Kelsey Nunley and Jolene Henderson traveled to Europe directly following the close of their 2017 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) season with the USSSA Pride. The morning after their last NPF game, the pair boarded a plane and flew 18 hours to Verona, Italy where they would join a brand new team and begin competing for another championship.

The Italian Softball League (ISL) is comprised mostly of Italian players with NPF athletes scattered throughout. Along with the ISL, there are several leagues across the world that give athletes the opportunity to better themselves as both people and athletes, experiencing new cultures simultaneously. The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is the world’s governing body for all international competition in both baseball and softball. There are over 143 countries and territories that compete under the WBSC in total.

“Playing for Team Bussolengo, located in Bussolengo, Italy was an exciting adventure for me. We lived with several of our Italian teammates throughout the season which allowed me to learn more about Italy and the Italian culture. I developed an appreciation for a good glass of wine and gelato while I was there. I also got to compete alongside Britt Vonk (Scrapyard Dawgs), Morgan Foley (Scrapyard Dawgs), Kiki Stokes (Scrapyard Dawgs), Amanda Chidester (Team USA), and Danielle O’Toole (Chicago Bandits) who also played in the ISL. The Italian team expected a high level of performance from the Americans so Jolene and I tried our best to live up to those expectations so our team could succeed,” Nunley said about her first Italian experience.  

Softball has allowed numerous athletes the opportunity to travel the world and experience life far beyond the diamond. Traveling to other countries and experiencing sports in a new light is something to be celebrated. Many athletes can credit softball for their job, friendships, memories, and exciting tales of triumph and defeat.

Jolene Henderson relishes that opportunity to see the world through playing softball. This was her third year playing abroad. “The ability to travel to another country and play the game that I love is an experience I will never take for granted and always cherish.  I get to see new cultures and expand my knowledge of the game and other countries. Softball has given me an ability to see new places and histories of places I would never have experienced on my own.  It has brought amazing people and so many great memories into my life,” Jolene explained.

When asked if they would recommend playing abroad to other athletes considering it Jolene stated, “I would definitely encourage other players to travel and play in foreign places because it’s an experience that can not be paralleled. Language is sometimes seen as a barrier, but at the same time it makes it more interesting to be able to read body language through a person’s confidence and demeanor, especially on the field. The game is played differently in other countries and your expectations of yourself may differ and will shape you into a better athlete and person.”

Kelsey added, “I would encourage other softball players to travel to other countries and play because it is something you might not be able to experience otherwise. I have a new outlook and appreciation for other cultures and that’s something I wouldn’t have experienced without playing softball internationally.”

The game continues to reward those who take care of it. A three month NPF season allows professional players the opportunity to reap those rewards by playing in one of the many international professional leagues offered around the world, like the ISL.