Type into any search engine the word “success” and you probably get a few definitions. Next, click on the images tab while performing your search. I bet there are pictures of people raising their hands in the air, people summiting breathtaking mountains, and winning footraces. One of my favorite images of the word, which has been over-used and clichéd, is the image of an iceberg. The tip of the giant sits above the water and is clearly visible in all its glistening glory, symbolizing victory. But the meat of the mass, symbolizing hard work and sacrifice, sits below the surface, naked to the public eye. It's this hidden section that is clearly responsible for the visible part of the ice. Rather than see my involvement with this sport as a series of icebergs or conquests, I like to treat this sport as more of a timeline of lessons and adventures.
I am a hard-working Midwest athlete from Des Moines, IA who didn’t know that it was possible to go to college for a softball scholarship until the process was thrust upon my lap. Being a die-hard Iowa Hawkeye all of my life, playing for the Hawks and wearing the black and gold was exactly what I hoped for when my recruiting process started. I had the joy and luck of playing for softball legend, Gayle Blevins who increased my softball IQ by leaps and bounds. By my senior year, I was exploring professional softball playing options beyond college. Although I had options to remain in the USA and play professionally, I decided to play in Italy with the hopes of playing for the Italian National Team. My grandfather was born in Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna, Italy, and I was eligible for dual citizenship.
I first stepped off the plane in Naples, Italy in 2005. I didn’t know where I would be living, who my teammates were, nor did I know any Italian words! My first few weeks were agonizingly frustrating with my team in Caserta while I got my bearings. Even amidst my discomfort, I could sense this experience was already making a change in me. A few weeks later, I had the privilege of playing my first few games for the Italian National Team. Over the course of the next 15+ years, I have gotten married, had two children, coached in Division I softball, coached Division III softball, coached youth softball, and coached for the Italian National Team itself before being asked to play again to assist with qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Most everyone with the Italian National Team plays in the Italian League or in the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) in the USA. After the 2019 regular season in Italy, selections were made to the National Team Training Camp to be held in Ronchi Dei Leggionari. From there, 17 athletes were picked to compete for the European Championships to be held in Oztrava, Czech Republic at the end of June. The cohesiveness and dominance that this year’s team exhibited en route to a European Championships gold medal was something I had not experienced in a long time. Ultimately, the final roster of 15 continued to play well through the Olympic Qualifier, and we punched our ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We were the third team to do so after Japan and the United States. Hurrah!
I will always remember those wins, but if I look at this game and my experiences as a whole, I realize that my involvement in this sport has always been for love of adventure and learning, not the icebergs. I hold close to my heart, the life lessons that sport has provided me and work to be a better human. Those same lessons help me create a better life for my children. What matters to me most is what this game has taught me, win or lose. And if I am totally honest, the lessons abound more from losses than they ever do from wins.
Long before I ever played in a game, I picked up a ball because it meant I could hang with my parents outdoors. I vividly remember getting clocked in the ear with a ball thrown by my mother in our back yard in Woodbine, IA, and then being coaxed back outside amid my crocodile tears to keep playing. There was a lesson learned from that moment, and my parents made sure I arrived to learn it. Whatever your avenue for learning about this life and appreciating this brief existence we have on this rock, I suggest you grab it and run gloriously onward! Life is a lesson and sport is your highway toward some very important learning!