Rather than spending their winter break relaxing before their season begins, nine of JMU’s softball team members spent a total of over 80 hours volunteering within their local communities. Before heading home for winter break, head coach Mickey Dean challenged his players to get involved within their communities and donate their time.
“This year we had such a long semester break that we challenged our players to put in time serving their community in order to better understand their community,” stated Dean. “Today we get so busy and wrapped up in just being busy, that we don’t take the time to understand or enjoy serving the community we grew up in.”
The nine girls – Catherine Clavin, Jailyn Ford, Madyson Moran, Haley Widner, Hannah Hayes, Casie Hill, Tahli Moore, Sara Wright and Carli Lemelin – volunteered in community activities ranging from assisting aspiring softball players with their skills to supporting paramedics during rescue calls.
Clavin, a senior utility player, began her new year sharing her experience as a college athlete with a fellow Sweet Frog, Poquoson, Virginia, high school softball player beginning the recruiting process. Clavin shared her advice and tips about what to expect, how the process works, and what it is like to be a college athlete.
Sophomore pitcher Jailyn Ford used her superb pitching talents to help improve the skills of Bath County high school pitchers. Ford spent a week instructing one-hour pitching lessons to girls learning to pitch. She shared with them her techniques and ways for the young pitchers to reach their potential.
“It was great to see the improvement of the girls over a few lessons,” recalled Ford. “I hope that I have taught them things that they will carry over into their upcoming season.”
Similar to Ford, both Moran and Widner, used their softball talents to serve their communities. Freshman shortstop Moran assisted a Chicago, Illinois travel team’s coaches, the Beverly Bandits, in orchestrating practices. In addition to practices, she helped to coordinate and coach the team’s sponsored camp. Moran spent a mere four days with the team but spent a full day’s worth of her time to help improve their organization.
Widner, a junior outfielder, worked with a Columbus, Ohio travel team, the Lady Lasers to improve the players’ offensive skills. She talked to the girls about batting and taught them new efficient hitting drills. Once the players’ batting improved, Widner taught the girls how to slide into second base and ended the day playing a few fun softball games. She took her dedication to improving young players even further the following weekend when she took on the role of coach of a travel team during a college showcase in Kent, Ohio.
Hayes, a sophomore outfielder, volunteered at Kent Forest High School, Blackstone, Virginia. She assisted senior English teacher, Ms. Crowder in instructing the class. Hayes helped to orchestrate an interactive questions series exercise. She read several questions to the students, listened as they formulated their answers and then discussed the variety of reasons behind their personal decisions.
Freshmen utility players, Hill and Moore, worked within their communities to better two specific aspects. Hill donated her time to the Buchanan library, helping to recycle old books and restock the shelves with new ones. Meanwhile, Moore used her time to volunteer in her church. She spent two weeks preparing to sing with Wahroonga’s Holy Name Church choir for the Christmas Eve mass performance. After the two weeks, on Christmas Eve, she led the beautiful choir in song while encouraging others to participate in song.
Rounding out the over 80 hours of service were the corners of the diamond, freshmen first and third basemen, Wright and Lemelin. Wright donated her time to The Daily Bread, a nondenominational church program based in Pulaski, Virginia that prepares and serves meals to those in need. Having a more unique service experience was Lemelin. She assisted the paramedics and EMTs of Fire Station 5, Richmond, Virginia, on rescue and fire calls. She was able to aid in safely delivering patients as well as observing their treatment.
“Our group of ladies has been the best I have had at getting out and serving in the community,” Dean remarked about his players’ achievements. “They really seem to enjoy giving back as well as have a genuine interest in the people around them. They are a joy to be around each day.”
These nine players most definitely met their coach’s challenge and went beyond expectations. The James Madison University community is proud of these girls, thanking them for their dedication to serving others and cannot wait for what great achievements they will attain on the field this season.