It takes an athlete with true grit to show up on the softball diamond in 40-degree April weather to get her reps in at the plate. Teams in the northeast often face a different kind of rival – the weather. And cold weather becomes just another opponent to be trampled and stormed.
Training is seasonal in the northeast, and teams often find themselves spending more time indoors than their southern counterparts. But learning to navigate the seasons builds character and initiates a sense of determination in these athletes.
Meet the Rhode Island Thunder. Founded in 1997 by David Lotti, the Rhode Island Thunder has grown to become one of New England’s premier softball organizations. Featuring eleven teams ages 12U to 18U, the Rhode Island Thunder can be found annually at top events such as Boulder IDT, TC Nationals, and PGF Nationals to name a few.
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.”
Celebrating 22 years as an organization, USA Athletics prides itself on core values and team culture, remaining humble and steadfast from the beginning.
Fifteen years ago, Mike and Rose Rogers were handed the reigns of the USA Athletics organization following the departure of Steve McNee. A husband-wife duo who enjoyed coaching their young daughter at the time stepped up to the plate to grow the organization to what it is today. USA Athletics consists of a total of 25 teams, ranging in ages 12U to 18U Gold, and spanning from Southern California to other states including Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Georgia.
The Rogers’ duo believe they have a unique culture with a primary focus on holistic player development. USA Athletics places a strong emphasis on the journey and the process of developing student-athletes, beyond wins and losses. “We focus on the process, because the process will give you the outcome,” states Rose. “It’s always family first, school, then softball.”
Savanna Bedell has all the ingredients of an elite level athlete – speed, power, and strength. These defining characteristics coupled with her fiery personality and passion for the game set her apart from others in the field.