May 4

An Open Letter to New Athletes

Dear New Athletes,

You are about to start one of the most demanding–and possibly one of the most fun–activities you will ever attempt in your life: playing sports.

“How hard can it be?” you ask.

Trust me. It’s harder than you would expect, but lucky for you, I have some advice.

Try everything. The world of sports offers endless opportunities for young athletes. Who knows? You might be the star soccer player. How about the best swimmer? What about tennis, softball, baseball, golf, hockey, basketball, lacrosse, football, gymnastics, or volleyball? The best athletes play multiple sports, and if you try different sports, you will probably find something you like a lot. I’ve played several different sports, and I’ve finally found the ones I love, which couldn’t have been done if I didn’t experiment with my options.

Don’t get discouraged. During your sports career, you will make mistakes. I’m sorry if you were planning to go through life and never mess up at anything, but here’s the truth: nobody is perfect. Professional athletes can make mistakes just as often as amateurs can. And that’s okay. Mistakes are how we learn, how we grow, how we become better at the things we do. You might have coaches or even teammates who don’t see things that way, but don’t get down about it. Nobody does everything right. You are not the only one who makes mistakes.

Speaking of coaches, you should listen to yours. They are there to help you. They give their time to come to practice and help you get better, and –most of the time– they know what they’re talking about. If your coaches give you instructions, follow them. If they give you advice, take it and apply it to your playing. It will help you get better. I promise. I’ve had many a coach in my days of playing softball and basketball, and I know that they sincerely want to help you improve your game.

My final piece of advice for any of you daring to enter the world of playing sports: have fun. I know, you’ve heard that one a million times, but it’s true. If you can’t have fun, then there’s no point in doing what you’re doing. If you aren’t enjoying playing your sport, you’re doing something wrong. Make friends on your team, and sports will become that much more fun.The kids on your team may become some of your life long friends. I’ve made friends from different school districts and different cities, all through the sports I’ve played.

So there you have it. Your guide to surviving the crazy world we call playing sports. Maybe I’ll see you when you go pro.

Sincerely,
Ava

February 9

Catching

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my positions in softball is catcher. You know, the person that sits behind home plate and tries not to get hit in the face mask by a not-so-soft softball zooming towards them. That’s me. And I love it.

The first game I ever caught in went like this:
Coach: “Ava, put the gear on. You’re catching today”
Me: “Okay…”
So I put on the team’s catchers gear: shin guards, chest protector, helmet, glove (catchers helmets and gloves are different than normal ones). It was an…interesting experience, –and, quite honestly, not a very good one.

But I grew to love the position. The catcher can see everything that’s on the field, and that leads to an important job of being sort of the field leader. People say I’m quiet, but at catcher I can yell very loud if I want to.

You may think there’s nothing more to being a catcher than, well, catching. But there is. I mentioned earlier that the catcher has to be the field leader, and that’s true. It’s the catcher’s job to made sure that, when the ball is hit, everyone knows what they have to do. If the runners on base are faster or slower than usual, the catcher needs to let the people in the field know where to throw the ball to try to make a good play.

One of the things that can turn out good for a catcher is throwing the runner that’s trying to steal second or third base out. When this is achieved, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. But you have to do it right. First, the batter has to not hit the ball, because how is the catcher supposed to do anything when they don’t even have the ball? Then you actually have to catch the ball, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Once you’ve caught the ball, shift your feet and throw. Sounds fairly easy, right? NO. Have you tried throwing a softball from home plate to second base? That’s 84 feet, 10.25 inches. Now throw it accurately. Preferably very low to the ground so that the short-stop can catch it and tag the runner. Easy? Not really, but it sure is fun when you do it right.

Probably my favorite thing about catching is that you get to know your pitchers really well (shoutout to Jill). You warm up with them, you struggle through games with them, you become friends with them. You call their pitches, catch their strikes, and comfort them when they get down. This is probably the best thing about softball in general: the friends I’ve made and will hopefully never lose.

So thank you softball, thank you catching, and thank you Coach Bill for that fateful day when you told me to get the gear on, it changed my life.

November 3

Basketball Tryouts: Surviving Day Two

I know I didn’t write a post about surviving day one of tryouts, but that’s because I barely did. Just kidding. I’m fine. Still, it was hard.

On day one, we stretched. Then we ran a lot. Then we did normal basketball stuff like lay ups, short jump shots, ball handling. Then we ran some more. And some more. And some more…… Get the picture? Good.(I hope you got the picture…)

For day two, we stretched and ran again, and this time I had a lovely early-morning asthma attack. It was great (once again, I’m kidding, don’t think I like barely being able to breath? ). Because of that, I had to go take my inhaler, and when I got back, we were doing dribbling lines. The only thing was, there were no basketballs left, but luckily Coach Gammil found an extra one for me.

After that we did some drills where we had thirty seconds to make as many baskets as we could while doing a different drill. The first was one where we started under the basket, and we had to make a kind of lay up on either side of the basket. For the next drill, we were just closer than the free throw line, and we had to run around the arc from the elbow to the elbow (for those that don’t know, the elbows are the parts of the court where the free throw line meets the lane line.) We had to make as many jump shots as possible in thirty seconds. The next drill was one where we had to grab the ball from either of the block (there is a block on either side of under the basket) and do a drop step to make a a basket. Then we did speed lay ups. That one is kind of self-explanatory.

After all the drills we finally got to scrimmage! My team was pretty awesome, we perfomed well. Day one of tryouts I didn’t get to scrimmage, so I was glad I got to do it this time.

At the end of the tryouts, Coach Floyd said we weren’t going to be done until someone made a free throw. Then she asked for volunteers. I raised my hand because my private coach for basketball told me to always volunteer to shoot free throws so that I could practice shooting under pressure.

The following minute was a lot like the poem Mrs. Kriese showed us about shooting free throws, with tension filling every second.

Coach Floyd picked me.

I jogged to the free throw line.

She passed me the ball.

I dribbled.

Once,

Twice,

Three times.

Spun the ball in my hands, sweaty with nervousness.

Grab the ball, line up with the basket.

The ball floats out of my hands,

Up.

Up.

Up.

Then,

The ball hits the rim.

 

 

 

 

And rolls in.

That was an amazing moment for me, I thought the ball was going to miss the basket by a mile. And then who knows how much running we would have had to do…

Overall, day two of tryouts went pretty well, and now all that stands in my way of the basketball team is day three.

I guess we’ll see how that goes………..

October 27

Fears

Most people are afraid of the dark. Maybe they’re afraid of heights. Or they’re afraid of snakes, spiders scorpions, lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my!

I’m afraid of a few of those, and a great fear of mine is being pulled underwater and dying from lack of oxygen. Yes, lots of happy thoughts in this post so far… Anyway, back to the point. I am afraid of some of the things previously listed, but to me, nothing is scarier than standing on third base during a softball game. 

I’m not kidding, I swear. Can any of my softball friends back me up on this? Please? It can’t be just me. Right? Seriously though, being a base runner can be scary enough. There is always the thought that the catcher -or anyone else for that matter- will throw you out, and nobody wants to get thrown out. But being on third base is the scariest part of baserunning.. You are the one the catcher is paying attention to, and I should know, I play catcher. 

The situation doesn’t even have to be dire for it to be scary to be standing on third base. There doesn’t have to be two outs, the score tied, the game on the line. It’s still scary. Very scary. We could be up by twenty runs with no outs, and my heart would still be beating double-time when I stand on third base (This may or may not be because I had to run around the other two bases before getting to third base). This is especially nerve-racking when the catcher is very good, because she may throw down to the third baseman if you take to big of a lead. But I think it is all worth it when you get to run up and touch home plate, adding another run to your team’s score. It is also very scary when the catcher misses the catch and the ball goes flying into the backstop, because you can try to steal home, but it is always disappointing if you get tagged out.

Its kind of funny, actually. My dad is the head coach, which means he coaches third base when we are on offense, and he says I always seem very calm on when I get to the final base. I guess that goes to show that not everyone is what they seem. 

Anways, I will miss my softball games this weekend because I have a band competition (wheeeee), but next week I will have to face my fear again.

September 21

Home Run!

It felt like it was a million degrees outside, but in reality it was just in the 90s. Last Saturday was the second week of fall softball, but since the week before we had had a double header this game would be the 3rd game of our season. We would actually play two games that day- another double header. We will be playing lots of double headers this season because our team is a combination of two age groups, since not very many people play fall ball in our league. My dad and my friend Jill’s dad had been coaching us since we stared playing softball when I was in 1st grade, and every year since we had been trying to get them to let our team name be the Spider Monkeys. Previously, we had always lost the argument, but this year we had succeeded! We were finally the Spider Monkeys!

The first game was against our rivals, the Diamond Divas. At least, we thought we were rivals, I’m not sure how they feel about it. We were unofficial rivals because in the spring, their team had knocked both of our teams out of the end of season tournament.   We were the visiting team, so we batted first. We started off strong, scoring 4 runs(the inning run limit) and holding them to only 2 runs in the first inning. The second inning went similarly, but this time they only scored one run. We played 3 innings before time expired, with the final score being Spider Monkeys: 12, Diamond Divas: 7

After a glorious 10 minute break in which we ate multigrain chips, it was time for our next game.

The next game was against a team called the Sweep. We stared off even stronger than the last game, scoring 4 runs and holding them to zero. Our pitcher pitched almost a perfect inning, only one batter got a hit for their team that inning. The next inning, I was up to bat. Now here comes the fun part. This might be the reason you even read this post. The ball releases from the pitchers hand, and I make contact. The grounder rolls out into the outfield, gets past the center fielder, and rolls to the fence. I round first base, pass second, run through third, and stomp on home plate. Not too shabby for the first home run of the season. It really should have just been a single, but since the center fielder never touched the ball, it was not an error on her. We won that game as well, but I don’t remember the score.

Overall, it was a good 3rd and 4th games of the season. Our record is now 2-1-1; 2 wins, 1 tie, and 1 loss.

I hope more of our games go that way, but they probably won’t. I still hope that we do good in the future, and that there are real home runs to come!