The USSSA Pride's Hallie Wilson is a utility player on and off the field. When she's not making SportsCenter Top Plays on the field, Hallie is a journalism major at the University of Arizona. The former NFCA All-American and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year will be contributing monthly articles spotlighting teams, athletes, and coaches from around the country. Take a look at the fastpitch community through the stories of one of the game's own stars.
Female Athletes Defying the Odds, Overcoming Injuries
Not all injuries leave scars… just like not all scars tell an epic story of trial and tribulation. I’ve played about 100 years of ball and I think the biggest scar I rep is a result of a trampoline accident from when I was nine years old.
I remember in travel ball my teammates and I would be disappointed when we wouldn’t bruise after wearing a pitch. We wanted the proof that we “took one for the team” and to show off our badge of honor at school later in the week.
We were preached to daily about laying it all on the line, sacrificing your body for the good of the team. Meaning, there is no ball out of reach that doesn’t warrant a dive, no pitch thrown too hard not bail out of the box for, and no fence too strong to not run full speed ahead into to make an out.
These ideals, engraved into a ball player’s head, highlight the essence of softball: a platform where women get to express athleticism, grace, fortitude, and grit.
I spoke with a few prominent ball players who exemplify each of the four qualities listed above. Here’s what Jolene Henderson, Nancy Bowling, and Cheyanne Tarango had to say about defying the odds and trampling injuries that threatened to keep them down:
Jolene Henderson: All American at University of Cal Berkley, first player signed to Dallas Charge, plays professionally in Japan and NPF
1. Torn acl during your senior year at cal must have been devasting... describe the game/situation you were in when it happened and how it felt once you realized it was a serious injury?
I tore my acl against Oregon state in the 6th inning off of a backhand and I looked The runner back at third. When I turned to throw to first I just heard a pop and when I tried to put my weight on it I couldn't, so I threw the ball to first and when I tried again my body just went to the ground. I wasn't able to move it and the entire stadium was quiet. The only thing going through my head was that I wanted to throw the rest of the game and they were busy carrying me off the field.
When I found out that it was torn all the way and they said I couldn't play the rest of my season I cried. I wanted to play with my team and the thought of not being able to be out there with them killed me.
2. During the next week, what was your mentality and trainers?
My mentality after they told me was, I will play again. I watched my team play from the dugout and I gave them everything I could from the dugout while learning a different viewpoint and perspective of the field. Everyone was telling me to take it easy but I was telling them I was playing. They couldn't keep me off the field and they did the best to prepare me to play injured.
3. How did this injury effect you as a person away from softball?
When I had to have surgery after regionals and I wasn't allowed to workout it was hard. Mentally it pulled me down because I couldn't walk or run and I developed this great appreciation for the ability for walking and doing the everyday things of life.
4. You went on to play internationally in Japan, for USA for Dallas charge, did you ever believe that was possible after your injury?
I believed that I wanted to and that is what made it possible. It was just having a goal and believing in myself.
5. What advice can you pass on to young girls going through injury early in the career. How do you stay positive?
You stay positive by creating the little goals and mentally seeing what you want to happen. Visualizing now you're going to get better and be better when the chance arises and then attacking that mentaliTy.
6. After getting hurt, if you had to name one thing that got you through the injury abd to the next level what would you say that was?
Mentality. It's what I think makes the biggest different because I never took anything for granted and made the most of every moment.
Nancy Bowling: Redshirt Junior at the University of Arizona. Took a leave of absence during her true junior season after suffering from anorexia. Was number 7 on ESPN’s top 100 recruits in 2012.
1. You had to miss a year of ball because of you injury, when you realized you had to red shirt what did you feel
I was extremely upset and saddened that I had to miss the year. It was complete misery knowing I had to stop doing something that meant the world to me and I just wanted to curl up and cry. However it was also a big wake up call for me. I was in denial for a long time that anything was wrong with me. I actually didn’t realize how sick I was until I stopped playing. In a strange way though I am grateful for it now because I never would have gotten the help I needed if I wasn’t allowed to redshirt.
2. Through this experience, what have you learned about positivity through adversity?
I’ve learned that remaining positive in a difficult situation is essential. I’ve learned that it helps to give purpose and hope for a better tomorrow. The more you focus on the positive and the possibilities the easier it is to keep fighting. Had I got into a negative state of mine I could honestly say I wouldn’t be here, I saw many others in my shoes give up and go toward the whys and negatives and those are the one who are still fighting and/or lost the battle.
3. How did this injury affect you as a person away from softball?
Prior to my recovery it destroyed me. I was depressed, anxious and dying both mentally and physically. Through recovery I feel as thought it has made me a better person. I no longer fear failure nor do I think perfection is the only option. Overall this injury has strengthened me and helped me mold into a more mature and capable human being.
4. You recently got a tattoo to represent your trials and tribulations, tell me about it.
Unlike other physical injuries mine has no markings or scars—at least on the outside. Going through this particular trial completely changed me and my outlook on life, it has allowed me to be more authentic…but it is still a work in progress. Because I cannon see any scars on my body often times I forget the impact that it had on my body and that I am still in recovery. I got a white ink tattoo of the symbol for National Eating Disorder Association on my arm to resemble a scar once it heals. It will always be on me as a reminder of what I have gone through, the pain I was in when I was sick, and where I am today.
5. What advice can you pass on to young girls going through injury early in the career? How do you stay positive?
I promise you that it will get better. In the moment, an injury can seem like the end of the world, but it happened for a reason and is usually a blessing in disguise. Use the injury as a time to better yourself and work on areas of life or sport that you may not have gotten to otherwise. Work on the mental part of the game, find yourself as a person, use your family and friends for support, and never give up. Injuries are not permanent and are only temporary setbacks. Keep fighting because in the end you will come back stronger than ever with a new perspective that can completely change your game.
6. After getting hurt, if you had to name one thing that got you through the injury and to the next level what would you say that is?
It was using the downtime to find myself outside my sport, which took extra stress away. It also made me want to develop my mental strength in the game, which is key to all sports. I used my injury to study to study the game, read mental training books, and become a student of the game versus a robot that must execute or explode.
7. You have two more seasons with Arizona, what's the goal for the rest of your collegiate career and how will you stay on track?
My goal is to play for my team and give it everything I have. To go back to Oklahoma and win a championship. I just need to remind myself each and every day how blessed I am to have this opportunity and second chance and have fun with it. I just want to spread and share the love I have for the game with others.
Cheyanne Tarango: 2012-2015 at The University of Tennessee. Current pitcher and first basemen for Team Mexico.
1. A broken thumb during your senior year at UT must have been devastating... describe the game/situation you were in when it happened and how it felt once you realized it was a serious injury:
Unfortunately it wasn't my first injury of my senior year but it was the most heartbreaking. I just got back from having a foot injury in the fall. I wasn't able to practice over Christmas break. I spent most of my time catching up to everyone. Eventually I was back into the swing of things. We were in the indoor facility one day and I had a weird slide at second base on a double I hit and everyone laughed at me. It was funny; I slid on my back... Anyways the next play I was rounding 3rd coming home and I slid into our catcher...but instead of doing that goofy slide I did at second... I put my hand down to almost do a pop up slide. But in the indoor there is nothing to pop up on.... So when I put my hand down I heard a POP! I didn't say anything because without was scared it was bad. I kept moving it telling myself it was okay, but when I was up to bat again I went to squeeze the bat and I couldn't grip it... I was hoping I just jammed it. I went in to check with the doctor and got some x-rays.... They gave me the bad news and once I got out of that office, I lost it.
2. How did this injury affect you as a person away from softball?
I was definitely bitter when I saw my friends on other teams playing and I still wasn't even dressed out, but I tried to stay positive and continue working.
3. You went on to play internationally for Team Mexico; did you ever believe that was possible after your injury?
When it first happened no. But once I came back towards the end of the season when I really started to feel better, I was looking into playing over seas. And when Mexico called I jumped on it.
4. What advice can you pass on to young girls going through injury early in the career? How do you stay positive?
It’s just a game. And your injury is just a bump in the road. It can't keep you down if you let it. There's always a way to live out your dream, you just have to fight for it and not give in to the sorrows of the concerned friends and family.
5. After getting hurt, if you had to name one thing that got you through the injury and to the next level what would you say that is?
My mother. She always pushes me. And once I had the injury, she was so upset for me, but I didn't want her to feel like it was over just yet, and neither did I.
Teams in the Community - Texas Bombers
“Hey, we need your best. We play for these guys on the back of your jerseys. Let’s get it done. ‘Honor Em’ on three….”
Athletic uniforms have evolved. What used to be about comfort and identification now incorporates brighter colors, style, design, fashion trends, and most importantly, swag. However, Program Director and United States Army First Sergeant Scott Smith had a different idea when designing the softball uniforms his Texas Bombers sport.
In 2001 the Texas Bombers emerged into travel softball. It took the organization only eight years to qualify for 18 gold and they did it with a group of 15 and 16 year olds. The organization has developed since then in to a softball powerhouse with 47 total teams throughout Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.
When First Sergeant Scott Smith first drew up the jerseys for his daughter’s travel ball team he wanted to instill the importance of discipline and playing ball honorably. He had no idea where his idea would end up.
He began brainstorming and landed on camouflage. The idea blossomed when he saw that so many of his players were unaware that our country is at war, “Our kids were missing out on the fact that we have been at war for as long as some of them have been alive…” says Smith.
Through research, Scott found 4 The Fallen, an organization that strives to achieve awareness for fallen and wounded service members and police officers through athletics. Scott contacted this organization and began reproducing what they do within fast pitch softball.
Today, each of the 47 Bombers teams wears a camouflage jersey with the name of a different fallen service member from the same hometown as the player on the back of the uniform. At the end of each season, the Bombers present this jersey to a service member’s family to show their gratitude for their sacrifice.
After three years of working with 4 The Fallen, the Texas Bombers decided to begin their own non-profit organization, naming it 4 The Heroes. 4 The Heroes will benefit fallen soldier’s families, injured war veterans, and current service members by fundraising and bringing awareness to our nations courageous heroes.