Softball Through A New Lens

As I have explained in previous blogs, I have played softball nearly my entire life and I am grateful for the opportunity I have to play softball at the collegiate level here at UCSD. As an athlete, I am always working to get better and attempting to perfect all aspects of my game. Softball is a spring sport, and therefore my team is currently in season. This week begins our conference games, essentially, playing every weekend. In terms of practicing or involving myself with the sport, my team practices Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2:30-5 followed by conditioning from 5-6. Tuesday and Thursday practices are started off with weights at 5:50 A.M. until 7, practice follows and is held until 10:30. Given that we have now entered our season we only practice Monday through Thursday and have 2 games every Friday and Saturday from now until May.

My team has played in 6 official games since the beginning of this project and our overall record is 5 wins and 1 loss. Although Softball is a team sport, this blog in particular is centered around my experiences within the sport. I am a catcher and a right handed hitter. In our last game I hit a home run, my first at our field. I am definitely excited about that. In the last month I have started doing catching specific workouts lead by the sister of one of our coaches. I consider this a “new” way for me engaging in the sport. None of my coaches were catchers during the time they played so up to this point, any instruction, catching specific was done among the catchers on the team. These catching workouts are scheduled outside of the assigned practice time for an hour each week. I have found these sessions extremely helpful in that they allow for drills, specific to catching, that are not normally conducted during team practices. For example, where in a team practice we may be required to throw down to second base to practice throwing runners out, in the individual catching workouts we practice the fundamentals required for a throw down (footwork, release, stance, etc.). These catching workouts are so valuable to me because it gives me a chance to perfect the little things in order to make improvements to my catching abilities.

The expression, “overworked and underpaid” is definitely applicable to being a catcher. The underpaid part however is more like under-appreciated. We are required to come early for practice most days of the week to catch bullpens for the pitchers. While the pitchers are allowed to occasionally leave practice early as a catcher we stay the entire practice, and are usually the last to leave. Although these additional workouts contribute to our “overwork” I find it extremely beneficial and I really enjoy spending time where I am able to work on my catching skills specifically.Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 5.35.40 PMunnamed

Another way in which I have taken a new interest in Softball is in the aspect of safety, in particular with face masks on batting helmets. With respect to my last blog, in which I analyzed an advertisement in it’s way of advocating masculinity through toughness or a lack of safety, I think face masks on batting helmets has a similar purpose. You will never see a professional baseball player or a one at any level, wearing a face mask on their batting helmet. In contrast, face masks in softball are required at all levels until college. Although this is in part related to the closer distance between the pitcher and the batter in Softball as opposed to Baseball I think this element of masculinity which was seen in the advertisement also is embedded within the game. On my team it is split about half and half between those who do and don’t wear face masks. I choose to wear one for safety reasons, I was involved in a very bad collision a few years ago and the face mask I was wearing protected me from further injury.

While I am continuing my role in-between the lines, or as a participator in the game, this project has allowed me to look at the sport, which I thought I knew so well, from several different perspectives.

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One Response to Softball Through A New Lens

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Congrats on starting off with a winning season and getting your first home run! I’m glad you are getting the chance to refine your skills in a specific area. I’d enjoy hearing more about how these drills work to embed a sense of embodied knowledge that ingrains subtle ways of moving when you play. Such drills are a great exercise in understanding how bodies are constructed and movements become naturalized.

    Your thoughts on safety also sound intriguing. I’m sad to hear that you suffered an injury, but glad you have recovered and are protecting yourself. With so many aspects of high-level athletic competition being so dangerous and susceptible to injury, it is odd that many athletes refrain from using safety devices such as face masks. Why is it masculine to expose yourself to risk? Where does this association come from, do you suppose? I’d enjoy hearing more on how you see it operating in softball.

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