From the Catbird Seat... Barnum is focusing on fun this yearBarnum has built a winning tradition in a number of sports, with softball being one of them. However, one of their teams in the summer Lake Superior Fastpitch League is taking a slightly different approach – they’re winning, yes, but they’re playing mostly for fun.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Barnum has built a winning tradition in a number of sports, with softball being one of them. However, one of their teams in the summer Lake Superior Fastpitch League is taking a slightly different approach – they’re winning, yes, but they’re playing mostly for fun.
The Barnum U-16 team is made up mostly of eighth-graders through sophomores, but a number of them still saw varsity time this spring on the school team.
“I’ve coached these players since they were fifth-graders,” coach Tera Sieckert said. “I love these kids.”
However, the players decided they wanted to be a “rec” team this summer instead of an all-star “tournament” team, which plays on most weekends and which is eligible for state and sometimes national competition.
“The girls want to play ‘rec’ this year and learn from it,” Sieckert said.
What does that mean?
It means the players experiment when they’re on the field.
“They learn to play new positions, they play where they want, and they’re having fun,” Sieckert said. “The other issue we have, like a lot of summer teams, is that the roster varies from week to week with vacations and things going on in the summer.”
However, the team’s approach makes things easier.
“Tournament teams are recruited,” Sieckert said. “They play weekend events, they play a schedule. Our girls are out more to have a good time than they are to having a winning season.”
The team has about half a dozen players who have either played on the Bombers’ varsity or who are candidates to do so, including Karianna Duesler, Lauren Hultgren, Faith Miletich, Kerra Rowell, M.J. Anderson and McKenzie Parker.
The other issue affecting the team’s decision is the relative ages of the players involved.
“Some of our kids should really be playing U-14s,” Sieckert said. “They’re playing up (in age level) anyway. They are still talented athletes.”
The youth of the players leads to one more variables as well.
“They get better as players if they’re having more fun,” Sieckert said. “If they get frustrated, they shut down. The better mood they’re in, the better they play.”
So, the decision makes sense.
“We also have a lot of utility players,” Sieckert said. “Lauren Hultgren is normally a pitcher but you can put her anywhere and she will perform. Kerra Rowell is normally a catcher but has a phenomenal arm and a phenomenal attitude. She can play pretty much anywhere you put her.”
The team has two scheduled doubleheaders remaining this month and then will start its league playoff before breaking for the season at the end of July.
“They are a phenomenal group of girls, they have so much fun together,” Sieckert said. “But they need a break.”
Most of the players on the team will go straight into competitive fall sports again when the school year begins, many in volleyball.
“They will get time to rest,” Sieckert said.
In a day and age where specialty camps, summer training, AAU sports and national tournaments seem to be the norm, seeing a group of players who simply want to “play ball” is refreshing now and again.
Barnum has one such group – but once the school year starts, they’ll be right back into the maroon and gold.