Written By Shannon Murray
Even though she doesn’t play softball, one of my favorite quotes of all time comes from soccer stud Mia Hamm. “Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.” I have played by this quote for years and carried it with me on the field for every pitch, every at bat and every play made. Not only have I carried this quote with me on the field, but off the field into life as well. This quote reminds me every time I think about it to put others before myself and to make sacrifice for others.
Throughout my career as a college athlete I was given many opportunities to give back to the community and to the athletic community as well. By far my favorite was having our college team participate in the Friends of Jaclyn program. For you newbies to Friends of Jaclyn, this program is an astounding place for children with pediatric brain tumors and other diseases to be adopted by NCAA college sports teams. For these children, having a team is like having a second family. In the grand scheme of things, as a team we adopted not only our girl, but her whole family as well. The mission of this organization is to improve the quality of life for these kids by providing love, support and friendship as they battle these life-threatening diseases (Friends of Jaclyn, 2014).
Emma Broeniman is one of the bravest people I’ve met. She’s battled so much at such a young age. At Lawrence, our team had the honor of adopting her into our family. Emma used to come to our practices, games and other events with us and we always had a blast. My favorite line from her was coming to practice and yelling at us, “Drop and give me 50!” Sometimes I wanted to ask if she was ready to do them with us if she was so enthusiastic to say it. She brought character, purpose and a new light to our team. Emma was one of the girls. This picture, with a Lawrence softball Alum, is a few years old but nonetheless expresses the kind of atmosphere that Emma brought with her wherever she went.
Softball gave me the opportunity to get to know, love and cherish Emma and her family. Having her in my life taught me countless of lessons outside of the ball field. When we are in practice we learn our skills and how to train our bodies to be in shape to play our best. However, we are also learning lessons that we can carry off the field with us for the rest of our lives. Emma taught me strength is not defined by the size of our bodies, but by the size of our heart.
Fortunately for me, I have the same opportunity to work with Friends of Jaclyn again, but this time as a coach. The Lake Forest College softball team also has a young girl who they adopted. I am enthusiastic and very much looking forward to getting to know another member and teammate of our family. I welcome all of the new lessons that I will learn in my classroom I call the ball field. Remember players, what you learn on the field is just as important what you learn off of it. Carry these lessons with you in your athletic, academic, and personal journeys. Take advantage of the opportunities that softball presents to you to make you a better player and person. It may not be an instructor at the front of the classroom, but softball can be just about the greatest kind of teacher there is.
If this blog entry sparked your interest about the Friends of Jaclyn program, I highly encourage you to visit their website to see all of the great things they are doing for children and sports teams all over the nation at www.friendsofjaclyn.org