Olympian Dani Tyler answers my 10 questions. Written By Gary Leland
1996 Gold Medalist
Position: Infield – R/R
Hometown: River Forest, Illinois
School: Drake University
Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?
A. I was very fortunate to grow up on a block with a lot of kids (mainly boys) around my age. We started playing pickup baseball games in our front and back yards around Age 4.
Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?
A. As with anything in life, I believe that success comes from surrounding yourself with a great support system of family and friends. I credit the kids on my block that I grew up with in starting my love for the game. I credit all of my teammates and coaches along the way from High School to Summer Ball to College to the Olympic/National Team for helping me grow and develop as a player. Most importantly, I credit my parents for instilling in me the values of how to be a good teammate, and more importantly a good person..for helping me learn that the game is just a “game” and that what really matters most is that you give 100% percent effort in practice and in games and that you always treat your coaches, teammates, opponents and the umpires with respect. In the end, what people really remember most about you and your career, is not your batting average or how many wins and losses you had, but how you treated them and others along the way.
Q. How do you get ready for a game?
A. I had 2 songs that I would always listen to on the bus ride to the field 1) Lionel Richie “Destiny” and 2) Sister Hazel “All For You”. I found that both of these songs had a great cadence and/or rhythm to them that could help me really visualize fielding ground balls. I could actually “feel” smoothly fielding a ground ball and making the throw when listening to these songs. I kept my playlist a “secret” for a few years (for obvious reasons), until one of my teammates on the Olympic/National Team (MV) listened to my CD Player when I wasn’t looking… (boy, that makes me feel “old” just saying that…CD player, not IPod).. Anyway..As you can imagine, I took a little “heat” for that. It is kind of embarrassing when your teammates are listening to Metallica and Jay-Z to pump up for a game while I am listening to Lionel Richie..but hey, whatever works, right?
Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?
A. When I changed careers in the year 2000 from my Olympic/National Team softball career to my next career in Public Accounting, I really developed a love for Golf and Running.
Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?
A. My parents have been the strongest influence in my life. As I have gotten older, it has developed into even more appreciation and respect. It wasn’t until later in my life that I truly realized the tremendous sacrifices and the amount of time that my parents put in to helping me grow as an athlete and as a person. I hope that I can eventually become half the person that both of my parents are. If I can ever accomplish that, I will know that I have truly accomplished something amazing in my life.
Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?
A. I had a few superstitions/routines when I played..in college, I would put a green M&M under my lip before I would go up to the plate to hit. I believe that routine started by mistake early in my career..I did it one time and I happened to hit a homerun during that at bat, so I continued doing that same routine throughout my college career. During my Olympic career, I always made sure I was chewing gum when I was on defense. I think it relaxed me and calmed me between pitches before it was time to zone in and refocus for the next pitch.
Q. What is your favorite softball memory?
A. My favorite softball memory was the gold medal ceremony in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic games. Watching our American flag being raised, listening the National anthem play, and standing alongside some of the most incredible women/teammates that I have ever had the pleasure to play with was an amazing feeling that I will never forget. Even to this day, whenever I am at a sporting event or I hear the National anthem play and see our American flag being raised, my mind always go back to that special day in Atlanta.
Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?
A. I have always felt that so much of the game depends on your mental mindset when you walk onto the field. Getting this mindset starts way before the first pitch of the game. The BEST days are when you walk onto the field at game time and you know everything is clicking..a zone, if you will. When you run onto the field for defense, and you KNOW nothing is going to get past you today. When you step into that batters box you have a have the confidence that you are going to touch and drill any ball that comes at you today. When you have those feelings of confidence on game day, that’s when you know it is going to be one “exciting day at the ball park’. I have found that to obtain that type of zone or confidence, you need to KNOW that you have done the “work” in practice and on your own personal time. Confidence comes from hard work, practice, repetition, drills and a lot of sweat. When you have put in that kind of work, you should be able to step on to the field on game day, and you should not be thinking at all, you are just naturally reacting and playing the game with that feeling of confidence because you know that anything that comes at you today, you have already done a million times before.
Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?
A. The greatest obstacle that I had to overcome was choosing to stop playing the game that I loved so much and move into a career outside of softball. I still love the game. I always will. It has given me so many memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. The game of softball teaches you so many things about yourself and about life. You learn that you can always work harder and push farther than you ever imagined was possible. You learn that by working together as a team, you can accomplish amazing things, way more than you could ever accomplish alone. The game makes you laugh and it makes you cry. It’s the best game in the world and the people who have touched my life along the way throughout my career are some of the most amazing people on earth. I am very thankful for all that the game has given to me.
Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?
A. I currently work at a Certified Public Accounting firm in Chicago (Bansley and Kiener, LLP). I have worked at Bansley and Kiener, LLP for over 15yrs. My fellow Partners and our amazing employees are my teammates now. I feel truly honored to work with such an incredible group of people. If I “had to” choose another career, I would either be a college history professor (that wealth of knowledge about history would make you a great conversationalist) or I would be a high school teacher and teach personal finance (as I strongly believe that high school students should receive more guidance about how credit cards work and loans and how important saving for retirement is at an early age, etc..).
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