You Belong Here

Once upon a time, like many other freshmen in college, balance was something I really struggled with. I had no idea what I was doing or really who I was as a person. I was learning how to manage difficult classes, relearning how to pitch and figuring out how to take care of myself.

That first semester of college, I identified as just a softball player and I didn’t feel like a very good one, at that. I was a late recruit who went from the best player on every team I had ever been on to the bottom of the bullpen totem pole. There were so many activities I could get involved in at the University of Kansas but I was just another athlete struggling at practice and wheezing my way through weights and trying to please everyone I encountered.

At KU, freshmen athletes meet with mentors in the leadership branch of the athletic department on a weekly basis. I usually filled my full hour with tears. I was so unhappy during the fall of my freshman year and I internalized that sadness to an extreme in order to put on a facade of positivity. I’d talk to my mentor about whatever topic was assigned for our meeting, but I could barely get through the meetings without breaking down when we’d talk about my goals, my friends, and my family. My sadness wasn’t because I didn’t love my school or my teammates or the game of softball; it was the opposite actually. I just purely didn’t feel like I belonged.

One week, I explained to my mentor the feelings I had about not being at the right school or doing the right thing and she was horrified that I felt that way. We talked in depth about all the things I could accomplish at Kansas if I put my mind to them and determined some achievable goals. She was the first person that helped me understand just how wonderful the athletics support system could be and she suggested that I write something encouraging to myself in plain view to remind me that Kansas is exactly where I belong. With that advice in mind, I went back to my dorm and wrote in a small purple marker on a sticky note in the corner of my white board above my desk, “You belong here.”

Fast forward 3.5 years, and here we are. Playing softball for Kansas with a few accolades under my belt, graduating the Journalism school in May with honors, a member of Student Senate, in a sorority, and no longer unhappy with the person I am. Recently however, I’ve been stressing about a lot of things that are genuinely uncontrollable. As of a few days ago, it’s officially April. April means that I only have a month and a half left to walk down Jayhawk Boulevard as an undergrad, play in a jersey with ‘Kansas’ across my chest, and be only a short walk or drive away from all my friends and family. April also means, “Shit, it’s April and in a month and a half I could be moving to a TBD location for a TBD job for a TBD salary with TBD roommates at a TBD apartment, etc.”

Last week, however, our Sunday game against OSU was rained out and I was able to go to church with some of my good friends in Lawrence on Sunday morning. It had been a stressful weekend so far with softball, classwork, and my job hunt. Seeing as we typically play on Sundays, I realized this may be the last time I’d have the opportunity to get to go to church for the rest of the school year. I thought about using our off day to get caught up on school, sleep in and run errands instead of attending church, but I went and I am SO glad I listened to the still small voice that convinced me to go.

The message this week was centered around Ephesians 2:19: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” (NIV).

Through this passage, the pastor translated the content of the verse to, “You belong here.” When those three words appeared on the projector screen in front of me, I almost started crying because, with three words, my college experience had come to a full circle.

No matter what my life will look like in a month and a half, I still will belong wherever I am, I just need to trust God’s plan for me. God will love me as much on my bad days as my good days and it’s important to not fester on the uncontrollable and temporary. It doesn’t matter where I’ll be in a month and a half because no matter where that will be, it’ll be exactly where I need to be, and I needed someone to remind me of that. 

After church, just like freshman year, I took out a small purple marker once I got home and wrote, “You belong here,” on a sticky note and placed it above my desk.

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For the Love of the Game

When I go back to school, it’ll be my last year of undergrad and my last year of playing fastpitch softball. Though I’m excited for my senior year, I can’t help but feel my heart aching in anticipation of my last season.

This game has shaped the person I am and I’m not sure anything could prepare me for the end of its chapter.

I’ve recently become very conscious of the impact the game of softball has had in my life, something my internship this summer has really made me aware of. I’m able to think on my toes, I’m attentive to detail, I’m not intimidated by senior level execs and I never make the same mistake twice. Corporate America can be pretty intense, especially in the world of crisis communications, but I’ve realized that I have every tool I need for high-pressure, time sensitive projects thanks to the game of softball.

Asking an intern to take on a component of an important project is like putting in a pitcher in the top of the 7th, a situation I’ve grown to embrace. Tears are not uncommon in the office during all-hands-on-deck moments, but I’ve blown enough leads, given up enough homeruns, and had plenty of frustrating bullpens to know better than to crumble when my name is called.

I’m not sure if being in a city that lacks softball players has made me more aware for my love of the game or if it’s the impending doom that is senior year, but damn, I am forever indebted to this game. It has prepared me for life, given me amazing friends and experiences and taught me the importance of overcoming adversity. There have been trophies and medals and there have been heartbreaks and injuries. There have been tears of joy and tears of utter embarrassment. Thinking about what this game has given me incredibly emotional and I know that when the day comes that I put my jersey on for the last time, it’s going to absolutely tear me to pieces.

When I was younger, I used to look up to the ‘big girls’ and plaster KU Softball posters to my walls. Sometimes I forget about the girls that come to my games and think the same of me. I would do just about anything to go back to getting my first ‘big girl’ bat, buying my first (of many) tournament t-shirts, waiting out club softball rain delays, winning a state championship, signing my NLI, putting on a #8 Kansas jersey and striking out my first college batter.

I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with and am so excited for the year ahead. No matter how hard I try, I’m not sure I can avoid being a ‘big girl’ any longer… Senior year, here I come.

 

 

I won’t just survive

The 2016 Summer Olympics has officially announced the #Rio2016 anthem as Katy Perry’s new song “Rise” and let me tell you, it’s perfect.

Being a competitive athlete is sometimes a very difficult thing to explain to someone but this video resonated with me in an amazing way. It gave me goosebumps, hurt my heart, and made my muscles twitch to compete, all at the same time. I’ve never seen something that so beautifully captured what it’s like to be an athlete.

Being an athlete requires absolute strength – and I’m not talking about muscle strength – I’m talking about the kind of strength it takes to clear your head after an error, to take hacks after striking out, to pitch to the best hitter after giving up a grand slam, to push yourself through an injury, to suffer an embarrassing loss, and to have all expectations absolutely knocked from under your feet.

Yes, it is hard.

Yes, it does suck sometimes.

Yes, there are moments when it doesn’t feel worth it.

But, when it pays off it’s unlike any other kind of victory. It’s relief. It’s amazement at your own ability. It’s pride and it’s pure.

I’m not an Olympic athlete and will never be one. But, this video isn’t just about Olympians. It’s relatable to college athletes, like myself. It’s relatable to high school athletes striving for the next level. And most importantly, it’s relatable to anyone who has ever had to stand up and fight for something. It’s overcoming adversity. It’s accomplishing something you never thought you could do. It’s proving the people who doubted your every move and it truly embodies what it means to be passionate.

It may be the new Olympic anthem, but I think I’ve decided it’s my new anthem, too.

See the lyrics below:

I won’t just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can’t write my story
I’m beyond the archetype
I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in my veins
I know it, I know it
And I will not negotiate
I’ll fight it, I’ll fight it
I will transform

When, when the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “you’re out of time.”
But still, I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in; think again
Don’t be surprised, I will still rise

I must stay conscious
Through the menace and chaos
So I call on my angels
They say…

Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in your veins
You know it, you know it
And you will not negotiate
Just fight it, just fight it
And be transformed

Don’t be surprised, I will still rise

Pals

It’s a truly amazing thing to have good friends in your life.

Growing up, I never spent a lot of time with the people from my school. I played softball every weekend and had practice twice a week. Those girls were more than just my best friends, they were my family. Today, a group of us got together for the first time since 2012 and it was honestly as if no time had passed.

I had some truly wonderful memories playing competitive softball, but like any competitive athlete will tell you, there are some serious downsides to it too. What truly bonds a team, however, no matter what age or level, is respect and I’m convinced that respect for one another is what’s kept my friendships with my former teammates so timeless. To this day, I respect their talent, personality, and values, something I hope I can achieve with any and all my future relationships.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is that you don’t need to be best friends with someone in order to be a good teammate. Results happen from mutually respectful relationships, however, I was fortunate enough to make lifelong friends with those who earned my respect. You may hear to surround yourself with like minded people or dreamers or optimists but from my (very wise) 19 years of knowledge, I find it best to surround yourself with people you want to fight for whether it’s on the field of play or not. The respect you have for a person is fundamental for success.

Prayers for NCTC

Apologies for not blogging in awhile, my life is pretty hectic. This week was our first week of team practice so we’re at 20 hours, I had 2 exams, a quiz, a 5 page essay over the Vietnam War, AND it was Homecoming Week so I’ve been pretty busy. However, I am making time to blog about the North Central Texas College softball tragedy.

Last night, around 9 p.m., the NCTC softball team was traveling back to Texas after playing games in Bethany, Oklahoma on Interstate 35. A tractor-trailer crossed the median and collided with the team’s bus causing four deaths and over 15 injuries

The softball community has become an outpouring of love and support for NCTC and are fostering a grieving community on multiple social networking sites. This story hits home for so many of us.

You may not get to pick your collegiate teammates, but your teammates are always there for you. Teammates are the girls that are there to see you fail, to see you persevere, to see you have success. They are there to pick you up when you’re down and they’re there to celebrate with you. They support you and pick on you. Being teammates is an amazing bond and in college athletics, a team only becomes a tighter, more cohesive unit.

To hear about the NCTC tragedy makes my heart ache. To have your teammates die around you, to see the girls that you look to for love and support broken. I pray for the NCTC softball team and I know I’m not alone. Today, we grieve together. Regardless of what division, what sport, what age, what gender, etc. Today, the softball community grieves the loss of a team.

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