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Journals from University of Otago

2009-10-13 Life as an abroad athlete

I play softball at Linfield, and when deciding to study abroad, softball was the only thing I saw standing in my way. I knew that people had done it and that my coach would allow me to go, but I thought it would be hard to miss out on fall practices and find a way to pitch abroad. I knew that if I went abroad, I would need to find a way to practice. When I got to New Zealand I looked for other students who played softball or other Division III softball players but could not find anyone. Determined to find a way to stay in shape, I went to the New Zealand softball homepage and found the contact email for the pitching representative here in Dunedin. Kath responded with a friendly email and arranged a catcher for me and a place to pitch. From the first time I met Kath she has been so nice to me and has provided me with so many opportunities to practice. She immediately started to talk about finding ways to get me to play in games while I am here or finding a team that will let me throw batting practice. The national pitching coach came to Dunedin to run a pitching clinic and Kath wanted me to go to the clinic to help out and meet the coach. At the clinic, I had a great conversation with Debbie, the national pitching coach, about my pitching experience and how training approaches differ between the US and New Zealand. I was surprised by how different the pitching philosophy is here from the philosophy at home. I was able to share a lot of information about pitching and to observe the approach that she used. Her coaching method is simply watching the pitchers throw without giving any instruction. She told me that if they get it, they get it so she doesnt adjust their mechanics. It was really interesting. At home pitching coaches usually evaluate every little movement a pitcher makes in their motion and tells them what to tweak to improve. I recently helped at more youth softball camps. At one camp, they just had me throw to show the kids the different aspects of pitching they had been talking about. It was cool to be able to get my practice in while helping them out. At the next camp, Debbie had me show some of the drills that I do to warm up and had the kids follow my lead. She also filmed me pitching to use as an example to other kids around the country. While doing this, she gave me some pointers on how to improve my pitches. It was fun to learn some new perspective towards the sport. Most recently I have become involved with a mens club softball team. I was unable to participate in their first game, but I have been to a few practices and am playing with them this weekend. It is fascinating because their practices are completely different than what I am used to. At Linfield we usually practice for at least 4 hours but these practices are done after and hour and a half. It is a nice change of pace! One of the biggest challenges I see about playing with the team is that the level of competition is considerably less than what I am used to, but I think it will be a great opportunity and it is the perfect way to stay in shape for the season at Linfield. Being involved with the team has given me the opportunity to meet some other students at the University that I would have never met. They have all been so nice to me, making sure that I have a ride to practice, asking me to do things with them and thanking me for playing with them. I was surprised the other day when my friend told me I had made the local newspaper for softball. It was talking about the team and how I am going to play a few games with them. Here is the link: It is definitely possible to study abroad if you are involved in a sport at Linfield and I encourage all who have the opportunity to take it. Some student athletes might not think it is possible for them because of their coaches, their season schedule, concern that they wont be able to find a way to stay in shape, etc. However, it is all about making opportunities for yourself and picking the right program. I have made a friend here who never expected to be able to study abroad because she plays basketball for Whitman and the season goes into both semesters. Since the Otago semester started in the middle of the summer and ends in November, she was able to come over with cooperation from her coach and an agreement to work hard while here. She is only missing about a week of practice back at Whitman. The experience of studying abroad is so amazing and truly changes you, so dont let athletic responsibilities restrict you from experiencing it. Find a way to work it out-- it is worth it. Claire

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