by Maci Sepp
Spring arrived early on Greenville College’s campus. Despite what Groundhog Day may have predicted, the vibrant season was just around the corner. The warm weather took us all by surprise. Spring break seemed to end before it even began; and the Lady Panthers kicked off their softball season with a bang.
If you know anything about softball, you know that it is anything but a soft game, especially when you’re dealing with a ball that’s six and a half ounces of dense leather and wool. Like many other sports, softball is a game that takes focus, discipline, and strength. And yet, the feeling of being in the stands, looking out at the diamond, and seeing the Greenville College softball team giving it their all is beyond compare.
While the season officially kicked off in February, softball training and conditioning usually occur all year round. The team is constantly hitting the gym and working tirelessly in preparation for the next season. As with most student athletes, early mornings and late nights quickly become the norm for their everyday lives. Even at a small liberal arts college, the commitment and sacrifice that athletes must make are vast.
Besides just having the actual ability to play softball, each team member has to learn how to work well together, which is a challenge in itself. No matter the sport, group, or club, it’s a given that we will face conflicts and struggles, but when issues do arise, we typically look to our leaders for help and guidance. The softball team is no different. This year marked the first season with new Head Coach Buddy Foster. For nearly 20 years, Coach Foster has been a key figure in the coaching world of softball, and Greenville College was fortunate enough to snatch him up for this year’s season. In the last four years, the team has never had a coach longer than one season.
These sort of inconsistencies have forced the team to learn how to lead themselves. Emi Hug, a junior on the team, described her experience as having to navigate the natural changes in culture from coach to coach. Fortunately, the team quickly adopted a spirit of flexibility and patience to move forward. This made the changes and transitions all the more pleasant. Coach Foster has also proven himself to be dependable and compassionate. As a result, the team is undeniably close. Each moment together is a new surprise, and each teammate has something unique to offer. Hug said, “You learn that they can kill it in bowling or that they can sing pretty well. This team is 23 people with all different stories to tell; there is always something surprising or new to find out.”
As a Division III institution, it may seem easy for someone to grow discouraged and feel underappreciated or unrecognized as a student athlete. Oftentimes, we tend to forget how much a sport influences the way we live our lives. The ability to fully commit to a sport and be a diligent student is no easy task. If that’s not enough to overwhelm a person, imagine what it’s like to do all of those things and be a practicing Christian. Finding a steady balance between each of these fulfilling aspects of life is difficult for athletes across the board, but the Lady Panthers certainly know how to take it in stride. Their devotion to the game, to one another, and to Christ is more than anyone could have ever anticipated.
“Honestly, there are so many awesome plays, great hits, even better catches, but at the end of the day, the times you remember the most are the ones you spent laughing and enjoying life together,” Hug said. “All the jokes and little sayings and nicknames will stay with me far longer than the diving catch or the walk-off hit. This game has brought people into my life that make the days a little easier.”