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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If You Wear XL T-Shirts And Shorts, You're The Woman Of My Dreams

Enough with the war on comfort!
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Comfortable can be sexy, simply put.

For some reason there are people complaining out there about the Southern college trend that has been happening the past few years: big t-shirts and shorts, also known as the "srat uniform." There seems to be a clash between the girls who dress "nice" most of the time and girls who dress for comfort. As a guy, I don't see what the big deal is?

For college in the South, there are two reasons to dress up: college football (Roll Tide) and date parties. Any other time, you can find a majority of the female population in shorts and a big t-shirt that makes it look like they're not wearing pants. As a man, I personally don't see anything wrong with this. I love being comfortable as much as the next person, and most guys find the baggy t-shirt and shorts outfit to be cute. There's always a time and place for dresses and rompers.

But for all the haters out there that call these girls in XL t-shirts and shorts lazy, you've got it all wrong.

There are 4 reasons why the girls who don the "srat uniform" have it all figured out.

1. Girls have it rough.

See, it's tough being a girl. I don't know from experience, but I hear it enough and I've seen it enough to know it's true. When girls aren't dealing with f***boys, periods or having to do their hair and makeup routinely, they are being overly criticized by our society. I think society owes girls a break, and that break comes in the comfortable baggy t-shirt and shorts.

2. Southern Not-So-Comfort(able) weather.

Also, for all of the haters, maybe y'all haven't noticed that it's hotter than Satan's balls in the South! Tight, dressy outfits and pants constrict the body and cause you to sweat. I'd rather see a dry girl in a baggy t-shirt than a girl drenched in sweat trying to look cute with her outfit.

3. Perfect doesn't exist.

It's admirable when a girl can unapologetically be herself. A girl in an XL t-shirt and shorts is a girl that is saying "yes, I may have just rolled out of bed and brushed my hair, but I'm here dammit." Social media tells us we all have to be the dolled up, most "perfect" version of ourselves all the time, so it's nice to experience that reality check.

4. Guys think it's cute, regardless.

9 times out of 10, guys in college do not care what you're wearing. Trust me, we aren't doing much better. You could probably put on a garbage bag and we still think you're cute. Any guy that dates a girl that dates a girl only because she dresses nicely all of the time is a shallow man. You're cute, you're comfortable, and that makes for a much better vibe. We all win.

So, in the battle of dressing "nice" and dressing comfortable, I think that the girls who wear an XL t-shirt and shorts chalk up a win in my record book. No, I'm not bashing on girls who have a true sense of style and wear nice clothing... that's a great thing in itself! But, this is college and there are more important things to focus on besides what we're wearing.

Ladies, wear your srat uniform with pride. Some us think it's cute :)

*I want to thank the beautiful ladies at the University of Alabama for inspiring this article.*

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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Becky Hammon, Pioneer

Ex-WNBA Star turned NBA Coach, Becky Hammon and her rise in the ranks in a male dominated league.

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68 years. That's how long the National Basketball League went without a full-time, salaried female head coach. Until Becky Hammon came along.

The South Dakota native and Colorado State Alum is no stranger to the sport. Throughout her illustrious career, she received many accolades. As a senior in high school, she was voted South Dakota Player of the Year after averaging 25 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists per game.

Due to her small frame (5'6) many coaches didn't think she'd fit with their style of play. However, she caught the attention of an assistant coach at Colorado State and committed during her senior year of high school.

As a Ram, Hammon was named All-American three times, was named Colorado Sportswoman of the year. During the 1998-1999 season, Hammon led her team to the Women's NCAA Sweet Sixteen and was named the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) Mountain Division Player of the year.

Hammon broke several records at Colorado State, including points, points per game, field goals made, free throws made, three points made, and assists. After surpassing the greats at her university, she was still not on many WNBA scouts' radar. She went undrafted in the 1999 WNBA Draft and signed with the New York Liberty. Her impressive play on both sides of the court made her a standout for the organization.

During the 2007 WNBA Draft, Hammon was involved in a trade, sending her to the San Antonio Stars, where she remained until 2014. While with the Stars, Hammon continued to play with intensity, contributing to several of their trips to the WNBA Playoffs.

In the 2013 season, she suffered a season-ending ACL injury which led her to spend time at the San Antonio Spurs training facilities. There, she conveyed her aspirations to coach after retiring from the WNBA.

While rehabbing her knee, she also gave inputs to the Spurs coaching staff on game strategy, etc. Once the Spurs had seen Hammon's basketball IQ, Coach Gregg Popovich invited her to attend several team practices.

"She's not just a good player but a smart player, a great person in our community, just somebody that we all respect so much, we gave her the opportunity to sit with us during the year. She came to our coaches' meetings, argued with us. She did everything. She's been wonderful,'' Coach Popovich said to reporters.

Following the completion of her rehabilitation, Hammon announced her retirement succeeding the 2014 WNBA season.

In August of 2014, she was hired as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, becoming the first woman to do so. She is tied to many 'firsts' for women in one of the major leagues. 'First Woman Head Coach in the NBA Summer League,' and the 'First Woman to be a part of an All-Star Game Coaching Staff' to name a few.

In hopes of further advancing her career, Hammon interviewed for the General Manager Position for the Milwaukee Bucks last year. Although she didn't get the position, she was a finalist, and other organizations have voiced their support for her to eventually become a head coach or in a front office position.

As a small token of gratitude for all she has done, Colorado State and the San Antonio Stars have retired her jersey as well as, espnW honoring her as Sportswoman of the Year in 2014. Next season, Hammon will continue to be on the Spurs' coaching staff in a higher ranking assistant coach capacity.

Her abilities and contributions to the advancement of women in a male-dominated industry do not go unnoticed.

Here's a fantastic quote from Hammon to close that we all should live by.

"My story, just in general, is a story of someone who was overlooked, someone who was told they can't, someone who was told, 'You're too slow. You're too short.' I've heard every reason why I shouldn't be successful. And yet, you just take that all in. I always say you should be very careful with the voices you listen to. And my closest voices have always told me, 'You can.'"

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