Pitching In During the Off-Season Amherst Softball Teams Up With Girls Inc.
Issue   |   Tue, 02/26/2013 - 21:19
Photo courtesy of Lindsay Ewing '15
The Amherst women’s softball team and Girls Inc. established a strong relationship this winter, participating in afterschool events with local girls. Activities have included dodgeball and gingerbread house building.

As a student-athlete, full days of classes, practices and extracurricular activities make it dangerously easy to get caught in the “Amherst bubble.” Despite busy schedules, however, the women’s softball team avoids this trap. This year, the Lady Jeffs formed a partnership with Girls Incorporated of Holyoke (Girls Inc.). Through interaction with some of the Pioneer Valley’s vibrant young women, the student-athletes expanded their knowledge of the surrounding community and learned lessons of collaboration and leadership.

During the course of the fall semester, coach Whitney Mollica Goldstein and her team planned monthly afterschool events at the college for Girls Inc. participants between the ages of eight and 12. Girls Inc. is a national nonprofit and educational after-school organization committed to “inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold.” The programming included a dodgeball game, softball skill instruction, an obstacle course and gingerbread house making in Coolidge Cage. “They get so silly, chasing us through the course or trying out something new. It is amazing to see the confidence they gain in their athletic and artistic abilities with a little encouragement,” Arielle Doering ’14 said.

Amherst student-athletes met the boundless energy and excitement of the participants with creativity and unparalleled athletic instruction. Both parties had much to teach each other.

“Through something as simple as an obstacle course they are staying active and gaining skills, and we are learning the importance of being role models for young women,” Idalia Friedson ’15 said.

The sessions provided a time for the girls to be creative and active in a non-academic and judgment-free environment while viewing a college campus. Their enthusiasm for Amherst and their new collegiate friends was palpable. “It is so refreshing to recall that infectious energy we all had as young athletes,” said senior captain Theresa Kelley. “[It is wonderful to remember] why we play and love the game even today. It is something we don’t think about often enough.”

The idea for programming with Girls Inc. was the product of a simple September team meeting. Goldstien and her athletes shared a general wish to get more involved in the community, but they were unsure how to best act on this desire.

The squad quickly found its focus after just minutes of discussion. “We knew that we really wanted to work with younger girls, promoting what it means to be an athletic young woman,” said co-captain Reilly Horan ’13. “Girls Inc. was perfect.”
While the Lady Jeffs have focused on the eight to 12 age group this past semester, word has spread throughout the Girls Inc. program and girls of all ages — the program runs up to 18 — have expressed interest in future participation.

Amherst softball is excited to expand their program. “Working with Girls Inc. has been one of my favorite parts of this off-season,” said first-year Ashleigh Rutherford. “Seeing the girls’ faces light up every time they walk into the room and knowing that we’re making their day is really a special feeling. Not only does this opportunity allow us to briefly touch the lives of these girls, but it has brought us closer as a team.”

The softball coaching staff and Amherst athletic department are immensely proud of the initiative. “Athletics is beyond the playing field,” Goldstein remarked. “Not only does their enthusiasm for this program represent Amherst softball and the athletic department in a great light but it represents who they are as people.” She is continually impressed by the character and performance of her student-athletes, both on and off the softball diamond.

The team plans to continue its relationship with Girls Inc. throughout the spring semester. They have already set two dates to spend time with the girls at Amherst and hope to invite the girls to attend several of their home games.

“We don’t get to see them that often, but you do make this little impression on them and they make one on you,” Kelley said. “Years from now they may not remember who you were or what you looked like, but they will have this memory of the first time they stepped on a college campus or had fun being active. I think there is incredible value in that.”

If you are interested in becoming involved in Girls Incorporated at Amherst, contact one of the Girls Inc. partnership Community Engagement Leaders to find out more about info sessions: Sarah Yee ’13 (syee13@amherst.edu), Samanta English ’15 (senglish15@amherst.edu), Gabrielle Rodriguez ’15 (grodriguez15@amherst.edu) or Ashley Tobon ’16 (atobon16@amherst.edu).

Lindsay Ewing ’15 is one of four Athletics Liaisons for the Center for Community Engagement. Athletics Liaisons connect student-athletes and coaches to the resources of the Center for Community Engagement and work to create a sustainable culture of service within the Athletics Department. If your team is looking for community engagement projects, contact Kate Beemer ’15 at kbeemer15@amherst.edu, Caroline Broder ’15 at cbroder15@amherst.edu or Nell Patterson ’15 at hpatterson15@amherst.edu.