I remember the first time I tried out for a softball team. I was 9 years old, went to tryouts with a wooden bat, and didn’t know any of the rules. The extent of my softball experience thus far was catching fly balls and grounders in my backyard and going to the batting cages with my dad. Little did I know that making that team would change the course of my life for the better, and become my passion for the next 10 years.
What started out as Lassie League in my hometown turned into playing competitive summer ball, traveling up and down the east coast every weekend of every summer for 8 years, and making varsity as a freshman in high school. I had phenomenal coaches, rockstar teammates, and learned the importance of strength training from a young age (which undoubtedly sowed the seeds for my eventual career change).
Excelling at softball is what allowed me to attend Colby College — a school that I in no way, shape, or form would have gotten into with academics alone. One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and one that I regret to this day, was not playing softball in college despite being recruited to do so. I busted my knee late in the summer before I was supposed to head off to college and missed about two months of conditioning and off-season training. It was around this time that I started partying a lot more (sorry, Dad!) and developed some awful eating habits. As an athlete, I was always able to stay lean despite eating some really crappy food, but when my activity came to a halt but my eating didn’t, the scale started creeping up. I went off to college deconditioned and brought 15 extra lbs along with me (followed by another ~35 throughout my 4 years in school). When it came time for tryouts, I knew one of the requirements would be to run a sub-8 minute mile, and at that weight, with a wonky knee, and having not run for 2 months there was no way (in my mind) that I could pull it off.
So I quit.
It really sucks actually typing that. I think if I had explained to the coach what happened, I would have been able to stay on the team…but I was scared. Scared of embarrassing myself by running slowly, scared of disappointing my coach, scared of failing. So instead of talking to anyone, I blamed it on academics — that school was really challenging, and said that I wanted to put my focus there instead. I’ve never really said it outloud, but that was just a bullshit excuse.
I hung up my cleats and shed my identity as an athlete. In my group of friends, I was always the athlete, so getting to college and not having that anymore caused me to flounder. How do you make friends when you’re not on a team!? What do I do with all of this free time!? The friends thing I figured out, but I know that my college experience wasn’t as rich as it would have been had I played softball. I also don’t think I would have had the same weight issues had I continued playing, but it’s easy to place blame elsewhere. Bottom line? It was my decision, and I had to live with the consequences. Sure, I eventually shed the extra 50+ lbs and was active in different ways, but after spending thousands of hours and years of my life dedicating myself to a sport, it always felt like a part of me was missing.
Enter: adult softball league. One of my clients asked if I would want to play on a team that her husband started, and I practically screamed at her that OF COURSE I WANT TO PLAY! I busted out my old glove and Kristian and I proceeded to play catch a few times in order to prepare ourselves. With every throw, memories came flooding back to me. We had our first practice Saturday and our first scrimmage Sunday, and I was smiling like a damn fool for hours after both. Being on the field, playing catch, talking strategy, making plays, the camaraderie, getting on base…this is the shit that I love.
I never thought I’d have an opportunity to play softball again — I’d always secretly wanted to join an adult league, but no one I knew played, and I didn’t really want to join a team of random people. I’m so grateful to be back to playing the sport that I love, and while I still sometimes kick myself for giving up in college, chances are that my life would be vastly different than it is today had I played. And I wouldn’t trade my life now, or the people in it, for the world.