They say that the way to achieve goals is to set a big goal, then break it down into smaller ones. This makes it both practical and more achievable to focus on the short term goal before the long term one. Sometimes, however, you don’t set out with a specific goal in mind and instead, your journey leads you to identify them along the way.
When Olivia started playing baseball it was a nothing more than the sum of its parts. It was a great way to meet new kids, parents and have wholesome fun on the weekends. I remember lob ball having a really good mix between boys and girls. The next year, the game moved to having the kids pitch to each other. Olivia was the only girl on her team.
It would remain like this for a bit and then it progressed into she being the only girl in her team to the only girl on the field and then on the league. At each level, people kept moving back the goal posts. “Sure you’re having fun now that you’re 8, but boys will treat you differently at 12.” “Yes you can hang at 12, but next year is 60/90 and the boys will be huge.” “Look at some point you have to start thinking about transitioning (softball).” “High School ball is just not possible.”
She made her Varsity High School team in 7th Grade.
Our first Baseball camp was at Columbia University. The main reason we went to Columbia was because, academically, it’s one of the best schools in the country. The second reason was because it was so close to us. So we thought, why not? Instead of visiting schools and doing your typical college tour (although she was in 9th grade), we figured why not do a sports camp since it comes with a tour in itself.
We followed up Columbia by attending another camp at Harvard University and then Princeton – all schools which were at a reasonable distance from us.
These camps always had other colleges in attendance. So Olivia would get invited to other camps from other universities. We always honored those invitations, particularly if they were a few hours drive away. We were given a lot of unrequested opinions about how most camps are money grabs and such, but our thinking process was that Olivia was getting in front of actual coaches.
We also realized that not many girls attend college baseball camps, much less D1 camps. Our goal was to show coaches where she was, developmentally, in 9th grade, and return each year to show her progression. Coaches aren’t experienced with girls playing baseball and there is a notion that because females mature quicker, physically, they will have less room to develop their skills compared to a boy who still grows into his late teens and early 20’s. Looking back on her experiences at these camps, we could not have imagined the impact her attending them has made – but that’s a story for another post.
The first college offer came very unexpectedly. She was practicing with her team, doing winter training at a college facility. The head coach happened to come to the gym and me, as a parent, I didn’t know that he was there or who he was. He approached me and when he found out I was her Dad, he said, ‘I love your daughter and if she wants to study here [it’s a rather specialized University], she has a spot on my team.’
From all the years of hard work and all the detractors undermining her potential as a Baseball player, having been validated with an offer from a coach that, ironically, had just met her, was really a turning point in her baseball career – and that’s an understatement. Now, she didn’t just believe that she could play college ball, she knows that she can. And I think, not coincidentally, she became more focused than ever in putting in the work.
Unfortunately, although she would have loved to play for this school and this coach, the specialty that they offer isn’t something that she wants to take up in college.
The next offer came as a half offer. It was after a college camp where she performed really well. The head coach told her that if she applied and got in, she would try out for the team. It was an odd ‘offer’ if you can even call it that, but it’s not something we can seriously consider because we would have to be applying to the school as a non-athlete, essentially. The school is also extremely hard to get accepted to and they don’t give athletic scholarships since it’s a D3. More importantly, she is looking to be committed in baseball in going into her Senior year of high school.
The next big breakthrough came in the form of an offer from a D2 college. And not just any D2, but one of the top D2 programs in their division. Additionally, this wasn’t a ‘you can try out for the team if you can get accepted into our school’ type of offer. This was a, ‘we want you to play for us’ offer. If she were to take this offer, she would be the first woman to have played DII baseball in the history of the NCAA.
Besides these offers, she’s gotten a couple of others that resulted from having attended a combine recently.
We never thought we would be in a position where we would be weighing out offers from different colleges. It’s a testament to believing in yourself, having a good support system and entrusting yourself to the process – in this case, the process of your personal development in your given sport.
This 2021 summer will be very exciting and there are already lots of baseball opportunities that Olivia will be taking part in. It’s been incredibly exciting to be able to document most of it and hopefully future generation of female athletes can take inspiration in pursuing their passions, particularly when it means that they’re breaking away from tradition.