Softball is everything to Maxine Barnes. When times were difficult for the 2019 catcher and outfielder off the field, she found her safe haven in the outfield, catching and at the plate.
When others started to doubt her abilities as a player, however, she started to doubt herself as well and the sport that usually served as an escape from stress for Barnes was beginning to look like a source of it.
Participating in an Under Armour Softball Factory College PREP Program in Ashburn, Va. in August of 2017 reminded the Woodgrove High School senior student-athlete just how talented she is and got her on the track to committing to the University of South Carolina Upstate.
“I grew up with my life surrounded by sports. It was my escape,” Barnes says, explaining where her passion for the sport stems from. “I love softball because when I stepped out on that field, it was another home for me. The one place where no one could touch me. I wanted to be the best. This sport is my blood and I love every moment I’m out on the field.”
By the time she stepped onto the field for the Softball Factory event, however, the sport she viewed as her sanctuary was not giving her the weightless feeling she had before. The Purcellville, Va. native was letting the harsh opinions of others get to her head.
“I was struggling because I’d been told ‘you’re not good enough’ so many times I was starting to believe it,” Barnes confesses. “No matter what I did I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”
On that August day, Barnes finally found that help she was looking for.
“Max came to our tryout last year and was pretty down on herself and frustrated in the process,” Softball Factory senior player development coordinator Chris Brown recalls. “She’s an absolute stud… one of the best players we have in the program. My jaw dropped the first time I saw her throw. I couldn’t comprehend how she wasn’t committed.”
When Barnes realized that the Softball Factory staff believed in her, she started to believe in herself again too.
“Softball Factory showed me that I was good enough, they were like another family for me,” the 2019 high school grad answers when asked what Softball Factory did to erase the insecurity she had been struggling with.
“My mom has always had my back, but Softball Factory showed me which door to open. I like how they score you among athletes across the country. They’ve really helped me realize my skill and they’ve taught me about a lot of the small pieces of the game, the pieces most people ignore.”
Barnes went onto play in the Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic that November and took part in the Under Armour Softball Factory National Tryout when it made its return to Ashburn, Va. in August of 2018.
The support of the Softball Factory staff kept her wanting more. Two of the Softball Factory coaches Barnes credits with boosting her self-confidence and getting her on the path to committing to USC Upstate are Leah and Dave Majeski.
“Coach Dave and Leah have been another family for me,” she says. “They took me under their wings and developed me into the player I am today. I got to play on their travel team, Team SC. I call them my softball parents.”
Being one of Barnes’ “softball parents” is a role Coach Leah Majeski enjoys.
“Maxine has been a dream to coach!” Majeski exclaims. “Her work ethic surpasses many athletes her age and she is such a wonderful kid. It was no surprise that USC Upstate wanted her the minute they saw her in action. “
The young and talented athlete is a two-time All-State centerfielder and catcher, the Loudoun County All-State player of the year and a three-time softball 4A state champion. When looking at her accomplishments it is easy to see that the future Spartan has made the most of her softball career so far, and she looks forward to playing at the next level with USC Upstate.
“It’s an honor to be committed to such an amazing program,” Barnes reveals. “I’m truly excited for my college career.”