More than 65 Island girls from age 5 to 14 have been learning the ins and outs of softball this spring, and are having a lot of fun in the process. It’s all part of the ongoing MV Sirens Softball Clinics program, held on a succession of April Sundays on the girls’ varsity and JV softball fields at the high school. A fifth and final session is scheduled for Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm.
“There’s been a great response to the clinics,” said assistant varsity softball coach Julie Rodenbaugh. “Our goal is to expose girls to the sport at an early age, and encourage them to stay with it. We want them to learn the basics and have fun at the same time.”
If enthusiasm and huge smiles are any indication, the program is a great success. The girls are divided into three age groups, each of which engages in a series of drills involving softball fundamentals. The drills, ranging from the traditional to the innovative, keep the girls focused and on the move.
We watched as the Minnows, ages 5 and 6, played a game called Throw It in Their Yard. Each team had about 15 softballs and tennis balls on their side of a rope. On the word “go,” players tried to get all the balls on the other team’s side. Keeping your eye on the ball, and gripping it properly, were two key elements.
During a short break, several Minnows confided that the game was fun because “you get to throw stuff in someone else’s yard.” Not only that, but the winners “can tell the other team to do some sit-ups or push-ups.” How cool is that ?
A group of 7- to 10-year-olds was busy on the varsity diamond with varsity assistant coach Kelly Bowes. The various drills and challenges involved basic softball skills and, yes, fun. Two long lines of girls competed to see who could be first to throw a ball the length of the line, girl-to-girl. The emphasis was on throwing technique and glove positioning.
One observer of this group was Anna Carter of Vineyard Haven, a former MV women’s softball league player and the mother of two clinic participants, ages 8 and 10. She is impressed with the program and the coaching, and is happy to see her daughters involved.
“The girls used to like watching my games,” she said,” and I think it’s great for them to get into the game now. It’s a good alternative to Little League.”
Out at second base, a group of girls took turns fielding grounders and throwing to first. Keeping a close eye and offering tips were two MVRHS varsity softball players, senior Kayla Oliver and sophomore Taylor Hughes. The girls are among the dozen varsity players who participate as coaches.
The third and oldest group, ages 11 to 14, was practicing on the JV field under the direction of varsity head coach Sam Burns. Small groups were focusing on bat control and hand-eye coordination by playing the time-honored game of pepper. A line of five girls took turns tossing a ball to a batter, who bunted the ball back to the thrower.
The enjoyment of swinging a bat was not overlooked. Each group eventually shifted from drills to hitting practice. With two batting tees per group, everyone got a chance to take some rips and work on her swing.
Given the infectious spirit of the participants and the sights and sounds of softball being played, there was a great temptation to join the action and the fun.