Everything on the dirt, the grass and over the fence

How softball helped me win for myself

By Gabryelle Breski

Knightly News Reporter


“Now between the lines, kid.”

Every softball and baseball player has heard that line from coaches and parents, friends and strangers watching a game. They’re telling a player to focus on the field, where the action is, between the marked white lines of first base and third base.

In my case, while I was playing, my mind was racing further than just between those white lines.

I can’t remember a time while I was growing up when I was not battling anxiety. It is not a battle that defines a winner or ends after seven innings. It is simply living life in extra innings and a pitch count that would set records.

Anxiety is different for everyone.

I remember, from as early as the age of 4, shaking and feeling unable to breathe in many social environments, and hiding behind my parents. People thought I was not being polite, but I was too afraid to talk to or look at anyone.

The truth is I was scared out of my mind.

If you become scared that way, I’m telling you that people are out there who will listen to all your fears.

At 7, I joined my local softball team. I fell in love with the sport – I was captured by the determination and the fight to win each game.

Little did I know, I was using it to fight the self-talk in my head.

‘Now between the lines, kid’

Even though many players hear that phrase on the field, anxiety keeps people between the lines, too. It creates fear in people of doing the wrong thing or not doing enough. Fear, the fear of the unknown, drives anxiety.

Coming into eighth grade, I joined my first travel team. I made it: I had a team choose me.

You might think, why would you seek validation from random coaches you don’t know? The answer is simple: Because I was not enough for myself.

Each week, I pushed myself to work to be the best I could be. Softball taught me to celebrate the wins in life but to learn from the losses. I learned that curveballs are going to be hard to hit, but it is not impossible.

The bottom line, though, is that if we always stay between the lines, we will never understand what it is like to see the field from behind the fence.

High school

High school softball was another experience. High school is filled with students who want just to be accepted, but also who want to find themselves.

High school was a rough patch for me. I battled my increasing anxiety, and then depression.

The one part about sports that people do not always talk about is the comparison: Why am I not hitting .300 like her or why can’t I run that fast?

One of my coaches had a large influence on who I am today. This coach helped me through one of the roughest times in my life. I was battling self-esteem issues and life challenges, but he made sure I was making it through each week. We held meetings every Saturday just for the players to rant about our weeks, or our lives in general, and issues we may have been struggling with.

Did I ever tell my coach or the players about the battle in my head?

Absolutely not.

At the end of every week, I knew I still had the love of the game and the practices to get me through. The field became a home away from home.

This team I was part of was more of an influence on me than most players and coaches will ever know. When anxiety and depression are hitting an individual at the same time, it is like having a switch hitter who does not pause for a pitch.

You can’t make it home without hitting first, second and third, right?

Another analogy has helped get me through.

I’m a future-oriented person. I want to know what’s going to happen before it happens. I want to plan everything.

In the game, you cannot plan when your pitcher is going to need relief. You handle it when it happens. You do not know the pitch order when you step into the box.

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

That’s another phrase familiar to ballplayers, and to people generally.

You remember why you do the things you do. You step into the box to hit the ball and make contact. I played softball because I loved it, but the reason I played quickly came to be that I did not know myself without it.

To quote my favorite movie, “A League of Their Own,” head coach Jimmy Dugan tells catcher Dottie Henson, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Softball was not easy. I had to work to be in the starting nine. But I had to work even harder to know my worth and who I am.

Today, I am more social than I would have ever predicted, and I am having an impact on others.

Softball made me realize I had a team behind me — not only the other players, but the coaches, family, teachers, friends and others.

Work with a team

Sometimes, life can seem to be too much to handle, but finding people who understand and are willing to listen can be what makes the difference.

Softball also taught me that while I have a team behind me, I must be willing to make the changes I need. I needed to be confident in what I wanted to do with this life and make it count.

Not every day is going to feel like a home run and some days are going to be filled with extra innings, but the most important thing to remember is that you are worth more than any strikeout in your life.

So, if you are battling your own mind, too, know that you are not alone.

You are needed in this world.

And, most important, know that your battles matter.

If getting out of bed was a win today, celebrate it.

And remember, just as I had for me, people are available and willing to listen.

Breski is president of The Knightly News.

Editor’s note: If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, or both, or other mental-health issues, please don’t be embarrassed about or afraid to seek help. Talk to someone you trust. Also, Central Penn College offers help through its counseling-services provider. You can access these services through this Central Penn website. If you’re not a Central Penn student or otherwise connected to the college, ask your healthcare provider for information on support. You can also search the Internet for resources to help you. One well known comprehensive resource is the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Here’s some more news: Central Penn is planning to add a softball team to its sports program next year, with Tabatha Spriggle coaching. The news – on which The Knightly News will follow up – prompted Knightly News Media Club President Gabryelle Breski to write about how softball helped her through some difficult times, put her on the path to feeling better and helped her become who she is today. Students interested in the softball team or Central Penn athletics in general can find information here.

Comment or story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.

Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.