Monday, March 11, 2013

Swimming with the Sharks by David Field

The Simmons Sharks Softball team departs for Florida soon to participate in their spring training trip. The focus is on the Great North Atlantic Conference (GNAC).  St. Joseph’s softball team is the preseason number one seed in the GNAC, followed by Emerson and Simmons.  St. Joseph’s plays their preseason games in Fort Meyers.  Simmons plays their preseason games in Clermont, Fla. Jen Field, a Windham High School graduate is a sophomore at Simmons studying physical therapy.  Field opened up to The Windham Eagle about playing college softball at the NCAA Division III level. At this level, no athletic scholarships are granted.

When did practices start and what is your practice schedule?

Practices start up in the end of January, when we return from winter break. We practice six days a week for about two hours each practice. The schedule is Monday through Saturday for practice. Typically, practice is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. but during preseason and having to share the gym with lacrosse and basketball and it can be either 3 to 5, 7 to 9 or 8 to 10. Sometimes there can be morning practices as well. If that is the case then we practice 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Looking forward to Florida, what are you excited about?

In Florida, I am excited to be able to play outside on a real field. It will be a great start to the season to be able to experience games on nice fields, in nice weather before the season starts. Also, I am excited about the competition of the games. We play great teams from all over the country and it is a great experience to compete with other teams, even some top teams in the country.

Do you feel cheated not having a true Spring Break?

Although having down time would be really nice, and having a true spring break sounds relaxing, playing softball during spring break in Florida with my team is a lot of fun.  Everyone on the team enjoys it. Playing in Florida is a great start to our season and it is our time to show everyone what we have been working so hard for during the past two months of practice and even all the hard work of working out during the offseason. The feedback we receive from playing these games is a great learning experience for what the upcoming season has to offer and it is exciting to be a part of a group that works hard and plays well together. Even though we don’t get a lot of “down time” we get the week off from classes to relax from some school work stress and leave it all on the field.

You are in a transitional phase, possibly moving to a pitching role.  Explain your feelings about this.

At first, I was feeling very hard on myself about accepting this challenge. I had decided not to pitch in college, but when my coach asked me if I would be interested in trying it during the fall, I felt it was my role as part of the team to step up and accept the challenge. It has been a lot of hard work, but already I have seen improvement, and I plan on continuing to work hard in practice, learn even more pitches and constantly correct my technique. At first it was hard for me. I felt at a disadvantage and felt behind. I hadn’t pitched for almost 2 years and I started getting down on myself. I’ve kept working hard through practice though, and in our first scrimmage against Wheaton College I pitched 2 innings and never felt better. I have worked hard and I got to witness my hard work pay off. And I know I need to continue working just as hard to be successful for my team, if and, when there are any times I may need to come in and relieve a starter.

How competitive is it to become a softball player in college? What are the challenges?

It’s competitive, but it’s very doable. It is hard work, but you feel great after. While doing workouts for softball, pushing myself to be better for me and the team is a great feeling. Also, seeing results of becoming a stronger player has been rewarding.  There can be some challenges with time management and school. It is a busy schedule and time consuming.  As long as one keeps their priorities straight and keeps up with school work, the load isn’t very bad. School work comes first to softball and the coaches completely understand that.  They work with you to help you achieve your best in school and on the field. Also, it is a challenge because there is a big balancing act with school work, softball, family and social life. But when you find your balance with everything, it makes being a college athlete much easier.

Your “regular” season starts when you return to Boston.  How difficult is it to play in the adverse (cold) conditions?

It’s definitely a transition. I’ve never had to practice outside for softball in February until I played in college. It isn’t very difficult to adjust. Just being prepared for the weather and knowing that it is out of your control makes it something that you can’t complain about and that you can’t let affect how you play. If the conditions are bad, it helps knowing that you’re not the only one who can’t feel their hands.  The whole team and the coaches are cold, too.  Being outside is so much better than being in a gymnasium.

So, entering your sophomore year as a softball player, what other thoughts do you have about playing at the college level?

Being a freshman was tough. There were many times I didn’t have enough confidence in myself and let the small stuff get to me. Now as a returner, the butterflies are gone. I’ve clicked so much better with the team and I have learned and understand my role on the team much more. It makes me even more excited to start this season. Also, being a returner has given me more opportunities to be a leader and that has been a great confidence booster.

What are the rewards of playing softball at the collegiate level?

The biggest reward is being a part of a team that is made up of your best friends and feels like your family. The bond created within collegiate teams, at least from my experience, is a great relationship between teammates and friends. They always encourage each other.  I know that the hard work I do for myself will not just benefit me, but it will benefit my team as well. Also, I feel very rewarded on how much hard work I have put in and how much time I have committed, that seeing results in my performance has been a great feeling.

The softball season starts the week of March 18 for both St. Joes and Simmons.  Simmons will take on MIT on March 19, at MIT.  St. Joes will face Albertus Magnus in New Haven, Conn., on March 23.  Catch the Sharks when they visit the Monks on Friday, April 12. 

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