TOSS IT. Avery Clark tosses the ball to a teammate. photo/Alexis Tamvakis
CATCH IT. Avery Clark catches the ball thrown by a teammate. photo/Alexis Tamvakis

Playing on a varsity sports team can come with difficulties and rewards on and off the field. Freshman Avery Clark knows this from experience as the only freshman on the varsity softball team and having to deal with these difficulties and rewards from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Clark has enjoyed playing softball since the age of seven. Making the school varsity softball team was the next step in her softball career.

“I thought, why not try out for the school team,” Clark said. “I was really happy [when I found out I made it] because I was the only new person added, like wow.”

Since Clark did not participate in fall ball, coach Robin Bradford first saw Clark play at spring tryouts. Other players on the team mentioned something about a ninth grade pitcher but lacked knowledge of a name.

“[Clark] had not played fall ball but I had definitely heard about her. We have a junior and senior pitcher on the team who had mentioned something about a freshman pitcher,” Bradford said. “She came and talked to me, and when I saw her play at tryouts, it was a no brainer.”

As the new freshman on the team, Clark has to adjust to the team and the style in which it plays and operates. Also, her and the team members had to become comfortable around each other and improve the chemistry between them.

“Being the only freshman is so hard because I have to carry all of the equipment, and they don’t make fun of me, but they tease around a lot,” Clark said. “There is also a lot of pressure on me because I am the only freshman.”

It took a few practices for Clark and the team to become familiar. The team loved her and welcomed her warmly. They helped her get used to being on the varsity team.

“They absolutely love her,” Bradford said. “They were comfortable with her and have confidence in her.”  

Essentially, as the only freshman on the varsity team, Clark would play against girls relatively older, bigger and stronger than herself. She plays her best to prove herself worthy to be there.

“It’s nerve wracking because they are two to three years older,” Clark said. “I think I work harder so I can do it even though it’s kind of scary.”

Another challenge that come along with playing on a varsity sports team includes how it affects a player’s life outside of the sport. Certain players allocate all their free time to the sport; however, other players learn the skill of managing time and use it to their advantage.

“During the week I can’t do anything. I have school, practice, games and homework,” Clark said. “I have to focus on keeping my grades up to be able to stay on the team.”

Along with the challenges of adjusting, becoming familiar, and time consumption that come with playing on a varsity sports team come rewarding takeaways, like the strive to work harder and feeling privileged. These takeaways can help an individual improve as a player, student or athlete.

“The privilege of being [on varsity] has made me work harder because I am a freshman and that privilege can be taken away from me,” Clark said. “I have worked harder because they don’t usually have freshmen on the team and I need to prove myself.”

Clark hopes her work ethic will help her reach her goals of playing softball in college and becoming an ESPN reporter.

“I think playing softball in college is a big goal of mine because I have always looked up to those players and wanted to be come one and for little girls to look up at me because of all the hard work that I have done,” Clark said. “I want to be an ESPN reporter because I think it is something I would be good at and comfortable with and it would be a lot of fun.”

With the support from her teammates, coaches, friends and family, Clark could go from playing as the only freshman on her high school team to reaching those goals. 

“I think she has the height, but I’d like to see her work on her hitting,” Bradford said. “She definitely has the heart, but it’s up to her.”

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