By Kaity Coisman
The Youth Softball Program is all about the girls learning the fundamentals of softball, but many of the girls come into it with varying skill levels. There are 240 youth players and their families involved in the program ranging in grades, 4k to middle school. “Programs include introduction to the sport of softball… pitching instruction, recreational summer leagues, fall league and supporting highly competitive team opportunities for those interested,” remarked the Green Bay Optimist Club website. Co-Coach of the 5th-7th grade Brewers Kevin Vlies said, “Everybody is different, everybody has different abilities. We have to work with the kids on how to adapt to those different abilities. How to move up with the more advanced kids and how to stay down lower with the not-so-advanced kids, so they teach me how to adapt to different levels of play.”
“In this league, mostly just the fundamentals, the basics, we have some girls that haven’t even played baseball at these ages; they got a little later of a start. So just the basics, running the bases. Make sure they are touching bags, throwing the ball properly, getting in their stance, the way it’s supposed to be,” said Brad Vandenbush, head coach of the 5th-7th grade A’s, when asked what he wants his girls to walk away with. Many of the coaches for the 5th-7th grade girls’ softball teams wanted their girls to not only walk away with the skills of how to play softball but also life skills and experiences they could take with them.
“Teaching kids that don’t know what they’re doing, they learn something every single time we are here, but they learn life lessons too; how to play together as a team, how to work together and fight through some adversity, and they’re not sitting at home on their phones, so that’s a plus too… Just to know that they had the ability to try something and whether they succeeded or not they were able to be a strong enough person to go out there and try it and not wonder if they would have done good if they would have tried it,” Vlies said.
All of the girls are from the Green Bay area. Players Abby Albrecht, Callie Brown and Aria Artus all say that their favorite part about playing in the program is meeting new people and creating new friendships. Each of the girls has been playing for a different number of years; eight, six and three respectively, but each of them is learning and refining the basics of their play.
The girls have been able to remember some of the funny moments and accomplishments they have had along the way. Nora Rentmeister is a player for the 5th-7th grade Pirates and she recalled a moment during the last game when she almost slipped while making a play on the ball, but still caught it and got the out for her team. She was excited by her success and laughed at her close-call tumble.
Many of the coaches were able to find proud moments and good memories over their time coaching youth softball. Some of them include winning a game 15 to nothing and watching beginners get their first hit.
“You get the kid that has never played before. You get them to take an at bat and hit a ball and get excited that they got on base, or they made a play in the field and secure an out for the team, I guess those are some highlights… when those kids get a hit and they’re running down to first base and you see the smile on their face that makes it worth it. That makes the practices, and the time that we put in, the two hours that we put in to come out and get the fields ready or to be out here, that makes it worth it because that kid is going to remember that.
Those smiles and those cheers, those are the things that really make it worth it and worth coming out for,” said Co-Coach of the 5th-7th grade Brewers Bob Weidner. The program continues with games and tournaments throughout the rest of June and into mid-July.
To learn more about Green Bay Optimist Club: Youth Softball Program go to their website at www.gboptimist.com/softball/