It is the season for honoring graduating seniors and all their accomplishments, and one of my favorite traditions is celebrating a senior athlete’s final home game of their season.
This week I had the privilege of attending Senior Day for Makena, one of my pitching students, at San Mateo High School. I have coached Makena since she was 10 years old and have enjoyed watching her softball career unfold. We met on the field at a local recreation league and she was always smiling and upbeat, while working hard during her lessons. She developed tight spin at a young age and that set her apart from the other pitchers around her.
I clearly remember Makena hitting softball milestones, while excelling in school, and working toward her black belt in Kung Fu. She has always been self motivated and driven, and my role as her coach was to instill confidence in her and give her the skills she needed to accomplish her goals.
On her Senior Day memories from our lessons together came flooding back to me while sitting in the stands with her loving family and supporters. Everything she has accomplished, she has earned through hard work and dedication to her sport.
The first memory I thought of was when Makena decided she was ready to move on to the next level of softball after a successful season in middle school.
“Claire, I want to try out for a travel ball team,” said Makena at age 13.
“Great! Let’s get ready for tryouts!” I said.
She practiced with her dad and was offered a spot on the Nor Cal Blast, an established and respected softball club in the area.
After making the team she was on to the next goal.
“Claire, I want to play softball in college,” said Makena at age 14.
“Awesome! Let’s work on your skills and make a list of schools you are interested in.” I said.
Throughout high school, Makena played around the country in showcases and attended recruiting camps. She always heard positive feedback about her spin and the break on her pitches.
“Claire, I have schools interested in me!” said Makena at age 16.
“So cool to have options for college! Keep working hard and you will find the right fit for you academically and athletically.” I said.
Makena stayed focused and committed to the arduous recruiting process. She was confident in herself and this spring, I received the ultimate text message from her.
“Claire, I officially committed to play softball at St. Joseph’s University!”
“Congratulations, Makena! I am so proud of you. Hard work pays off,” I said
Makena signed her letter of intent to continue her education and play softball in April. I am so grateful to have been a part of her support team over the years. I love to watch her pitch.
After her Senior Game, I gave her a hug and a high five and congratulated her on an amazing career. True to character, she was already thinking about what was next for her.
“Claire, I am giving a pitching lesson on Monday to a 10u pitcher. She had so much fun in her first lesson, she stayed an hour after, practicing.”
I smiled. It wasn’t that long ago that Makena was also 10 years old, staying after her lesson because she was excited.
“That is so cool, Makena! This is what softball is all about. Inspiring the next generation of pitchers.”
Her face lit up. We took a photo together on her home field and then she dashed away to celebrate with her teammates.
A new pitching coach is born and I am proud.
I know Makena will be a great coach and be successful at anything she chooses in the future.