Women softballers off to World Champs
Remember softball? It’s back. The Australian women’s softball team are off to the ISF World Championships in Whitehorse Canada next month.
I spoke to three players Stacey McManus, Kaia Parnarby, Michelle Cox and the Assistant Australian Coach, Kerry Porter to find out more about how softball should be reinstated as an Olympic sport.
Stacey McManus is from the Sutherland Shire. She has been playing since she was four. “Macca” as she is affectionately known had parents and a sister Brooke who all played softball.
Stacey describes her childhood experience as “always (being) around it (softball) so I was learning the game as I was growing up.” Playing down the softball park every week, it became natural for her, so her skills were developed early.
Stacey went on to play for Australia and Brooke went on to play for New Zealand. Sister against sister. When the Spirits toured New Zealand this year, Stacey said had mixed feelings about facing her sister. “…I didn’t want her to get out, I wanted her to do well. But when she started to do well it made me want to get her out even more,” she laughed.
Stacey plays short stop, second base and pivotor.
She regards short stop to be a main spot on the infield. “It’s where you get to be loud and call out and make decisions for the team who are picking up the ball…” Before game time, she likes to keep to herself. During the week she “hits” the gym twice a week and is “pretty much down the field almost every night.”
One person who has played with Stacey since she toured New Zealand is Kaia Parnarby. Kaia is an Australian pitcher with a killer left arm, who is originally from the northern beaches. Sporting ability runs in the family with Kaia’s mother representing NSW in netball. Kaia describes her mother as her hero saying, “I guess she just influenced me to pursue my dreams.”
Kaia says there will be variety for the whole team these championships and hopes to be a starter pitcher despite being the youngest pitcher on the team. “I’ve worked hard at training. If I get to start, great. I just want to put in a good effort.”
Playing for the University of Hawaii in the college system in the USA means Kaia is particularly looking forward to playing the Americans in this tournament.
“I have a few friends on that team. They’re always a bit tough, a tough battle, also Japan and Canada.”
“I want to show that we can beat the USA. We haven’t done it in a while, I want to be able to prove that we are up there with them and that we can beat them. So that would be nice.” In her downtime in Canada, Kaia is hoping to get out more and see the sights.
Michelle Cox was the third player I spoke to. Michelle bats and throws left handed and plays right field. She says sometimes left handers have a throw that “tails” away. “Left handers are known for having quirky spins.”
Michelle plays for San Jose University in California. Once playing against Sacramento State, Stacey hit a triple. In softball terms this is where you hit the ball between two outfielders and you run between first, second and third base before the other team gets the ball. In that game she also notched up her 11th run of the season.
She says, “That game was great. I just focused there on being consistent and doing whatever I could. My team did pretty well. Kaia’s team in Hawaii played against each other a couple of times.”
When Michelle teased Kaia about beating Hawaii once Kaia just smiled at the comment
“You played four games there….” I suspect this rivalry, despite the smiles, isn’t over.
Occasionally Michelle listens to music but likes being left alone before a game. “I think positively however being in a team…pumps you up and builds good energy. I think that’s… important for a team to build… camaraderie (to) be close together and…win together.”
Japan are another threat. Michelle has toured Japan and found it challenging. “I think we played (Japan) twice last year and lost by one run in the dying moments of both games.”
On the subject of the Olympics, Stacey McManus passionately believes softball should be an Olympic Sport. “I would love to go to the Olympics. It would just be a completely different experience to (the World Championships) It’s not just about…meeting other softball players it’s about meeting the other sports people you admire.”
Softball players are diminishing in numbers and the Australian team members argue that it should be reinstated to the Olympics. All three players worry about the future of the sport. As Stacey stated:
“Playing for Australia in any sport should be…known to everyone. Some people don’t even know what softball is…” Stacey believes “If we have better Aussie players here playing each other more, people are going to want to come…and watch (the game). She hoped they would want to be involved.
The progression of these three players in this tournament depends a lot on the coaching staff. Kerry Porter, the assistant Australian coach has a crucial job. Her role is looking after the outfield as well as the base running. When the girls are training, “I’ll take the outfield, do drills with the outfield and develop different strategies.” This included base running.
The girls train hard, four times a week on developing skills and do gym sessions twice a week.
When asked who does she see to be the greatest threat in this competition, Kerry replied with the best quote of the night.
“Ourselves. We have the all round team to defeat the bigger nations. I have no doubt we can compete and beat USA and Japan who are currently number one and two (in the world). Definitely us.”
With such focused training and hard work, our Australian women’s softball team deserve to win.
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