Olympian Dot Richardson answers my 10 questions. Written By Gary Leland
Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?
A. I was 10 years old when I started playing softball because I was playing catch with my brother one day and a little league coach saw me throw, came over and asked me to play on his team. He said I would have to disguise myself as a boy and call me “Bob”. As much as I wanted it, I said, “Sir, thank you but no thank you if I have to hide who I am then I don’t want to play”. I walked over to another field and was playing catch with a friend of mine when a fastpitch softball coach came over. She brought me onto the field and gave me a few ground balls, then asked if I wanted to play for her team, the Union Park Jets. The average age of that team was 22 and I was only 10, but my parents said yes, so that’s when my fastpitch softball career started.
Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?
A. There is always someone special in my life, first and foremost is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I could see Him working in my life from a young age, feeling the Holy Spirit and the joy of life. Through my mom and my dad I saw what it was like to serve others. I felt that God had given me a gift in athletics because it always felt so natural and I felt so alive doing it, whether it was bouncing, kicking, hitting, or diving for a ball, just feeling alive in what you do. When you feel that passion, you know it’s a God given gift and be ready to seize those opportunities. The influence I have had from Him and my parents is something that I always take with me in everything I do.
Q. How do you get ready for a game?
A. I get ready for a game first mentally. Mentally be able to visualize it and to feel it within my body to become one with the ball. Visualize moving faster than I did the last time, being able to see the ball off the barrel of my bat and feel what that feels like. Then in preparation on the field, as soon as I put my cleats on I am in a whole other world; nothing else exists except for being one with that ball.
Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?
A. When I am not involved with softball, I like to influence the lives of others as much as I can in positive ways. If I have a chance to speak to others to give motivation, hopefully inspiration but obviously as a physician to impact the lives of those in the health care field, to be able to be the executive director of a national training center to open opportunities, to have a not for profit with FPX athletics, to impact young girls and women in sport, to serve under Former President George Bush as vice chair in the president’s council of physical fitness and sport, to be able to live life to the fullest and let everyone know how special they are because they are an amazing gift to the world.
Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?
A. Without a doubt my belief in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Realizing that we are on Earth for a short time in this eternity and what we need to do is to show Him in all that we say and do. I take that with me and try to use it in learning the life lessons He has meant for me to learn.
Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?
A. More routines than superstitions. I always put my left shoe on first, maybe just because it felt more natural. I would double tie the bow in my shoelace because I tripped on it when I was really young. There were times when I played in tournaments and ate peanut butter cookies before the game and felt awesome on the field so I kept that routine around. Really I just feel that since being a young girl denied me the chance to play sport drove me to seize the moment and any chance I have to play to the fullest and be all in.
Q. What is your favorite softball memory?
A. I have several favorite softball memories. First and foremost was after winning the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal. In celebration we were all on the field and there were security guards preventing anyone from getting on the field. I remember looking up and reaching out to the fans and I saw a boy and a girl standing together trying to reach over the railings to share in the Olympic gold medal moment. It hit me that these Olympic Games in ’96 was a moment that I felt that the world started recognizing the gifts that God had given each and every athlete no matter what gender they are. That boys and girls and men and women alike can enjoy athletic talent no matter whether it is participated by a girl or a woman or a boy or a man.
Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?
A. I place an extreme amount of value on the mental part of the game. People throw that around to say “mental toughness” but the reality is can you mentally put yourself in a state where you can visualize it to the point where when you execute it, you can feel like you are living the dream, that you have been there before, almost like a déjà vu. It’s a talent to do that. When I talk to young players and ask them if they can visualize it, they can’t and you need to. For all of those reading, you need to be able to visualize in your life where you see yourself going, what you want to experience, how you want to see that plan of action be, and trust that God is going to have you in your life prosper, then you will feel like you are living the dream . I actually wrote a book called “Living the Dream”, and it was really about that, to be able to visualize it and to dream about it and believe it to the point where you achieve it.
Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?
A. The greatest obstacle in my life, without a doubt, is that girls were denied the opportunity to play sport when I was a young girl, just dreaming about the opportunity to be able to express what God has given me on the field. Looking out and seeing boys being allowed to play and girls were not. The boys had no problem with me, in fact they picked me first for their pick up teams after school. Society made it a rule that girls could not play. When Title IX came into effect in 1972, it was an amendment to the constitution giving us all the opportunity regardless of race or gender, that anyone could have the opportunity to express their gifts. There was a huge change in girls and women in sport from then all the way to today and it has been spectacular. I have been very blessed to be a part of that evolution.
Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?
A. I have been very blessed in my life to have a number of careers. Everything from being one of the elite athletes in the world achieving the Olympic gold moments, to the NCAA Player of the Decade for the 1980’s and a NCAA champion in sport, to becoming a physician (I’m an orthopedic surgeon), to be able to experience the fun of playing golf as an athlete, and to be able to now be a head coach, to be on boards like the FPX athletic board, to impact the girls and women in sport, to be on the board of the Fellowship of Christian Athlete softball ministry. I just think that as much as we can do to make a difference it the world for the time that we are here, we need to do it and love every minute of it.
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