Twenty years ago, softball teams in the northeast struggled to keep up with the competition in the softball mecca of the southern United States. Teams in the colder-weather climates were limited with training facilities and shorter softball seasons which hindered their ability to compete at a world class level.
In 1999, when Roy Godard launched TNT (Tuff ‘n’ Tuffer) Softball in Pennsylvania, he saw an opportunity to grow the level of competition in the northeast and change the training landscape for the sport. Godard challenged his teams to commit to a travel schedule that would take them to the top-level competition in the nation and worked to create new opportunities in the northeast such as indoor training facilities and local tournaments. Godard launched tournaments on the east coast, to showcase the athlete skills and increase the level of competition in the area.
That first year as a Bandits team, Yates took them to the PGF Nationals. So, he’s known for a while he’s got a group of girls with plenty of potential. Not only are they talented and becoming better by the day, but Yates has long been impressed with their love for one another.
All travel teams strive to play with skill, intensity and power, but Virginia Glory teams also play with a deeper purpose.
Founder Suzy Willemssen started the organization with just a single team. As time went on, others asked if she’d consider taking on additional teams. Over 20 teams now represent Virginia Glory, including a couple of teams in the Midwest. Former Glory players compete for Power Five schools and take home both individual and team trophies, a testament to the excellent instruction they received.
In building this organization, Willemssen was, and still is, interested in finding coaches and players dedicated to the organization’s vision of purpose-driven softball.
Five years ago, James Lamar was watching his 10U daughter from the sidelines and decided it was time to make a change. Feeling that some girls were being treated unfairly in the economically driven system, he decided to start a new club team that would create an opportunity for athletes to play, regardless of economic status.
Lamar partnered with his wife, Marissa Young, who had just been hired as Head Coach at Duke University, so it seemed fitting to name the team the Lady Dukes. “This became a full-time way of giving back to life – softball is not my full-time job,” states Lamar. “I was in a position to help kids by providing an opportunity – to help those that couldn’t help themselves. Everyone deserves a fair chance.”
This summer the Lady Dukes will be celebrating its fifth year as an organization and the first cohort of girls graduating into the college ranks. “Everything we have done so far is for this moment,” Lamar reflects. He states, “two years ago people would have said some of our girls would never have made it, given their background of single-parent homes or lower economic status – but they did.”