We don’t play with Barbie dolls… we just play with bats and balls.
We don’t wear no mini skirts…we just wear our softball shirts.
We don’t paint our nails bright red…we just play softball instead.
–Disco Panda cheer
Tonight, my softball team, The Disco Pandas, is in the playoffs. I am a first-time coach for my daughter’s 3 & 4th grade softball team. It has been an amazing season.
I was floored the first time I heard the above cheer coming from the dugout. It gave me hope that little girls do indeed want to do more than play with dolls. These girls are awesome. They are kind. They cheer each other on. They are brave. They are tough. They want to win.
My philosophy is that everyone gets to play the infield. I didn’t relegate the 3rd graders to Right Field. Anyone who wanted to try pitching, got to pitch. Star infielders who wanted to be catcher (which basically would take them out of the plays) got to catch.
This sometimes raised some eyebrows among the parents – but it’s about the girls. It’s about building confidence.
My personal highlight was when my daughter asked if she could pitch in the middle of the season, just before the start of a game.
She had never pitched. Had never practiced pitching. I wasn’t sure if she could even reach the plate from the pitcher’s mound. But more than any of that, it was so out of character for her. She’s a worrier. She gets nervous trying anything new. Anytime we asked her if she wanted to try something (basketball, piano, softball) she said, “No.” But we just wanted to help her try new things and see what she liked. We signed her up anyway – and she ended up loving them – after some tearful, resistant beginnings.
So seeing her bright eyes and big smile, asking to pitch, made me well-up. I was so proud of her to be finding her confidence.
I had her throw me a few balls from the sidelines and it looked like she would be able to reach and I said, “Wow – you’re doing great. Sure. You can pitch.”
She walked out to the mound, with her head high, full of optimism. I was petrified for her.
She threw a couple balls (way out of the strike zone) and then her first strike. Very cool. Then she struck out the batter. Then another. The third batter got a hit and her team backed her up and made the play. 1-2-3 inning for Miss Lily.
One of life’s great moments.
There are certain moments in your life that stay with you – turning points. I think this was one of those moments for her. Finding the courage to try something new and going for it. I honestly don’t remember if we won that game or not – but I will never forget her running off the mound with a big smile – and a new sense of confidence. Who knows where this moment will help take her in life? I have noticed a new spring in her step.
When these girls started the season, many didn’t know where Left Field was and had to be reminded not to toss their glove up in the air during the game. They have come a long way. We won 4, tied 4, and lost 2 games. (And we have never lost the After Game Relay Race – which we are quite proud of!) More than anything else, these girls have all improved – both as softball players and more importantly, as people.
It’s single elimination for the playoffs – so tonight could be our last game. But it has been a real joy working with these young girls. I am so proud of my Pandas. Wish us luck!
Video – Disco Pandas Go Jump in a Lake (One EXTREMELY hot afternoon, we were playing an away game and after the game we discovered a lake behind the ball field. We let the girls jump in – in their uniforms! Go Disco Pandas!)
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