I never thought that at the age of 19, after playing softball for 14 or 15 years, I would be learning how to throw.
I don't mean this as a negative statement, I just literally never pictured myself here.
After our first day of practice with our new coach, it was obvious that we were in desperate need of some basic training. So, for an entire week, we started over, from the very beginning. With every new task we were learning, Coach described it as "This is how a Seton Hill softball player..." and she would fill in the blank. We started by learning simple, everyday things, such as how to come to practice, which meant running down the hill to the field if you were coming from class. It was a task that would normally cause embarrassment, but for us it was about pride. It was about showing that we wanted to be there, and we wouldn't settle for being the joke of the school.
We spent close to an hour only on stretching and warm-ups; a task that typically takes a half hour at most. It was one of the most rigorous warm-ups that we had ever experienced, and I found myself wondering how I would ever be able to play a doubleheader after barely surviving our warm-up! But as the days went on, we started to learn how to throw the right way, as if we were back in the 1st grade, and things started to fall into place.
Warm-ups continued to be difficult, but day by day it got just a little bit easier. Throwing, on the other hand, took a little bit longer to get a handle on. Coach explained it over and over to us, but it was evident that something just wasn't translating. We could break it down into steps, but putting it all together when we did four corners* just wasn't happening. At this point in our practice, we experienced for the first time in a very long while what it was like for a coach to stick with us and not give up on our team.
It wasn't making any sense to us, and we continued to throw and catch incorrectly, but not once did Coach yell at us. She didn't make us get on the line and start running until she said to stop, because she knew we could get it. All we needed was another explanation and some encouragement, not to be shouted at or berated like some of us may have experienced in the past. After a quick water break, where the coaches proceeded to tell dumb jokes in order to clear our minds for a moment, we returned to our positions on the field and started counting how many times we could catch or throw cleanly in a row.
To give you a tiny bit of background, in past years, I doubt we made it past 50 or 60 in a row on a perfect day. This time, we found ourselves unstoppable. Throw after throw we kept counting. 50, 51...75, 76...98, 99...and we reached 110 before we finally committed an error. 110. One hundred and ten perfect throws. I don't know if I have ever felt a greater sense of accomplishment than I felt in that one moment. Smiles instantly spread across everyone's faces, and the excitement was palpable. We felt like we could do anything.
The next day we attempted four corners again, and I will admit that we struggled in the beginning. But eventually, the numbers started to climb higher and higher. We were passing 110, 150, 170, and finally made it to 200. We watched our coach literally run onto the field cheering for us. We thought that 110 was great the day before, but 200? As a team, along with our coaches, we never even considered giving up. All of our hard work finally presented results. Once again, we felt on top of the world.
In past years, no one really took us seriously. Other teams in our conference didn't, and neither did our own fellow griffins. The softball team was a joke. Now, if another team or a SHU student would look down on that field and see us complete 200 perfect throws, we would be taken seriously. This spring we're going to intimidate teams and show them that we have what it takes.
*Four corners, for those of you who don't know, is a drill commonly used by softball teams. The players split up evenly at each base and throw to each consecutive base (home to first, first to second, second to third, and third back to home). After throwing, each player moves to the back of the line at their particular base and the next player takes their turn.