To The Game That Gave Me More Than Just Trophies

To The Game That Gave Me More Than Just Trophies

To all of you who I was lucky enough to know because of this game, thank you.
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As I grow older and look back on my childhood, there are things that I can look at and say, "That made me who I am today." Playing the game of softball is one of those things. But it brought so much more than a shelf full of trophies and a tolerance to dirt.

I can't even tell you when it was that I officially began to play softball. I'm sure I was one of those 6-year-olds out on the Little League field, hitting the ball to the pitcher and running the wrong way around the bases. What I can tell you is the day that it began to take on some meaning, and that was the summer I was 11 years old.

That day, I vowed my summers to early mornings, awkward tan lines, sore arms, scorching heat, and dirt everywhere. Had I known at the beginning of my career that that's what my weekends would entail every single summer, I honestly might not have signed up. I also didn't know that it was one of the best decisions I would ever make.

Yes, winning tournaments and beating those annoying teams gave me so much joy and pride at times. But nothing compares to the lessons I learned, the coaches I played under, and the lifelong friends that I made.

To my parents who supported and encouraged me—I think that playing a sport as a child is one of the best things that my parents could have encouraged me to do. As a child, I didn't know who I was, or what I expected from myself, or my ability to be a leader or a follower. All the while, though, I was figuring it out, I just didn't know it. There aren't enough thanks in the world to give to you—for all the money spent, the early mornings driving two hours to an 8 a.m. game, the packed lunches, the sunscreen lotion, the gas station runs you made for Gatorade and water—and most of all, your love and support. I always felt like the best player in the world after a good game, and that's because of you. To all of the parents of my teammates—you loved me like your own and made it feel more like a family than a team. Thank you for the bottles of water, the granola bars, and the hugs. You will always be my "other parents."

To the teammates and coaches who taught me to be a leader—my ability to become a leader is all due to the situations and people who pushed me to be one. Had I not played softball, I would have never gotten the opportunity to practice things like leadership. Playing sports also teaches you how to stay within your moral compass. When all you want to do is cuss at the girl who laughed at your teammate, you learn to leave it on the field. You prove your point by how you play, not what you say. Without softball, I may never have learned these lessons and received the opportunity to put them into practice. I think about how I dealt with softball situations so much still, and apply them to situations I am presented with even now in college.

To the coaches who believed in me even when I didn't—everyone has those adults in their life that aren't their parents, but you still trust them as if they were. I was so lucky to be coached by some of the most admirable, funny, genuinely caring coaches throughout my eight years of travel softball. My coaches pushed me, challenged me, and made me the best player that I could be. I trusted them, not only with their hitting signs from third base, but also with my life. And I still do to this day. Even though our time together on the field is done, I know that our friendship is not.

But, after all these great things I have learned and great people I have had the privilege to be coached by, nothing beats the lifelong friendships I have made on that field.

To the girls who became my best friends over some fly balls and strikeouts—there is just something about a sport, something about softball, that brings people so close that the bond never breaks. You know these people like the back of your hand—you know their habits, their family life, their favorite bands, their best home run, their pet peeves, their favorite pitch to hit, their hobbies, their most embarrassing play—the list could go on forever. Endless inside jokes and sideline cheers. Hotel weekends will never be as fun. Early mornings and absolutely horribly, ugly games.

You grew up with these girls; you went from wearing no bras under your jerseys to having to wear two. From straining to throw the ball from outfield to the pitcher, to being scared to catch your teammate's throw, from sweet, innocent 10-year-olds, to fun-loving softball players. These are your "people." Doesn't matter when you stop playing, they'll always be your people.

To the girls who are the midst of it all right now—those early mornings and sprints may seem horrible now, but trust me, you're going to miss them. Cherish every moment you have on the field, and don't take any pitch for granted. Play the game well, but love your team even more.

There are an endless number of thanks that I could give out. To anyone and everyone who I had the privilege to cross paths with in my softball career—you helped to make me who I am today, and made the sport of softball much more than just a game. I miss it more and more every day, and am thankful for the mere eight years I got.

Cover Image Credit: Dorian Carpenter

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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I Wouldn't Trade My DII Experience To Play DI Athletics Any Day

I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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As a high school athlete, the only goal is to play your varsity sport at the Division 1 level in college.

No one in high school talks about going to a Division 2 or 3 school, it's as if the only chance you have at playing college athletics is at the DI level. However, there are so many amazing opportunities to play a varsity sport at the DII and DIII level that are equally fun and competitive as playing for a division 1 team.

As a college athlete at the DII level, I hear so many DI athletes wishing they had played at the DII or DIII level. Because the fact of the matter is this: the division you play in really doesn't matter.

The problem is that DII and DIII sports aren't as celebrated as Division 1 athletics. You don't see the National Championships of Division 2 and 3 teams being broadcasted or followed by the entire country. It's sad because the highest levels of competition at the DII and DIII level are competing against some of the Division 1 teams widely celebrated across the country. Yet DII and DIII teams don't receive the recognition that DI athletics do.

Not everyone can be a DI athlete but that doesn't mean it's easy to be a DII or DIII athlete. The competition is just as tough as it is at the top for DII and DIII athletes. Maybe the stakes are higher for these athletes because they have to prove they are just as good as DI athletes. Division 2 and 3 athletes have just as much grit and determination as Division 1 athletes, without the glorified title of being "a division 1 athlete."

Also, playing at the DII or DIII level grants more opportunities to make your college experience your own, not your coach's.

I have heard countless horror stories in athletics over the course of my four-year journey however, the most heartbreaking come from athletes who lose their drive to compete because of the increased pressure from coaches or program. Division 1 athletics are historically tougher programs than Division 2 or 3 programs, making an athlete's college experience from one division to another significantly different.

The best part of not going to a division 1 school is knowing that even though my team doesn't have "DI" attached to it, we still have the opportunity to do something unique every time we arrive at an event. Just because we aren't "DI" athletes, we still have the drive and competitive spirit to go to an event and win. We are great players, and we have broken countless records as a team.

That's something we all have done together, and it's something we can take with us for the rest of our lives.

We each have our own mission when it comes to our college athletic careers, however together we prove to be resilient in the fight for the title. Giving it all when we practice and play is important, but the memories we have made behind the scenes as a team makes it all worth it, too.

The best part of being apart of college athletics is being able to be passionate about your sport with teammates that embody that same mindset. It's an added benefit to having teammates who become your best friends because it makes your victories even more victorious, and your defeats easier to bare.

No matter what level an athlete is playing at in college, it's important that all the hours spent at practice and on the road should be enjoyed with teammates that make the ride worthwhile. The experiences athletes have at any level are going to vary, but the teammates I have and the success we've had together is something I cherish and will take with me forever. I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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