Tag Archives: Softball Factory

Softball Factory Alumni Mikey Dominguez, Siarah Galvan and Maddie Mann are Rockport Strong After Hurricane Harvey

Softball Factory alumni Siarah Galvan, Madisen Mann and Mikey Dominguez

When Hurricane Harvey hit the Rockport, Texas area on Friday August 26th, 2017, it caused $55 million in damages to its school district – contributing to the $125 billion worth of damage it did in total – and took out the town’s electricity for almost a month.

To top it off for Softball Factory alumni Mikey Dominguez, Siarah Galvan and Maddie Mann, their school, Rockport-Fulton High, was destroyed along with its softball and baseball fields, and suddenly their dream of playing their freshman season of softball together was nearly collateral damage.

Everything the trio of close friends and teammates had worked so long and hard for appeared completely out of reach, that was, until the town of Rockport and some familiar famous faces came together and showed everyone just what it meant to be “Rockport Strong”.

“These girls live for softball,” Dominguez’s father, Ron Dominguez, shares with a laugh.

Dominguez, Galvan and Mann have known each other since the age of six and are currently in their seventh year of playing softball together. The passion the high school sophomores share for the sport has given them a special bond.

“We have always been such good friends,” Galvan, the team’s starting left-handed pitcher says. “But when we are out there on the field, it is a whole different level of friendship. We all have a great time and tear it up on the field.”

“I think what makes us so close is that we have the same drive and dedication,” adds starting catcher Dominguez. “Every weekend we would go to the field and get a good three to four hours of work in.”

Having played in both select ball and little league together growing up, the three dreamed of what it would be like to all be named starters for their freshman season at Rockport-Fulton High School, so when Hurricane Harvey slammed the peninsula of Rockport with flooding and winds peaking at 156 miles per hour, it was safe to say the outlook for their school’s 2018 season looked bleak. In fact, it was quickly sinking in that things would not be the same in Rockport for a little while.

“Hurricane Harvey was one of the scariest things my family has ever gone through while it was happening and dealing with the aftermath was more than I could have imagined it would be,” Ron Dominguez recalls. “My daughters were experiencing what it was like to take a bath with bottled water, not being able to get news and having to line up for their food.”

Maddie Mann checking out the damage

“One of the very first things we checked on was the softball field,” starting infielder Maddie Mann admits. “I was so devastated seeing both our sheds gone along with our batting cages, but I was hopeful.”

“It was very upsetting not knowing if our field was even going to still be there due to the hurricane,” Galvan says, echoing her friend’s concerns at the time. “When we were still evacuated there was so much tension and anxiety of not knowing if we would even come back to anything.”

Not only were the extremely poor field conditions a concern, but 25 percent of Rockport-Fulton’s student body was forced to transfer to different schools due to the destruction of the country’s biggest storm since Hurricane Katrina’s deadly path through the city of New Orleans in 2005. It became apparent that the team – if there would be a team at all – would not look how it had originally been pictured.

“After Harvey, I thought we wouldn’t come back to Rockport-Fulton High School,” Mikey Dominguez, whose bedroom had a tree crash through it during the storm, reveals. “It was definitely hard to deal with because everyone was going to different schools and some starters would not be coming back. I thought we wouldn’t have enough girls to even have a season. It was to the point where I didn’t even know if I was going to come back.”

Despite her fears of not playing in the spring with her friends, Dominguez kept working on her softball skills in her backyard, even with all the debris. She and her father also took video footage of the debris that littered the softball field that was like a second home to her and uploaded it to Youtube.

Mikey Dominguez cleaning up debris

This team was not going down without a fight. Family members sprang into action to help clean up the school’s fields and donations started pouring in from people who had seen the Youtube video.

“It meant a lot knowing that our families were out there in the heat trying to keep our freshman season still going,” Galvan reflects. “It gave us hope that soon we would be able to still play and show our abilities.”

“It felt so heartwarming to know people went out there almost every day to help get the fields ready for us,” Dominguez adds.

Their families soon would not be the only ones helping to keep their freshman season alive.

Some well-known faces made some big donations to the students at Rockport-Fulton. Popular talk show host Ellen DeGeneres made a massive donation of $1 million for the school to rebuild its gym and baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan donated $10,000 to the Rockport-Fulton Little League to assist Memorial Park with getting their fields ready for the upcoming baseball and softball seasons.

The kind gestures meant so much to everyone in the town.

“I was actually in shock and disbelief at first!” Mann exclaims. “But then I felt so grateful that we have such amazing people in our world that wanted to help us in our time of need.”

“Being a small town, it’s really hard getting noticed for events that take place here,” Dominguez explains. “For Ellen to reach out and help us means so much I can’t put it into words.”

With everyone’s generous donations and hard work, the Rockport-Fulton High School softball team was able to participate in the 2018 season. Hurricane Harvey caused a great deal of damage, but the team got through it and was even able to see the bright side of the circumstances.

“It was very emotional seeing our beautiful town look so awful and destroyed,” Galvan remembers. “But it made the community become united and very close with each other.”

Her father, Steven Galvan, shares his daughter’s positive point-of-view.

Dominguez, Mann and Galvan during their freshman season

“Hurricane Harvey really shook our community, but as we say here in Rockport, we are ‘Rockport Strong’ and the whole community helped each other,” he shares. “It really brought this community even closer.”

With everything that had happened and the loss of some of the team’s starters, not much was expected from the 2018 Lady Pirates. That did not stop Dominguez, Galvan and Mann from having the freshman season they had been dreaming of.

The three Softball Factory Alumni went an impressive 26-4 on the season and were crowned district champions, all starting the championship game in their respective positions.

“Last season was definitely one for the books!” Dominguez says with excitement. “We were strong, confident and had each other’s backs. No one knew how good Siarah really was until it was too late.”

The breakout season truly was special for Galvan. The ace pitcher even credits Hurricane Harvey with how their season played out.

“It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me,” she answers when asked how it felt to have the season the Lady Pirates did. “Our team was so pumped up and motivated to do our very best out there on the field for our town. Hurricane Harvey definitely had a big part in our success.”

“Our freshman season was so exciting!” Mann adds, also reflecting on the successful season that almost never was. “To play with my amazing teammates to starting at the position I love was a dream come true.”

Mann and Dominguez at a Softball Factory event

Dominguez, Galvan and Mann have all participated in numerous Softball Factory events, most recently the 2019 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament.

“Being in the All-America games together was super, fun especially since we were on opposing teams,” Mann says. “For me and Mikey, this was our second time [at the Pre-Season Tournament] so it was that much sweeter, we became two-time All-Americans.

I loved the event and just having an amazing team who went undefeated, winning the tournament was just awesome! Other than the amazing coaching staff, I would have to say the overall experience is my favorite thing about Softball Factory and that is why I come back for more events.  You meet so many people and make these amazing friendships.  You also get to work with amazing coaches who teach you so much.”

Mann and Galvan

“To do something like that with Maddie and Siarah was so fun,” Dominguez agrees. We each loved being around different girls and watching each other play. The event was awesome! It was definitely worth it! Softball Factory always helps me build new friendships. I love all the new drills and tips I learn that I bring back to my team.”

Like her teammates, Galvan also continues to enjoy her time with Softball Factory and keeps coming back for more.

“It was so exciting to be able to share a really fun experience with such nice and fun people and I can’t wait for the next event to share with them.”

That next event will be the 2019 Atlanta Legacy Showcase in July.

Maddie Mann and Softball Factory director CJ Browder

“I look forward to playing with Mikey and Siarah on the same team at the Atlanta Legacy,” Mann shares. “We always play great together. So excited to share that experience with them, make more memories with them and with my other teammates as well. I am equally looking forward to working with the coaches and to seeing Coach CJ Browder! She has been a big supporter and its always great to be able to work with her.”

“I look forward to meeting new people again and competing together as a team,” says Galvan. “I also can’t wait to have a great time with amazing teammates.”

Whether it be at a Softball Factory event or on the field that almost kept the trio from playing their freshman season together, Dominguez, Galvan and Mann are so grateful to be able to continue to play the sport they live for.

“The thing I love the most about softball is the game,” Mann answers when asked what she loves most about her favorite sport. “Softball gives me the feeling of having a purpose.”

“I love the competition of the sport, and how you can see yourself grow as a player,” Galvan chimes in. “The adrenaline that you get once you get a great hit, or once you’ve thrown a great pitch.”

Of course, having each other, is also why they love softball so much.

“I love how all of us can be ourselves around each other,” Dominguez says. “I love how competitive we are. When I step on that field, I feel like I belong here, and I’m meant to be on that field to compete.”

Sense of Closeness, Comfortability in Haley Price Choosing Commitment to Thomas University

Softball Factory Athlete Haley Price

Softball Factory alum Haley Price has committed to taking her softball talents to Thomas University and is ecstatic to have the opportunity to continue building relationships in the softball community. As for Price, the sport is all about teamwork and creating a bond with those around you.

“The thing that I love about softball is that it isn’t an individual sport,” the Lodi High School senior catcher and outfielder shares. “It requires everyone on the team for us to be successful. With it requiring everyone on the team, it has helped me create close bonds and great friendships with many of girls that I have played with over the years.”

In fact, Price says that her future teammates and coaches at Thomas University are what drew her to committing to becoming a Thomas Nighthawk.

“What went into my decision of committing to Thomas University was the atmosphere in Thomasville,” she reveals. “I fell in love with the town and the people there. Another thing that went into my decision was the coaching staff and the girls that are on the team. I feel very comfortable with the coaching staff there, and the girls were very friendly and welcoming to me.”

This sense of feeling was welcomed and being a part of something special with others is also what the Lodi, Calif. native believes stood out the most from her experiences with Softball Factory.

“I like the family aspect and unity that Softball Factory provides,” Price, who has attended a Softball Factory College PREP Program in San Francisco, Calif. in March of 2018 and both the Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic and the Fall Classic National Showcase in November of the same year, answers when asked what she likes about Softball Factory the most. “The coaching staff is very motivational and friendly. The evaluations from my first tryout to my final tournament showed me my development and growth along with areas I need to continue improving on.”

To have the opportunity to continue her softball career with the Nighthawks is something that is very dear to Price.

“When I committed to Thomas University, it was very exciting and emotional for me,” she says. “It was emotional for me because it showed me that all my hard work, time and dedication has paid off. It also allows me to fulfill my goal for playing softball at the college level.”

Now, at that college level, Price will be able to build many more special relationships.

“The thing that I am looking forward to about attending Thomas University is that not only do I get to further my education to become a successful person later on in life, but at the same time I get to play the sport I love for another four years of my life,” she states. “Then, I also get the opportunity to meet so many new people and create new friendships while I am there.”

2018 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season MVP Hayley Parrott Commits to Walters State

For Softball Factory athlete Hayley Parrott, softball is many things.

It is an outlet for her to deal with any issues she is going through, a way to express herself, a motivator, a sport filled with life lessons and something that has created special friendships in her life. Most importantly for Parrott, softball is a blessing.

“Softball has, to me, been the one of the biggest blessings I have been given,” the 2019 shortstop and pitcher for Loretto High School shares. “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

“People deal with their problems in many ways,” Parrott explains “softball was one of the main ways I dealt with the issues in my life. Softball helped me expressed myself in many ways. It showed me what hard work and dedication really is. Softball is the reason why I try my best to keep my grades up, because if I didn’t have good grades, I wouldn’t be able to play the game I love so much. Through all of the different teams I have been on, softball has really taught me what life is really like, how people can cheat, belittle you, try to make you think you are not good enough, but softball has really showed me that you do not need to care what other people think about you, you just do you. The other teams I have been on showed me that they are other people that have the same passion for the game as I do. Some of my really good friends in my life, I have met through softball. “

The Leoma, Tenn. native is delighted to have the opportunity to continue her journey with the sport that has played such a major role in shaping her into who she is today, as she has committed to taking her talents to Walters State.

Parrott has attended multiple Softball Factory events, including an Under Armour Softball Factory College PREP Program in Lebanon, Tenn. in April of 2017, the Softball Factory World Series in June of that same year and the 2018 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament last January, and  believes Softball Factory has been a tool that benefited her greatly in the recruiting process and something that assisted in elevating her game.

“Softball Factory has been the most helpful program into showing me what colleges are looking for in a player,” she says. “They have helped me improve my skills, mentally and physically, as a player. The events are really unique because you get the opportunity to play with softball players from all over the United States, you get to connect with different people and develop friendships that will last forever. Softball Factory has also led me to get the chance to play with team South Carolina, coached by Dave and Leah Majeski, which was an awesome experience.”

“Since I have been a part of Softball Factory, all of the different skills they have introduced have really increased my game performance,” Parrot continues. “What I have learned is you do not need to take things for granted, you need to give it your all and put everything you have forward every time you walk on the field. Softball Factory showed me what it takes for you to be a college athlete, they helped me figure out to see if I had what it takes and if I had the work ethic to become a college athlete.”

Parrott is eager to continue to sharpen her softball skills at the next level and views joining the Lady Senators as a way to do just that.

“Walter State stood out to me because the coaches do not give into irrelevant excuses,” Parrott said. “They put everything they have to make their players the best they can be. They expect their players to give everything they have, nothing less. The coaches are genuine good people. Walter State just seemed to be the right fit for me in many ways.”

Parrott welcomes being pushed from her coaches to continue to work hard with open arms and takes pride in the amount of effort she gives to the sport that means so much to her. In fact, her dedication is what she believes helped her earn Most Valuable Player honors at the 2018 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament in Conroe, Texas.

“I honesty was not expecting that at all,” she answers when asked how it felt to be crowned MVP of the event. “I did not think that I even compared to all of the incredible players I had the chance to play with. Winning MVP really showed how hard I have worked to improve my game. It gave me a boost of confidence that I did not have before and showed me that I am good enough.”

The future Lady Senator is set to return to the event that gave her that boost of confidence and take part in the upcoming 2019 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament on January 18th.

Five Questions with Softball Factory Coach and Polish National Team Head Coach Dave Majeski

Softball Factory coach Dave Majeski has been named the head coach of the Polish National Softball Team! We caught up with Coach to talk about this exciting opportunity to make a big dream of his come true.

  1. How did being named the Polish National Team Coach come about? What led you to be named the Head Coach?

At our Softball Factory event in Vero Beach, FL on an adjacent field, I watched the Chinese National team training with American coaches. Being of Polish descent, I researched the teams and leagues in Poland and made contact with the President of Baseball and Softball. That led to numerous interviews and Skype calls and eventually my hiring onto the team. After discussions with the Polish Olympic Council, I was named the Head Coach of the 19U and 22U National teams and will assist on the senior team.

 

2. How do you recruit players for the team? What is the process of selecting players?

In February, I will travel to Poland for 7-to-8 days and travel to four different cities where the biggest softball clubs practice. There, I will assess the current players and their talent, as well as instruct all coaches and players on how to progress. After evaluating, instructing, and coaching, I will return to the United States. Currently, I am getting the word out about the opportunity for American players to play for Poland. If they are of Polish descent and can document their heritage, they may be able to play for the Polish National team with the goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

 

3. How long will you be in Poland for training?

Ideally, I would move to Poland and train the players year-round. With my career and my daughters’ schedules, that isn’t realistic for me. The current plan is for me to spend a week or so in February evaluating the entire country’s talent. I will possibly return in May to reassess the progress of the teams. In July/August, I will be there for approximately three weeks with the teams competing in the European Cup World Championships.

 

  1. What are specific goals you have in mind as the Head Coach.

My short-term goal is to raise the current talent level of all the existing teams, win the European Cup and qualify for the Olympics. Long-term, my goals are to raise the participation numbers of the sport nationwide, raise the level of instruction, and raise the love of the game in general.

 

  1. What are you most excited about heading into this experience?

I am most excited about possibly competing in the Olympics and representing Poland. I had a good collegiate career in the baseball world and was not invited to the USA Olympic trials as a player. Now I have the ability and chance to make my dreams come true.

Softball Factory Alum Tayler Ramos Finds Confidence and Commits to University of North Carolina Greensboro

Softball Factory alum Tayler Ramos has been feeling a boost of confidence lately, and with good reason, as she has committed to playing softball for the University of North Carolina Greensboro Spartans.

“It is very exciting, I was very proud of myself and felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders,” the Lake Brantley High School senior replies when asked how it felt to commit to becoming a future Spartan.  “I think my confidence went up too.”

The Apopka, Fla. native will be the first to admit she has struggled with being shy in the past, and credits Softball Factory as something that helped her overcome being timid at times.

“I am not afraid to get to know new people and teammates,” Ramos answers when asked what she has learned from her experiences with Softball Factory. “That had been a problem for me in the past because I can be really shy. Now I enjoy learning new things and stepping out of my comfort zone more since the coaches at Softball Factory pushed me more and made me rely on my skills more.”

Ramos was able to take being pushed out of her comfort zone and grow.

“I am a shortstop and I learned to cover second base better than I had before,” she says. “Also, I take the throw down at a different angle now, which really has helped me.”

The 2019 shortstop attended an Under Armour National Tryout in Orlando, Fla. in January of 2017, the Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic in Savannah, GA 10 months later and was named MVP at the 2017 Softball Factory Christmas Camp and Tournament a month after that. It is safe to say she has made the most of her Softball Factory experiences and did not let her shyness get in the way of building new and important relationships.

“I met many teammates who I’m still friends with today,” she recalls. “I enjoyed learning to work together as a team and I think it is an important factor in this sport.  I also learned to communicate better with my teammates on the field.”

The friendships that she has made from softball are one of the many things she loves about the sport.

Ramos at age 12, the only girl playing on the All-Star Team for West Seminole Baseball

“I love the competitiveness of the game, the fast nature of the game, and the friendships I have made,” Ramos, who played baseball from ages four to 13 before making the switch to softball, says. “It’s like another family and we rely on each other for many things.”

Along with getting to know her teammates, Ramos also lists the organization of drills, the fast pace of learning and the “great coaching staff” as factors that made her time with Softball Factory so enjoyable.

Two of those coaches, Dave and Leah Majeski, have made a huge difference in her softball career.

“Coach Dave and Coach Leah are so welcoming,” Ramos states. “Coach Dave is very funny. And so easy going. He really cares about everyone and is extremely fair. I respect Coach Leah so much because I know she was a great softball player at Alabama. That’s the school where I initially wanted to play softball, so I respect her a lot. I traveled from Florida to South Carolina to play on their travel softball team, Team South Carolina. I enjoyed that time and hope to be able to do it again during the summer of 2019 because they were great teams. You learn so much, yet the whole environment is just laid back because of Coach Dave and Coach Leah.”

The respect and admiration between the Majeskis’ and Ramos is mutual.

Ramos with Coach Leah Majeski and her fellow Softball Factory athletes

“I met Tayler about a year ago when she was on my 18U team in Savannah at the Fall Classic,” Coach Leah Majeski remembers. “I was instantly impressed with the way she moved on defense. As I coached her over the next few days, I got to know her personality and work ethic and realized she was a wonderful kid with a really awesome family. I invited her to join my travel ball team for the next summer in hopes that I could fine-tune her even more and help with her recruiting journey.”

Majeski would indeed go on to help Ramos with her recruiting journey.

“Even though UNCG contacted me before Softball Factory, Coach Dave Majeski and Coach Leah Majeski went above and beyond to give insight on my skills to UNCG coaches and encourage the commitment decision,” the future Criminal Justice major reveals. “They also encouraged the coaches to come and see me play at the summer tournaments. I really love Coach Dave and Coach Leah. They really had an impact on my softball life and boosted my confidence. “

Ramos at bat for Lake Brantley High School

Ramos is excited to take the next step in her softball career and is looking forward to putting on the UNCG blue and gold.

“I really liked all of the coaches when I went to a camp and visited the campus,” Tayler said. “I also knew a few of the girls who were there, and everyone was very welcoming, and it felt so comfortable. It felt like this was to be my college home and softball team from the beginning. The campus was beautiful and very different from Florida. “

Coach Leah Majeski also looks forward to seeing Ramos on the field as a Spartan.

“After spending the past summer and fall with Tayler, I can say without a doubt that she is an extremely driven ball player, a great teammate and I know she will be a big asset to UNCG,” she shares. “I can’t wait to see her play at the next level!”

Five Questions With Softball Factory National Showcase and Tournament Director, Ty Rietkovich

As we wrap 2018, we would like to take time to congratulate Softball Factory’s National Showcase and Tournament Director, Ty Rietkovich on recently celebrating five years of the Under Armour Softball Factory National Showcase! For the last five years, the showcase series has helped provide elite travel softball teams from around the country with the opportunity to receive maximum exposure to college recruiters.

We recently spoke with Ty to learn more about the history of the series, coming aboard with Softball Factory and the future of the events.

Softball Factory: Our Showcase Series has a long history that predates the Factory. How did the series get started and how did the series come to Softball Factory?

Ty Rietkovich: In 2006, I started the Southern Star Softball Showcases in Savannah, Georgia as an alternative to some of the exclusive events that were being run at that time. I wanted a place for any team to come and play in front of college coaches. With the help of several local college coaches, we launched the events with a lot of success. Later we expanded to Clermont, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2013, Factory Athletics added these events and myself to the Softball division as a way of enhancing the recruiting aspect, in addition to building its brand in the travel softball world.

Our main purpose was (and is) to increase the number of players brought in to the Factory for potential involvement in other areas such as the Under Armour National Tryout Tour, the College PREP program, and Player Development events as well as increase awareness of the recruiting help we can provide a student-athlete.

SF: With the partnership in 2013, there has been significant growth in the showcase series to get more teams involved and more players in front of college recruiters. Tell us about that.

TR: In 2013 and 2014, we ran a total of three events, hosted 126 teams and approximately 1,386 players. Just three years later, we ran 13 events, hosted 363 teams and approximately 4,004 players. Of those, almost 1,000 of them were written up on our blog and identified as potential college players.

In 2019 we will run 15 events including one of the most prestigious USA Softball events, the Futures Cup in July.

SF: Why is the Softball Factory Showcase Series considered one of the best events in the country?

TR: Our Softball Factory National Showcases are the only events in the country where every player on every team is guaranteed to be seen by a college coach. Our Recruiting Blog is filled with comments directly from college softball coaches and the only one on the market. We are the only showcase with notes on the top players for them to share and for other college coaches to see what they might have missed. We say these are the only events with residual value for the players once they leave and go home.

SF: What is the importance for athletes who participate in these events?

TR: We run controlled events with all fields in a close proximity that allows for every coach and every player to be easily seen. We place college coaches on every field to watch the athletes and notate the top players. In this world of “BIG BOX” showcases that take unlimited teams and place them on fields miles and sometimes, even hours apart, all our athletes know they can and will be seen by college coaches who are present, and they won’t be stuck on the “bad” or “far away” fields.

SF: Where do you see the showcase series going in the future?

TR: Within the next five years, we hope to expand our footprint into some areas of the country we aren’t currently in, such as the Northeast, West Texas, and add an additional West Coast event. As well, we plan in 2019 to implement a testing program to gather measurable strengths and skills of our players and make that information readily available for college recruiters. We are working on plans to implement clinics in conjunction with our event that players could attend and receive instruction from top college coaches.

Our goal is within five years to again double the amount of athletes we are introducing to the Softball Factory and the opportunities we possess through our company.

To view the 2019 schedule for the Under Armour Softball Factory National Showcase & Tournament Series, please visit: http://www.softballfactory.com/showcases/ to learn more!

Softball Factory Alum Molly McChesney Excited to Live Out Dream of Playing DI Softball After Committing to University of Akron

Molly McChesney signing National Letter of Intent to play for the University of Akron

Softball Factory player and 2019 shortstop/outfielder Molly McChesney has signed her National Letter of Intent to play for the University of Akron, after committing to join the Zips roster back in September of her junior year.

For McChesney, choosing the University of Akron was something that just felt natural to her.

“When I first met head coach Julie Jones and associate head coach Julie Pratt with the University of Akron, I had a good feeling about them,” she recalls. “They were so easy to talk to and they made me feel very comfortable. They invited me to a camp and that was the start of our communication. My first time on campus was in the winter of my Sophomore year. It felt like home the second I arrived. There wasn’t a part of campus that I didn’t like. All the athletic facilities and athlete dorms are very close. Everything felt right.”

While making the choice to commit to the joining the Zips was easy for her, the recruiting process as a whole was a little more difficult at times for the Verona Area High School senior and she credits Softball Factory as something that helped her with this important chapter of her softball career.

“The recruiting process for me consisted of many emails, phone calls and camps.” McChesney remembers.

McChesney at the 2016 Softball Factory Christmas Camp and Tournament

One of those emails came from Softball Factory Executive Player Development Coordinator, Steve Nagler.

“Steve Nagler sent a very nice email to Coach Jones, as well as a few other schools I was looking into,” McChesney, who attended both a Softball Factory National Tryout in Madison, Wis. in July of 2016 and the Softball Factory Christmas Camp and Tournament in Vero Beach, Fla. in December of the same year, explains. “That email included my Softball Factory profile which had all my results from testing in Florida. I believe that email to have been very beneficial as it came from a well-known organization and had reliable stats, information and notes from reputable coaches and former collegiate players.”

The 2016 Softball Factory Christmas Camp and Tournament helped the student-athlete in other ways as well.

“I enjoyed how from sunrise to sunset, the intensity remained high and I felt I was always being pushed to get better,” she says.  “All of the coaches were extremely helpful, and each had a strong background of the game. I felt all the skills being taught were applicable not only to my game, but the game of softball as a whole.”

McChesney still applies what she learned with Softball Factory to her game today.

“​​I utilize running on the balls of my feet rather than flat footed, so I can run faster,” the future Biomedical Science major reveals. “Also, I attack the ball when I’m fielding and try to avoid letting the ball play me. I continue to scoop my glove at the last second before the ball gets to me and work to meet the ball rather than fielding it into my stomach.”

Committing to the University of Akron came with a sense of relief for the Verona, Wis. native.

“When I committed, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” McChesney admits. “I felt I could start playing softball again for me, not for anyone else and not having to be perfect all the time in fear of making a mistake and getting crossed off a coach’s list. “

Being able to play the sport for herself again it is something that McChesney holds close to her heart.

McChesney fielding for Verona Area High School

“There are so many aspects of the game that I love,” she gushes. “The family atmosphere that my teams possess, the relationships that are formed with teammates and coaches, the travel and the opportunity to see different parts of the country, and the game itself. The game brings me so much happiness and when I play, I feel I can be 100% true to who I am. Softball allows me to push myself to be a better teammate, player and person. I’ve learned so many life skills such as perseverance, determination, patience, understanding, trust and acceptance in my years of playing and I will forever be grateful that I get to continue to play the game I love so much.”

McChesney at bat for Verona Area High School

When looking at her high school stats, it is not difficult to see why the University of Akron had their eyes on McChesney. At the end of her junior season, the slugger finished with a career-best .563 batting average and had raked in 45 hits, two doubles and 13 RBI along the way.

Now, McChesney will be able to continue her success and play the sport she loves at the next level.

“Despite being stressful at times, and a lot of emails and one-sided communication, in the end, I wouldn’t trade my recruiting process for the world and I am so thankful for Coach Jones and Coach Pratt for giving me the opportunity to live out my dream of playing Division I softball.”

In The Circle- Importance of the Mental Game

The game of softball is full of ups and downs.

There are times when players feel great and on top of the world, and times when they feel the lowest of lows. This is when the mental part of the game comes into play. The crazy part about softball is that if you fail 7-out-of-10 times, you are considered an amazing hitter. Having a strong mental approach is extremely important to succeed.

The biggest mental test I ever had actually happened to me my senior year of college.

I was the only senior pitcher on our team and I wanted to prove to my team and myself that I could handle high pressure situations. I also wanted my senior year to be the best and to go out on a high note.

Our team had just begun Pre-Season, and we were heading to Athens GA, to play the No. 5 team in the country, The University of Georgia. I had a conversation with our head coach the day before we played and she said I was going to get the ball in the first game. Once she told me that, I was all over the place in my head. I wanted to prove to everyone that our team could hang with them, and that I was the right person to be in the circle throwing.

I probably got about an hour of sleep the night before because I was so nervous and anxious. Once I started warming up for the game, the nerves kicked in. I was extremely nervous and I wasn’t confident in myself. When the game started I was completely in my head. Let’s just say, the first inning definitely showed all of this. First pitch of the game, homerun. Second batter walked. Third batter hit a home run. Fourth batter hit a homerun. And then just like that, I was pulled out of the game. I didn’t even get an out.

I remember sitting in the dugout thinking “How did this happen? I am THE senior pitcher on this team. I let my whole team down. How could I do that?”

As I watched the rest of the game, I tried to cheer my teammates on, but I felt like I let them down because I had a bad outing. I have never been harder on myself than how I was after that game.

I spoke to my catcher the next day who said, “J, it is just a game. One performance doesn’t define you as a person. You are an amazing pitcher. Next time you go out there relax, HAVE FUN, and know that you are doing the best you can. Your team supports you 100%.”

Her words really stuck with me and the next two weeks during practice I was able to relax more. During spring break, our team was heading down to Gainesville Florida to play the No. 1 Team in the country, The University of Florida. Before the game, my coaches pulled me aside and said that I was getting the ball again. They said they believed in me 100% and just wanted me to do the best that I could.

My mindset for this game was completely different than the game against Georgia. I told myself that I just wanted to have fun and enjoy every second of pitching. I only had about three more months left to play college softball, and I wanted to soak in every moment. Win or lose, I knew that I had put the work in.

In this game, things were night and day different from the Georgia game. I threw a three hitter, and our team only lost 1-0, which happened to be in the bottom of the 7th inning. That game is the best game that I ever pitched in my whole life.

Regardless of the score, I was so proud of myself and my team that we hung with the best team in the country. It showed me that I deserved to be on the mound, and how important having a strong mental game was.

The Georgia game and Florida game were two weeks apart. In those two weeks I didn’t become a whole new pitcher and change my pitching style. However, I did change my mental approach.

Softball is supposed to be fun; that is why we play. Yes, there will be failures, but it is how you bounce back when things don’t go your way. You can’t dwell on an at-bat that you had from the first inning and let that carry with you into the next inning. You need to have a short memory, and focus on the next pitch and next play. If things aren’t going your way, cheer on your teammates and focus on the things that you can control.

Preparing mentally is just as important – if not more – than any other part of your game. At the end of the day, you only have a certain amount of time to play the game of softball, it is important to enjoy every second you can!

In The Circle – Leadership and Injury

(Article written by Softball Factory Player Development Coordinator, Jane LukasFrom an early age, my athletic career was centered around my role as a leader. I played a multitude of different sports, whether I was on the track, on the field, or on the court, I was able to lead by example. My approach was very simple; if I work hard, I will see the results I want.

That mentality gave me the ability to play consistently well, and this consistency is what allowed me to be successful. I carried this mindset through with me until college, where I played Division I Volleyball at Loyola University Maryland. I knew I was going to be voted captain my junior year and I didn’t plan on changing anything in terms of the way I played or talked to my teammates. However, an athlete’s performance on the court is only one small aspect of what it takes to be an effective captain. I learned this through experience during that junior season, after I injured my knee three days into pre-season.

I have played sports since I was in 3rd grade and went 12 years without an injury. Not a missed season, or even a week off. But, in my junior year, when I’m in the best shape of my life, playing the best volleyball I have ever played, I find out I’m going to miss most of the season.

Sitting in the doctor’s office after a month of unsuccessful rehab, learning I was going to need surgery and would miss another six weeks, was the most discouraging moment of my college career. I felt like I had lost any value that I added to the program. If I couldn’t provide them with results on the court, what could I do? And how could I expect anyone to listen to what I had to say if I wasn’t out there playing?

To my surprise, my team still voted me captain, and for the first time, I didn’t think that I was going to be able to provide them the leadership that they needed.

I was extremely pessimistic about the situation. Without knowing it, I was allowing my attitude to negatively effect my team. I had a one-on-one meeting with my coach who basically said “Jane, they voted you captain knowing you were going to be out for a while. Even though you aren’t playing, they still need you to do your job.”

There were some tears, and some more words exchanged, but I walked out knowing that I needed to change my attitude. From then on, I did everything I could to make myself an asset to my team. I completely embraced any role or responsibility I had. I took stats on the sidelines and I made sure that if you weren’t on the court you were cheering. I realized how important the bench is. The girls on the court need them to create energy and I genuinely felt like I was making a difference.

I worked with the other outside hitters on things that I noticed and gave them as much feedback as I could. I even made sure everyone had water, their cups were full, and people had what they needed so they could be their best. The more I embraced these small tasks the more value I gave myself, and my team needed me again. Injuries, adversity, or any setbacks can be extremely discouraging, but it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute. There are so many ways that you can help your team improve, being on the court or field during games is just one part.

I took my rehab very seriously and was playing again by the end of the season. Now that I am a couple years removed, I’m grateful that this is something I went through. It made me a better leader, it showed me how important having a positive mindset is, and it allows me to relate better to the athletes I work with today.

It also showed me that throughout life, no matter what you’re doing, you create your own value. It all comes down to attitude. If you do your absolute best at whatever task you decide to embrace, you’ll walk away feeling satisfied of your results.

Adversity is common and getting discouraged is easy. There are a lot of aspects within sports that are out of your control. One area that is completely determined by you is your attitude and mindset. Choosing to influence your teammates positively and finding ways to relate positively to your environment is something leaders do every day.

In The Circle-Overcoming Adversity

The sport of softball teaches you many life lessons not only on the field but off the field. One of the biggest lessons happened to me when I was eight years old. I learned at an early age how to overcome adversity, how to be a good teammate, and I realized that sometimes things just don’t happen the way you want them to.

I started pitching when I was seven years old. I pitched almost every day growing up; I absolutely loved it. I did everything I could to become better. I played on an 8 and Under Rec Ball team in our local softball league and was primarily our #1 pitcher. The biggest goal I had that year was to make the “A” All Star team. The A team would be the best 12-to-13 girls from the league and they would play all summer in different tournaments.

This would be my first year making All-Stars, and I couldn’t wait to play the whole summer and get better. There were many people throughout the rec ball season that said I was going to make the team, and I couldn’t wait for my parents to get that call.

Our rec ball season came and went, and it was time for coaches to pick the All-Star team. The way the voting goes for the All-Star team is that each manager selects girls that they feel should make the team. They are supposed to select the best girls on the A team, and then the second tier girls would make the B team. It turned out that all the managers that were voting had daughters that were pitchers, and all of those girls ended up on the A team.

Unfortunately, my family got the call that I was going to be on the “B” team. I remember being sad, shocked, and confused. I worked incredibly hard all year, I was the best pitcher in the league, and I was on the B team? How did this happen? This is when I learned that politics, as much as we don’t want them to be, play a role in sports.

I remember having a conversation with my dad about the situation. He said, “J, you can either not play on the B team and not play All-Stars because you are upset, OR you can play on the team and be the best pitcher that you can be and show them that they made a mistake.”

Even though I was extremely disappointed, I decided to play on the B team that year. Playing on that team was hands down one of the best things I ever did. I got to pitch all the time, received incredible coaching, and learned some amazing life lessons. Our team was one of the best B team’s that our organization had ever seen with our team finishing with an 18-4 record.

One of the greatest things that came from the situation was in the second tournament our team ended up playing our A team. We beat them 4-2, which to this day is the only time a B team has beaten an A team from our All-Star program.

My dad received a call after our second tournament from the coaches of the A team. They realized that they made a mistake and they wanted me on their team. Again, I talked with my parents about switching to the A team, but in the end I stayed on the B team. The B team didn’t have any other pitchers, and I did not want to let them down. I had made a commitment to my team and I wanted to stay. I already had a great relationship with my teammates and coaches, and I knew that being loyal was extremely important.

It is crazy to think that I learned some of my most valuable life lessons as an eight year old. I learned that even if you feel you deserve something, sometimes things just don’t go your way and to work even harder. Politics are a part of the sport, but never let them get in the way of you and your goal. Adversity in sports happens, but it is how you bounce back from that adversity.

I could have given up, not played on the team, or had a terrible attitude throughout the whole All-Star season. However, I was able to turn this negative situation into a positive and learn from it. In life, it is how you bounce back from these situations that can not only make you a better ball player, but more importantly a better person.