All winners, no losers in girls softball

Terry Garlock's picture

If you think only boys step on a ball diamond with a steely glint in their eye prepared for fierce but friendly battle, while girls try to look pretty and smell nice, then you haven’t been to a middle school fast-pitch softball game lately.

But you are in luck. The Fayette County middle school softball teams — Bennet’s Mill Broncos, J.C. Booth Warriors, Fayette Lady Cubs, Flat Rock Eagles, Rising Star Panthers and Whitewater Wildcats — will be squeezing out their best attempt to defeat each other at Meade Field, behind the soccer field off Rockaway Road in south Peachtree City in a tournament spanning three thrilling days, Oct. 12, 13 and 14. Games start at 5 p.m. on fields 4 and 5.

Here’s an insider’s tip. The meager bleachers might fill up fast, so bring your folding chair to be comfortable as you watch 12-to-14-year-old girls stretch themselves to reach a little further, swing a little harder, run a little faster and slide into home with more desperation than they ever have before, not just for themselves but for their coach, for each other and for the pride of their school.

You’ve never seen the thrill of victory worn so proudly as beams from the faces of these girls after a close game where teams taunt each other from their dugout, chanting in unison.

In the batter’s box they take coach signals and stare at the pitcher, waiting for the windup, wondering whether it will be another fastball or a tricky change-up.

On the field, they hold their position warily, moving quickly with each pitch to double-up the backup in case the catcher has to risk a hard throw to second or third when a runner tries to steal “her” base.

You haven’t seen tension that could be cut with a knife until you watch these girls huddle up with arms around each other to talk strategy at a critical moment, or high-five each other with grins of satisfaction if their strategy works.

I’ll confess, when my daughter started playing recreational softball at 7 years old, I never dreamed it would become a major part of her young life.

But it has, and I have learned what many of you already know about competitive sports coached well, that it brings out the best in our youth, not only physically but in character as well.

They learn not just techniques of the game, but how to subordinate individuality to work as a team, to expect much of themselves and what it means to try something hard again and again and again until finally they get it right and then walk a little taller with the self-confidence taken from that accomplishment.

They learn in life we don’t always win, and that victory is that much sweeter having known the taste of defeat. Those are sound lessons for our developing youth, and they learn far more than I ever expected in recreational softball.

And then the stakes are raised in middle school. Sixth-graders who play fast-pitch softball watch their school team play a year before they are permitted to try out for the team, wondering with a little trepidation, “Will I be good enough to make it through tryouts?” They work a little harder to prepare.

In the early fall, coaches select from the best in tryouts to build a team. Players who passed that first test now represent their school, proudly feeling that weight on their shoulders. Suddenly, winning takes on new importance.

At game time, they take the field to warm up by throwing to each other, and then with the first pitch the game is on, the yelling on the field and from the stands begins and young eyes flash between their coach, their teammates and opponents, alert for signals and warning signs that call for quick reaction and effort far beyond the comfort zone. In a close game, the last inning can be intense.

Don’t miss it. Any one of these girls might plop down to sit on her equipment bag, sweat-soaked and exhausted after a hard-fought game, hair askew, dirt-stains on her uniform and maybe even on her face from a running slide or dive for the ball, never mind the bloody elbow scrape, and she might yell at her dad, “I’m hungry!” And this same girl might primp forever to make herself beautiful for a special occasion.

Yes, these girls do, indeed, sometimes look pretty and smell nice. But there is another side of them that will make you swell with pride at the youth of your community.

Come watch them battle for their school, and see for yourself that when they pour out their best on the field, they are all winners no matter which team prevails.

[Terry Garlock lives in Peachtree City. His email is]

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dawn69's picture
Submitted by dawn69 on Tue, 10/06/2009 - 10:26pm.

My daughter also plays middle school ball. For her safety, I won't say which school she plays for but can tell you that you'll never see a more passionate player. When she's on the field, it's serious business. She doesn't wave at her grandparents in the bleachers. She doesn't crack a smile when I yell "Come on, Stinkerbelle!!". She stands, knees bent, glove in position, and all eyes on the batter - nothing else exists in that moment.

She's been playing since she was 5. I remember once during rec ball when she got plowed over while trying to protect her base. She went face first in the dirt. As she pulled herself up, filthy and bleeding, lip swollen, everyone in the bleachers thought for sure that tears would be falling. No. She brushed herself off and limped back to position.

I asked her if she had learned anything, thinking she would say something to the effect of the pride in persevering or not giving up, etc... Her response was "Yes, I learned to stay out of the base line.".

I am so proud of her. She has excelled at anything she has ever set out to accomplish. When she gets knocked down, she gets up. When she loses, she works harder to do better. She won't give up until she gets it right. Yes, I think athletics have done nothing but strengthen her already tenacious character.

See you at the ball field. If you here someone yell "Stinkerbelle", it'll be me. Smiling

Submitted by editmom on Tue, 10/06/2009 - 9:31pm.

Oh, well said, Terry! The rec mid-season tournament was pretty exciting this past weekend, too.

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