A new face will grace the presence of the New Albany softball team this year. With her athletic 5’4 build and a fierce swing that scares even the best pitchers, she will be a force to be reckoned with this season, and she made her first appearance at Tuesday night’s workout at the high school.
Actually this is all a lie, it’s just me, and I am pretty sure the only thing the team was scared of was me possibly hurting myself.
My stellar athletic career ended in junior high after a year riding the bench for the basketball team. Occasionally I pick up different sports for fun, with my favorite being a good homerun derby with my friends in Oxford (for the record, I have never been a contributing factor to the derby).
I decided with the beginning of the slowpitch softball season upon us, I would workout with one of the local teams and see what it is these girls go through each day.
What I was in for was a very tough, tiring workout.
Meet the Lady ‘Dawgs
With the recent rains, my softball workout with the Lady Bulldogs was moved from the Sportsplex to their indoor batting cage, located at the high school.
Meeting up with head coach Michael Kelly and the girls, I do not think the team fully understood what was going on, as they were surprised to see me jumping in on warm-ups. Throughout the workout, I took time to get to know a little more about the team and why this sport is so alluring to them.
Kelly is currently in his fifth season at the helm of the Lady ‘Dawgs program. Starting as a coach at Jumpertown, his love for all sports led him into coaching.
“I think playing sports is a great experience, because sports teach you so many life lessons you can’t learn in the classroom,” Kelly said. “It teaches you everything and creates good character.”
Kelly played football, soccer, track and baseball and brings his sports knowledge to New Albany, but admits the task was tough in the beginning.
“In the first years, the team chemistry wasn’t good, but now it’s great,” Kelly said. “You can look around and older girls are giving advice to the younger girls, and they’re listening. The toughest part working with girls is that they need to get along in order for the team to be successful. It’s different with guys, where they can be mad at each other, still play well then go to the parking lot after the game and get in a fight. I’m proud of the way the girls have gotten along and how well they work together.”
Kelly’s love for the game can be seen in his players, as well. As part of the workout, all 28 girls were divided into eight different groups, and we rotated around eight stations, working on hitting. I was paired with three of the younger players, Lauren Cavender, Morgan Beaty and Aravia Foote.
As we moved around each station, I talked with the girls about why they love the sport so much.
“It’s a fun sport, and it allows me to do stuff. I don’t have to sit at home with nothing to do,” Aravia said.
Both Lauren and Morgan echoed the same response, as the sport helps keep them in shape, and in the case of Aravia and Lauren, also helps them as they’re multi-sport athletes. Lauren also agreed with Coach Kelly in the fact that the team chemistry with the Lady ‘Dawgs is great, and helps with their success.
“We don’t have our little groups,” Lauren said. “We’re all each other’s friends, so there’s not just one person that stands out. We’re all here together. If one person says they have a bad game, then we all say we had a bad game.”
Listening to the team talk about their passion for the sport made me even more excited to take part in the workout and learn from them.
Don’t miss the ball!
The practice started with Coach Kelly sending me to work with Brooke Sides and Kelsey Hodges, who walked me through the fielding warm-up, where a ball was rolled up the middle and to each side to practice how they would field the ball in an actual game. After that, the entire team formed four lines, and all of us did different warm-ups, including sprints, butt kicks and high steps to warm up our legs.
Coach Kelly and his assistant, Mallory Horn, then split us into our groups, where we rotated around each station. Lauren, Morgan, Aravia and I started with conditioning, which consisted of 100 sit and push ups. I am not sure if it was good to start with that or not, but the rest of the workout consisted of hitting.
We next went into the net, where Coach Kelly pitched to us. Having very little hitting experience, I think he may have thought I was trying to take his head off with some of the hits.
After hitting with the coach, we went to stations where we had to hit whiffle balls, then actual softballs, and the best station, hitting a basketball.
Yes, you read right.
Hitting a basketball helps the hitter follow through on their swing, or in my case, nearly kills me.
Throughout the workout, the girls give me pointers on my swing as I find myself missing a ball on a tee (hilarious, I know). Coach Kelly even offered a few pointers, as he noticed I was not swinging straight, causing the balls to pop up.
After the workout, I am exhausted, and I can assure you, every muscle in my body aches, and I now have a lovely bruise on my wrist from the bat.
Any softball player in the county should be credited because of the work they put into this sport. I know I now have a newfound appreciation for a sport I did not care for as much before, and maybe after the pointers I received from my new friends, I can knock a couple out of the ballpark the next time I play homerun derby.
Special thanks to Coach Kelly and Coach Horn, as well as the members of the NAHS softball team.