Cred: Allie Martinez

Finally, quite understandably, being a D2 pitcher playing in the Pro’s- the last 2 summers were 2 very different ends of the spectrum. When I made the Texas Charge through a tryout I was SO grateful to have the opportunity that anything that followed was more than I could’ve dreamt. That summer was basically a fairytale that I lived each moment day by day. When that season ended and the Charge folded, I knew I wasn’t ready to be done.

All of a sudden, the reality of my career potentially being over hit me again. I wanted it more than I ever had before. That’s when the Chicago Bandits came into play- and being complete candid- where I had one of the weakest moments mentally that I’d experienced through my career. Throughout the offseason I heard some doubters from the outside, that truly crept into my head and affected me more than I thought they would. I usually live the lifestyle of proving doubters wrong, because trust me I’ve faced them throughout every single level of my career (the list would be endless). But this time it was different, I let it actually get in my own head. Throughout the first few practices I was putting so much extra pressure on myself to perform, that I wasn’t being myself. I was throwing just fine but my presence was lacking and I would leave feeling as though I just didn’t do enough.

I was facing a few internal battles here… I was really wondering if i belonged. I was now plugging myself as just a D2 kid, with a torn labrum in my hip, and the team was coming to my hometown to play. What if they cut me and I’m sitting in my house while the Bandits play in my backyard? How awful would that be? I let so many thoughts creep into my head and the worst part was, I didn’t talk about them to anyone.

Finally, one day after practice I approached the coaches asking what they felt I needed to work on. Coach Nuveman turned the question back around on me and I started talking about my pitches, then as I began to realize what I was saying about my pitches wasn’t even really true, I said, you know what I’m putting too much pressure on myself. I told them what I was feeling, I’d only known them for a few days, but I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I’d never felt so vulnerable, I didn’t want my new coaches to view me as weak. I explained that this was new territory for me, confidence was something I usually didn’t struggle with, I never doubted my abilities. Had I doubted my abilities throughout my career, there’s no way I could’ve accomplished what I have. Throughout the conversation it felt like the biggest weight was lifted off my shoulders. The coaches told me that I needed to believe that I was a Chicago Bandit. Somehow, hearing those words were the reassurance I needed, I was a pitcher in the NPF.

Photo Cred: Nick Monaghan

From that point forward leaving that meeting, I never looked back. I believed that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I belonged. My confidence grew more and more throughout the summer and every time I took the mound I felt more prepared than the last. I felt like I was at home, a feeling I’ve felt my whole life on the softball field.

The moral of the story is to never let anything/anyone get in the way of you trusting and believing in your abilities. I know it’s easier said than done, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my career it’s that ‘if you believe it, you can achieve it.’ Sometimes we are going to have moments of weakness, softball is a game of failures! Don’t be afraid to speak about those fears and face them head on. I feel that because I was able to get that off my chest (and my coaches were incredibly supportive), I truly feel it changed my entire summer. I went from struggling with my confidence, to having the best summer of my life. It was truly a defining moment in that it was something I hadn’t dealt with before and I needed to work through, I came out the other side stronger! All in all, the feeling of belonging sometimes might take some time. Work hard, be patient, and when that moment comes it’ll all be worth it.

Photo Cred: Nick Monaghan

Throughout these photos I see growth, not only physically but mentally. They always say you get better with age and that couldn’t be more true. Yes, you physically continue to get better at your craft- but the true edge is in the mental side of the game where you have lived and learned for so many practices, games, up’s, and down’s- you are ready to face anything.

Coming home…

I’ve been pining over doing a post about playing the NPF series in my hometown for quite a while, but it’s been hard to put into words what the week truly meant to me.

Picture this… a story my mom loves to tell…

At a very young age my whole family would go to Caswell to watch my dad play slow pitch. Caswell bathrooms happened to be one of the first with automatic flushers and they scared little Coley to death.

Fast forward to playing traveling softball at the same complex, playing in what felt like the biggest game of my life- my moms a nervous wreck- but she could find peace in that bathroom thinking of how far we have come.

Then on to high school ball, where the state tournament was held. Where I pitched in my last high school game, again at a field with so much history, and a bathroom my mom could always find comfort in.

To this… PROFESSIONAL SOFTBALL… Heights I never imagined reaching, playing on those same fields that as a little girl I was so terrified of using the restroom at.

Boy how fast the years have gone.

The weeks and days prior to coming home I felt so many emotions, with such high hopes of what was to come. Those high hopes were exceeded…

Opening day was delayed due to weather, leaving us wondering when we were going to get to play. Finally the call was made to move the game up from 7pm to 1pm.. we wondered how the turnout would be for a mid day- mid week game.

Seeing so many familiar faces drop everything and make it to the game to support my team, the Mankato Peppers and myself was just the first of so many humbling moments.

Warming up for game 1 felt so comfortable, I’ve done this same warm up on these same fields hundreds of times. No nerves, just unexplainable excitement to take the field for the first time.

Finally it was time for team introductions, where they announced the full team starting at number 1.. they finally got to number 17 and I got ready to go around the circle next, when my name was skipped. They saved my introduction for last and the applause was heartwarming. My teammates were excited for me as well, which made it even that much more special.

We were the away team so we had to hit first, but then it was time to take the field. It was honestly like a movie…

“Now taking the mound, Mankato’s own Coley Ries”

The crowd stood and applauded for an even longer and louder ovation than before… in that moment I had to just look at the ground- because I’m confident if I would’ve looked up and saw all the familiar faces so proudly welcoming me, I undoubtedly would’ve gotten choked up.

Aside from the Bandits going 5-0 on the week, putting on defensive and offensive displays, it wasn’t about that. It was about showing Minnesota what Pro Fastpitch is all about. Providing a unique, hands on experience, for the softball community.

This is what really touched me. I always felt so supported throughout my high school and collegiate careers but this entire week was eye opening and truly left me in awe.

The amount of little girls looking up at me the way I looked at so many of my idols growing up was something I will remember forever.

The Pro Fastpitch League is truly something special. We aren’t just athletes, we aren’t just softball players for the summer, we are role models– a positive influence on the future generation of our sport.

It truly puts everything into perspective. The impact we make on the kids is far more important than our physical abilities. Whether you have the best game of your life or the worst, it’s important to be grateful for where you are and make sure to react to either situation with grace.

The kids in the stands aren’t going to remember if you won or lost, but they will surely remember what you said to them or how you made them feel.

Seeing friends, teammates from many different phases of life, past coaches, mentors, neighbors, and family was something I will cherish for a lifetime.

Thank you to…

  • Mankato Peppers
  • Mangulis and Brielmaier family
  • The Peppers board
  • Caswell field crew
  • Caswell concession workers
  • Pro Fastpitch League
  • Chicago bandits and Beijing Eagles
  • KEYC (Claire dau)
  • KTOE (Barry Wortel)
  • The Mankato Free Press

& so many more that I know had a huge involvement and I’m forgetting.

I’m so proud to represent Mankato/Minnesota in the Professional Fastpitch League.

(Rhonda Milbrett photography)

Wearing a face mask doesn’t make me any less of a Professional…

I️ attended my first NFCA convention this past week and there were many topics that seemingly continued to come up. The one that struck a nerve with me was the face mask debate. It’s a topic that people feel strongly on both sides of and that’s perfectly fine, but I️ wanted to share my thoughts.

I️ began wearing a face mask my junior year in college. I️ had never been hit in the face- nor had I️ had many close encounters. BUT my main motivation was that IF I️ were to get hit in the face, it could put me on the bench for weeks – resulting in missing up to 12 games. My collegiate career was closer to it’s end and the last thing I️ wanted was to miss out on any opportunity to take the mound. More importantly, a 12 game span can change the entire complexion of your teams season. Why wouldn’t I️ take a precaution that could save myself from potentially hurting my team in the long run? Personally, that was enough motivation to put on the mask.

Some athletes have medical reasons for wearing one. I️ had a teammate who had a tumor in her jaw- resulting in her needing fake teeth once it was removed. She went through so much during that time that she was not going to risk shattering her fake teeth that she was very grateful for.

Some athletes have prior concussion issues or have broke their nose in the past. Again- why not take precautions to save yourself from going through those injuries again.

Some athletes wear it because they feel more comfortable staying down on the ball. As a pitcher, I️ would MUCH rather have a teammate with a .900 fielding percentage wearing a face mask than a teammate with a .750 fielding percentage without a mask because they pull their heads on the hot shots. Whatever gets the job done should be the focus. As for the debate of young athletes wearing masks when they do any and everything…

Do I️ think they can learn to play catch without a mask on? Yes.. but if it keeps even one little girl from getting hit in the face at age 6 and quitting this amazing game because of it- then it’s worth it. As they get more comfortable I truly believe the mask will come off for more and more skills (if they want!).

Do I️ believe it should be a players choice? Yes. But I️ don’t think they should feel like any less of a softball player because they do so.

I️ am no less..

•of a softball player because I️ wear a mask.

•of an All-American because I️ wear a mask.

•of a D2 Player of the Year because I️ wear a mask.

•of a National Champion because I️ wear a mask.

•of a Professional Athlete because I wear a mask.

“Let them say what they want, just keep doing you.”

My NPF experience…

My dream of a summer


Where it all began…

During the spring of 2016 this seemingly far out dream seemed closer to attainable. Two division 2 players (Morgan Foley; Scrapyard Dawgs & Hannah Perryman; Akron Racers) were brought in to the National Pro Fastpitch League. This gave me a glimmer of hope, the feeling of it being possible was really all I needed to go all in. I mentioned it to my parents and that is basically it… I’m not one to be too vocal about my dreams, because they seem to be fairly lofty. But why dream at all if you don’t dream big?

As my Senior year at Minnesota State University Mankato approached, our coaches did an activity with us. We were to write down our goals and we would store them away until the season ended. A few weeks ago we got them back, one of my goals.. “To get a NPF tryout – & make a roster”.


Throughout my Senior year I began to email Coaches and General Managers relentlessly. Due to the fact that my college eligibility wasn’t up yet, there wasn’t much that could be said back. But I feel if you want something bad enough, you need to do everything you can go get it. My main goal was to try to prove to these Teams that I wanted it. Open tryouts were set the week we were at the National Tournament, so they came and passed… I thought these were going to be my opportunity. Winning the National Tournament I believe played a huge role in my journey, I can’t thank my teammates and coaches enough for that- they helped my dream come to fruition. Post tournament I emailed all of the coaches one more time, pleaded for an opportunity to tryout. Finally the response came… the Texas Charge would give me a tryout when they came to play Chicago.

Tryout time @ 27 Jennie Finch Way, Rosemont.


My Dad, Mom, and I flew to Chicago on a Wednesday afternoon. With a few weather delays I would have to change in the airport and head straight to the field upon landing in Chicago. We showed up and that’s where I met General Manager Scott Smith and Coach Roman Foore. They had games against Beijing and Chicago that afternoon/evening so the plan was to throw in the bullpen while they warm up.

It’s important to understand my thought process going into this tryout…

  • Getting a tryout was my main goal – check
  • Secondly, I just wanted to know what wasn’t quite there yet…
  • I had NO expectations, just complete gratitude that they were giving me the time of day

Heading over to the bullpen was intimidating, the teams on the field taking batting practice and I’m getting ready to pitch in front of Scott, Roman, and Olympian Crystl Bustos – ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Once I got warmed up they handed me a ball – OH YEAH – didn’t know the ball was different… so that’s about where the nerves began. The ball is a little heavier, making pitches act a little different than I was used to. I warmed everything up – minus the drop ball, because I figured I shouldn’t show a pitch I haven’t thrown very much. In college my go to pitch was the Rise ball, with that I threw a lot of Screw, Curve, and Change ups. Maybe about 10 drop balls my senior year (Remember this for later). As I’m throwing they are telling me what to spot and they just stood behind and observed.

Then they asked to see my Drop ball… in my head I thought, “well here goes nothing”. They continually had me throw Drop, Screw, Change, Drop, Screw, Change… I’m thinking huh, that’s interesting. We finish up throwing and I talked to the catcher a little bit. I told her I really just learned the drop ball my senior year during the winter, I really didn’t throw it. She was shocked, said that was my best pitch. Imagine my surprise…

I talked a little bit to Scott and Roman after I pitched and they were going to discuss things and talk to me between games. Fast forward and the games got rained out, so I’m back at the hotel with my parents and I get a text from them asking if I could throw again tomorrow but to some live hitters. I thought that it was a good sign because I felt good about how things went that day, but my nerves again went up a notch because I felt I had a chance.

Day 2…

Going into this tryout I told myself to just get the batters to miss hit, you aren’t going to strike them out. Mandy Ogle was my catcher this day and she had some very comforting words before the tryout that definitely eased my nerves. (THANK YOU MANDY).  I would be pitching against Texas Longhorn Breja’e Washington and Oregon Duck Koral Costa. All of the coaches and people from the Charge staff were there watching. As the tryout went on I got some miss hits and even some strikeouts, I felt it went as good as it could have gone. We begin walking off the field and this is when Roman pulled me aside, told me I had made the team, and gave me an offer. He asked if I needed to go talk to my parents and I -in no time at all- said “NOPE!!” I was too excited to take the offer to wait even one more second for my dream to officially come true… I WAS A PROFESSIONAL SOFTBALL PLAYER!!!!

I very quickly went out to my parents grinning ear to ear and told them, “I MADE IT!” I head to Texas on Saturday! To describe this feeling is truly impossible. I called my college coaches, some teammates, my brother and boyfriend. I couldn’t wait to tell them the good news.

I then went into the locker room, sized my uniform, cleats, glove, practice clothes, and signed the dotted line. By the way, I got to try on THE Bailey Landry’s uniform… this was a big deal people – it’s Bailey Landry. My parents and I watched part of the next game, went out for a celebratory dinner, and headed back to airport to go pack up my life for the next 3 months. WHAT A WHIRLWIND.


It’s Texas time y’all!

Saturday morning at 3am, just over 24 hours of being home it was time to leave for the summer. I basically let no emotion except excitement seep into my mind, for someone who’s never lived more than 10 minutes from home – this was a leap. I had a connecting flight and arrived in Texas in the early afternoon. Intern Shelby was at the airport to pick me up and take me straight to the field, it was GAME DAY.

My dad had a separate flight to come down and help me get settled in, so he was on his way as well. We get to the field and I am as nervous and awkward as I have probably ever been. A big group of amazing softball players that I’ve idolized for who knows how long are now my teammates, how do I strike up a conversation? There were so many unknowns at this point that I began to panic.

  • What am I supposed to wear?
  • What do we do for warm ups?
  • Where am I going to live for the next few months?
  • Who are these people?
  • Do I belong here?

Koral Costa called me over and introduced herself, told me she was a rookie as well and we have to stick together! It helped break the ice a little bit, soon enough player after player came and introduced themselves and I felt more and more comfortable as each person did so. We played the Akron Racers and won 5-2! Its now about 9:30PM and I have yet to have a decent meal (NERVES PEOPLE..) and I still don’t know where I’m living. We head out to the ranch we are living on and our house was an old office building, so not quite what I had pictured in my head. It was perfectly fine, kind of like dorm living, but it being dark out and it all starting to hit me… I’m not gonna lie I had a break down. I was going to be living in a state I’d never been in, that I don’t know ANYONE in, all the way across the country from my family. I hadn’t let that quite sink in, and in that moment it all became real. My dad was very reassuring, I’m so happy he was there to help me get through those feelings and help me find some stuff to make my room feel more home-y.

My Pro Debut

      It was only day 2 in Texas and I got the word from Coach Crystl Bustos to go warm up. I went out to the bullpen and began warming up. We had a pretty good lead, so I felt this was probably going to by my chance. Next thing I knew, Bustos was walking out to the bullpen and she said, “Are you nervous?” I said, “Yes…” She then said, “Good, throw the first one as hard as you can”. I laughed and sure enough, I got the final inning of the game. What a crazy feeling to hear my name announced for my very first appearance as a professional softball player, it still doesn’t feel real typing that. I pitched against A.J. Andrews and the Fagan sisters – just the beginning of long list of great players I’d only seen on TV. My dad was there and we got to have a fathers day dinner and it was time for him to leave and for me to begin the journey by myself.


When I got back to the ranch, Bailey Landry and Emily Vincent came and asked me if I wanted to explore the property and go float in the river. This was a great opportunity to get to know them better and again feel more comfortable. I couldn’t be more thankful for them reaching out, it ended up being the start of 2 amazing friendships.


Game days, Plane rides, and Hotel stays…

To try to sum this whole crazy summer up, I won’t bore you with the day to day journal entries I wrote. Instead I will just talk about some of the most amazing moments of the summer.


Colorado was the first trip of my summer, the beginning of a 17 day road trip all packed into one carry on. We would go from Colorado –> Akron –> Viera, FL –> Miami –> Kansas City and finally back to Texas.

Colorado was very special for me because it was during the travel ball tournaments, so I had a big group of Mankato Peppers come to one of the games – and I even got to go in! I appreciated seeing people from home so much along the way, their support meant more than they even could know. Jess and John Meidl also came to a game in Colorado, 2 more faces I was SO thrilled to see. It was nice to be able to talk to people who I was truly comfortable with.


My first Professional Start

We are in Miami for the MLB fan fest and to play against the USSSA Pride for 3 games. The Pride is a team made up of a lot of big names, as is every team, but girls like Sierra Romero, Kelly Kretschman, and Lauren Chamberlain are people I never even dreamt of facing.

We had played the Pride in a series earlier in the season and we didn’t do very well. I got one inning of scoreless relief in one game and 4 innings of scoreless relief in another. I knew I had done well in those outings but I still never imagined what would be to come…

We get to the field for warm ups and Roman Foore called me over and told me I was starting. I. WAS. PUMPED. I quickly went and called my Mom, Dad, Coaches, and texted a few other people and told them the news. I really couldn’t believe it, when I made the team I was under no impression that I would some day get to start a game.

Hearing my name in that starting lineup – and hearing the lineup across the field, was truly a dream like moment. I know I refer to this whole thing as dream worthy a lot, but that’s really the only was to describe it. I ended up throwing 5 full innings and we lost the game 6-2. In my head this wasn’t a great outing, but my teammates and coaches disagreed. They were all very proud of the effort I put forth and this was a defining moment for me. The moment I felt like I truly belonged. The GM, Coaches, and my teammates have no idea the impact their comments had with me, I appreciated it more than they could’ve ever known.


The highlight of my life…

I have had many incredible moments that I’m extremely thankful for throughout my athletic career, but none can match this is.

Let’s set the scene…

  • I’m getting my second start against the Pride
  • My parents, Coach Wolcott, Ashley Thell, Anna Cole & family, and a girl I give pitching lessons are all in attendance

That’s more people in the stands than what have watched me play my entire LIFE!


This game I threw 5.1 innings and ended up getting the win.. My first professional win… Notice most of my moments talked about in this blog aren’t about the wins and losses – or results in the game – but more about the moment. This is no different. Yes, is it an amazing feeling to get my first win against at the time the number 1 team in the league, and our first win against them, OF COURSE. But what was so much greater was the atmosphere. There was so much love for softball in that ballpark it was something truly special.


Not only that but looking up at my parents in the stands was the most gratifying feeling, making them proud is one the best feelings in the world. I went up to hug my parents down the third base line and Roman came up and gave me and my dad the game ball. This entire experience really leaves me at a loss for words, to describe that day, everything about it, the emotions that went with it, the special people in my life that were at it… NOTHING compares. Just as we do every game, we went down the line and signed autographs, with that came my favorite picture of the entire summer. A picture that says a million words, one that has a true impact on me… this little girl has a dream – if I could tell her one thing it would be to chase it – no matter how big or how crazy it seems, you can do anything you believe in.


“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

NPF Pitcher of the Week

I won’t spend much time on this, but I think it’s worth documenting. Never in a million years did I think or expect that I would receive any honor throughout this experience. All I did was look at it as a chance to continue playing the game I love, with incredible people, and learn amazing things.



The end…

The end of the season felt like it came about as quickly as it began. Though I didn’t know it would be my teammates and my last game in a Charge uniform. When the season ended I had conversations and felt comfortable that I would be returning for another season with this amazing group of people. Something went wrong, things happened that we may never know the answer as to why, but I received word on October 12th that the Texas Charge is no longer a team.


All I can say is my heart broke. For so many reasons… I’ll never be teammates with these amazing people again, I’ll never live on the ranch again, I’ll never put on Texas Charge uniform again. But what really broke my heart is the thought that my career could be over. It was easy to fall into a bit of a funk upon getting the news, thinking that it was over, not knowing if I’d ever competitively get to lace up my cleats again… my motivation was knocked out of me like a punch in the gut. But I came to a realization to….

Never let anyone else decide when your dream is over.

My motivation just had to be shifted. Shifted to working as hard as I can to get another team to take a chance on me. To prove again that I belong in the league and I’m not ready to be done. If this takes me back to open tryouts, then so be it, but this girl is not ready to close this chapter quite yet. Stay tuned for round 2…. 


I want to also take the time to publicly thank the National Pro Fastpitch League (all of their employees) for what they do to give women like myself the opportunity to play the game we love. The former Texas Charge Organization,  Specifically – Scott Smith, Roman Foore, Penny Foore, Jessica Rogers, and Crystl Bustos, for taking a chance on me and letting me live out my dream AND experience a moment that goes down as the highlight of my life. My entire team for making me feel so welcomed and being some of the most influential and supportive people I’ve ever met. And lastly, my family and friends, for supporting me every step of the way. 

My message to incoming athletes…

From Freshman to Senior Year

It’s that time of year again, where teams are coming together and beginning to find their new identity. The previous year is in the past, what you did and what the team did, doesn’t matter anymore. It’s time to see who will be the surprise newcomer that will make an immediate impact, who will come in the best shape of their lives, who will shock the team by their improvements they made during the offseason? This is an exciting, yet very nerve racking time of year. Being that I’ve been through it, I wanted to share a few tips and secrets for each class and the obstacles you might face.

There are two things that I have learned that can be helpful to all athletes, regardless of age.

This summer was the first time I was away from home playing professionally in Texas. It’s a scary feeling to have a bunch of unknowns, but I realized how much softball was a comfort zone for me.

You have all been playing softball your whole lives, all over the country, on countless different fields. But the game never changes. My biggest piece of advice is to have softball be your comfort zone or your release. Even if you have had the worst day ever, try your best to keep that out of your mind while being on the field. If you keep that as a safe place, somewhere you feel comfortable and confident, you will be that much more excited to go out and play. Keeping school and your personal life separate is important because your mind can only handle so much at one time. Keep softball a place for ball, a place you feel at home.

The second thing that is important regardless of your age is to set yourself up to be able to finish your season/career with no regrets. Only one team each season gets to end up on top, so inevitably most of you are going to deal with the crushing feeling of your season/career being over. Do yourself a favor now and go the extra mile so that when that day does come, you don’t sit and question what more you could have done. Don’t take the game for granted because it’ll be over before you know it and you only have one chance, so don’t miss it.


There is so much uncertainty being a freshman. So many questions run through your head…

  • “How am I going to survive away from home?”
  • “What is practice going to be like?”
  • “What’s going to happen if I don’t pass conditioning testing?”
  • “How do I get respect from the upperclassmen?”
  • Do I belong playing at this level?”

All the questions swirling around in your head are normal and you certainly aren’t alone. I want to share a few key concepts that I believe will get you off on the right foot with your career.

First and foremost, your best friends are going to be your eyes and ears. It’s so important to listen to details and watch things closely. The quickest way to impress is to not look like you are lost. This is important in all aspects of softball – on the field and off. There are going to be a lot of things you don’t know or understand, the best thing you can do is find an upperclassmen (particularly one in the same position as you) and follow them around. Watch what they do, listen to what they say, and do your best to emulate them. Understand it’s OK to ask questions, the cliche ‘no question is a bad question’ couldn’t be more true. Speaking as a coach, when explaining a drill if you don’t understand I would rather you ask for clarity than for you to just act like you know and try to do it – resulting in it going poorly for everyone.

In my last blog I spoke a little bit on the importance of my redshirt year and what I was able to learn by just watching. This goes for in practice as well. Even if you aren’t currently in a drill, you need to be watching what your position is doing – so you know what to do when you are thrown out there. By listening and watching EVERYTHING closely, you will not only impress others but you will feel more confident and comfortable in what you are doing.

Being a Freshman is really pretty awesome on the field. You have no expectations. Every time you step on the field you have the opportunity to turn heads. You can play loose and no one is necessarily expecting you to have an All-American type year, if you do, it’s just a bonus. Your opponents don’t know you, they don’t know your strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, you are able to surprise teams with what you bring to the table. Take advantage of this opportunity, because it’s the last year that you get to be unknown, and trust me – it goes fast.


Don’t fall into the dreaded ‘sophomore slump‘. My best advice is to not compare yourself to your previous years success. As I said above, no one knew you and you had no expectations. Well, you definitely can’t say that for sophomore year.

This is a tough year mentally on a lot of players because if they had breakout freshman seasons, they now have expectations. Not only from their coaches, teammates, families, opponents, etc., but also they have expectations of themselves. It’s okay to have expectations- don’t get me wrong, but don’t let it be your focus.

This is a new season, what you did in the past doesn’t matter now, and what you are doing now, doesn’t take away from what you did in the past. As a batter, teams know where to pitch you now. If you sent one 300 ft. over the fence last year on a certain pitch, you probably won’t get that one again. As a pitcher, if you stunned a team with your rise ball, you know their focus the entire week prior to playing you is going to be to lay off that pitch.

The key to sophomore year is to not get caught up in what you ‘should’ be doing and just focus on doing the best you can day in and day out.

Juniors & Seniors

I put the upperclassmen together for this section because I think the keys to success are very similar. As a Junior, you are over the sophomore slump, you know that you need to retool yourself somehow to make yourself a threat in a little different of a way than you attacked teams in the past. The expectations aren’t new to you anymore, it doesn’t sit in the back of your mind because you know that the expectations themselves aren’t going to change your abilities. You focus on playing the game and letting the rest fall into place.

These seasons are about transforming into a leader on and off the field. One of the biggest keys to a team succeeding is having strong leadership. You need people that help motivate the underclassmen. As a freshman you take the words the seniors say to heart and you want to play for them – and now you need to be that influence for the younger girls. You need to change your focus from playing for the upperclassmen to helping the underclassmen have the best careers that they can, just as the older girls did for you. Being a positive influence and leaving an impact on them is the most important part of leading a team.

Another part of being a leader is being okay with people not always being real happy with you. You need to be able to call people out if they aren’t doing what’s best for the team. If there is a disagreement between 2 players or the players vs. coaches, you might need to be the middle man to help find peace. If you don’t have a leader that is fearless, there are going to be too many unresolved issues to succeed in the long run.

As a senior your goal is to go out with a bang. I’ve seen being a senior affect people in many different ways. Sometimes players; are ultra focused on softball because they know that this is their last chance, some start to get distracted by the fact that the real world is right around the corner, some focus too much on all the lasts as they happen and some have reached that point where they are content with being done. This is important in the success of the team, if you aren’t still able to give 100% to the team that is playing so hard for you, you are doing them an injustice. My biggest advice to seniors is to slow it all down, you know by now how fast the years go and you don’t want to blink. Take in every second and don’t look too far in the future. Don’t count down the days/games, take them one game at a time, whatever happens is supposed to happen. Enjoy this season- every second of it, because it’s the last time for many of you that you get to be apart of a team – and unfortunately most people don’t realize just how special that is until it’s gone.

famsoftball.jpg                                                              “Better Together”

How my career was almost over before it even began…

This is the post excerpt.

What would my life had been like if I didn’t get to experience all that I have in the past 4 years…

It all goes back to my true freshman year at Minnesota State University Mankato. Going into the fall I had been told I was almost positively going to redshirt, as we had 4 other pitchers on staff and I had some growing and strengthening to still do. So my goal in practice and the fall games was to listen, watch, ask questions, and learn as much as I could from the older girls and coaches.

Suddenly, one day not long before winter break one of the veteran catchers came up to me and asked where I thought I stood with the pitchers. I have never been great at giving myself full credit, so I answered maybe 3 or 4? She laughed and told me no, you are number 1, you are our golden ticket. I was shocked to hear this, I knew things were going well, but I still never thought I was going to be in the picture that season. She told me that she and some of the other seniors had talked to the coaches about pulling my redshirt because they felt strongly about the impact I could have. That moment gave me all of the motivation and confidence I needed moving forward.

Come winter break the coaches told me I wasn’t going to redshirt and I was so excited to get to take the field with this team. We went down to Arizona for the first weekend and I got my first start – and WIN! It was a great feeling to know that all of my handwork through the years had paid off to be able to play collegiately for my hometown college. Things seemed to be going so smoothly, the start of what could be an incredible year.

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Everything started to take a turn for the worse in our next outing in Rochester Minnesota. I was having a lot of trouble with my hand being extra sweaty and I could tell something just wasn’t right. I started to have forearm pain throwing overhand but was still okay pitching. I went to the trainers after these games and told them what happened. After multiple discussions they set me up to see an orthopedic surgeon to XRAY my forearm, they found nothing… They came to the conclusion that I basically had a shin splint in my forearm, but why? How? Little did we know it would take a year to get that question answered.

I went on to Florida for our spring break trip and we were attempting a tape job to help alleviate some of the pain. I got through the first game alright – in a little pain, but not nearly what I was about to experience. The next game rolled around and after it finished, I knew something really bad had happened. My arm was trembling, when I turned my hand it shook uncontrollably. It was to the point where I could in no way throw a ball overhand… or underhand. We road out the trip wearing a sling to help the pain and worked on scheduling an appointment with TRIA orthopedic upon our return to Minnesota. I knew in my gut that something was more wrong than what we had thought.

We went to TRIA the day after we got back, talked to the surgeon, got an XRAY, and waited in the room to hear the results. She found a stress reaction and bone growth on top of my ulna in the middle of my forearm. Basically, the muscle was pulling away from the bone every time I rotated and new bone was trying to form in it’s place. She told me then and there that my season was over and the next step wasn’t really known. I was put in a air cast from my wrist to above my elbow so that I couldn’t rotate at all for a couple of months and would revisit it to see how things healed up – if at all.

My season was over… I didn’t get to play with those seniors that worked so hard to get me in the lineup with them. I felt like I was letting so many people down, and I only got to play a few games. I ended the season with a 5-1 record, which was good considering that allowed me to take a medical redshirt.

We went back for the next appointment and nothing had changed, we thought our only option was a potential surgery that had only been done on one other person. (Cut me open, cut my muscle away from my bone, shave off the new bone, reattach the muscle, sew me back up) This didn’t sound like a great option, so we decided to continue to stay shut down until the fall to see if things were any better.

Fall rolled around, no changes… Winter rolled around, no changes… the season is once again upon us and, well, no changes…

We decided it was time to try a cortisone shot, but first I needed to trigger the pain so that we could find exactly where the shot needed to go. So, here we are headed down to the opening weekend where I pitched, which I hadn’t done for about a year, with a low pitch count, and only throwing fastballs and changeups. Pain was triggered and when we got back it was time to try the shot and guess what… NO CHANGES!

At this point I had a sit down meeting with my coach and the discussion we had was one of the hardest one’s of my life. Was my career over… was that it, had we exhausted all options? Was my career really over before it even had a chance to begin?

Then a miracle happened.

The Men’s Hockey Coach at MSU told my coach about a man in the cities that did some alternative kind of medicine that was hard to understand and really hard to explain. We were willing to try anything at this point, so skeptically, my dad, head coach, and I headed to Shoreview to give it a shot. He adjusted my vertebrae, shoulder, elbow, and wrist. The second he popped my elbow, I felt a shooting pain down my forearm – and instant relief! I couldn’t believe it! He was a miracle worker! Just like that, he cured me! He explained that pain isn’t always where the source of the issue is, my ulnar bone was out of the joint in my elbow, causing it to pull away from my muscle when rotated. We left his office all practically in tears, giddy for what seemed like a miracle.

That season we walked on eggshells a little bit, not wanting to press our luck by pitching too much. Basically, we couldn’t practice much, we needed to save my arm for games. The season was everything I dreamed of and more, earning Freshman of the year and Pitcher of the year honors in the Conference. With everything I had endured in the past year, that was the moment I realized the silver lining in it all. I owe a ton of my successes that season to the previous season, that I was able to watch from the sideline and learn things that I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to learn before doing. I was able to pick up on things that I may have had to learn the hard way had I been on the field. My message to everyone, whether you are playing your freshman year or not – the more you watch and truly try to learn, the more it will benefit you when you get that chance to step on the field.

To this day, with semi regular visits to the miracle worker, my arm has been healed! I got to continue my career at MSU, learn so much about myself, and have the time of my life.

With all battles that we face we ask ourselves why? Why me? I learned my why this past May, when we won the D2 National Championship. Had I not gotten hurt that first year, I wouldn’t have still been playing alongside my teammates this past season. I learned to take advantage of every second you have playing the game you love, because nothing is guaranteed. From that moment forward I felt like I was getting a second chance – one that so many people worked so hard to help me get.