From the very first time I stepped on the softball field at 10 years old, I knew that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.
I was never much of an athlete, but by God I was determined to become one, to become the BEST one, and ultimately become one of the college players I looked up to at that age. I really became serious at 13 when I met the pitching coach who would lead me to becoming that star pitcher I wanted to be. 6 months after I began working with him I got a D-1 college scholarship, making me the youngest person at the time to have done so. That coach also helped me land a spot on one of the top national travel teams, all the while warning me not to overdo it in order to avoid injury and/or the dreaded burn-out that a lot of girls experience around 16-17 years old. I listened at first, but as time went on I rose to be the top pitcher in my state and one of the top pitchers in the country, and the workload just kept getting heftier. Eventually we were playing every single week in the summer and fall (with tournaments all over the country, many of which began on Tuesday or Wednesday and went through Sunday evening). When I turned 14 the other pitcher on my team broke her arm, and I ended up taking on the entire workload for nearly a year.
From ages 14 to 16 I pitched in tournaments every single weekend from June to November, and in every game on my Varsity high school team in the Spring. I didn’t think much of it— in fact, I loved what I was doing because I was getting all sorts of accolades on the state and national levels. That is, I didn’t think much of it until my hip gave out. Junior year in high school the labrum in my left hip tore badly, requiring surgery, crutches for 6 weeks, and a year long recovery time. I thought it was because of a certain pitch that hurt in the last travel game I was able to pitch in the fall, but after lots of tests and scans my surgeon informed me that this was due to years of constant wear and tear from overplaying.
I went through the surgery and recovery process and was back at it by the fall of my Senior year. I had plans at that time to dominate my last year of high school ball and go on to college and dominate there. I pitched nearly every game in high school that year, but my wonderful travel coach allowed me to have a light summer so I thought I was fine. However, I got to college and the real work began. With 4-5 hours of workouts and pitching and practice pretty much every day, my fate was sealed and my hip gave out again. In the fall of my freshman year of college I was forced to retire from the sport I love so much, and all of the dreams I’d had since I was 10 were completely shattered.
I’m all about responsibility (which I think contributed to my success), so I don’t blame any of my coaches. It was my place to set the boundaries and have the tough conversations that would have kept me from having to retire so soon. Respecting your coaches is so important in both on and off the field, but respecting your coaches does not have to mean pushing yourself past the point of no return. I would absolutely urge everyone (both pitchers and non-pitchers) to think about yourself and about your future, and have a considerate conversation with your coach. Your coaches don’t want to see you hurt, they want you to succeed for the team which means doing what they think is best at the time. That being said, they don’t know what you’re feeling unless you tell them.
Nowadays I’m working as a real estate agent and attending college in my hometown, while doing my best to manage the everyday pain that still lingers from the multiple serious injuries to my hip. With nearly a year of time to think since I last played softball I’ve come to a realization— softball will only be a part of your life for a seriously short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, but you’ll have to use your body forever. Don’t ruin your ability to run, dance, play, and generally be a human being for a few short years of fun.
***Editor’s Note. This was written by an incredible young lady, Rivers Andrews. Talented in many ways and we are proud to call her a friend and associate these days.