By: Andi Williamson
Last month, USSSA sent six USSSA Pride players to Italy to share their knowledge and help grow softball internationally. Andrea Duran, Megan Willis, GiOnna DiSalvatore, Brigette Del Ponte, Hannah Rogers, and Breja’e Washington worked with young Italian softball players and took in the Italian culture. During their time, they went sightseeing through Rome and Milan, constructed a three-day instructional clinic with young Italian players, and finished off the trip with a cultural winery tour.
The first and second day there they enjoyed the beautiful views and cultural history of Rome and Milan. “What an incredible experience to travel to Rome, Milan and see the countryside in between. The historical monuments were unbelievable and the Tuscan hills were breathtaking… as expected! ” said Willis.
On day three, the Pride players were excited to share their knowledge of the game they love so much. They visited three separate professional Italian softball venues where they hosted softball skills camps with about 40 girls ranging from ages 10-19. The three-day clinic consisted of basic softball fundamentals where they focused on defense, defensive positioning, throwing, base running, agility, and offense.
Six year Pride veteran, Megan Willis stated, “Not only was I impressed by the talent of these girls, but I was taken back by how eager they were to learn! I left there feeling like we had truly helped each and everyone of these girls get a little bit better. The coaching staff and translators we had were exceptional! All of them had some sort of baseball or softball knowledge, some even professionals themselves. It’s just crazy how softball is it’s own language.”
Each day they would continue building on the specific fundamentals they taught the girls the day before. At the start of each clinic they would talk to the girls then go directly into a focused warm up. After the morning session of defense, base running, and agility they would break for a lunch where they were surprised with homemade Italian pasta and delicious fruit. After lunch they would begin to focus on the offensive side of the game where they would teach and instruct the basic fundamentals of hitting, slapping, and bunting. At the end of each clinic day, the girls would all come together and bring the day to a close with a softball discussion and fun game.
The Italian participants weren’t the only ones who took something from this experience. Former Olympian Andrea Duran expressed her own takeaways. “Anytime we get the opportunity to travel to different countries and give back to the sport is a very unique and special experience for me personally. It keeps you in perspective of why you love the game so much. The girls in Italy really reinforced this for me every day I worked with them because they were so hungry and eager to learn. It is also amazing to me how a sport can bring people together even across language and culture barriers. I miss the girls and translators so much already! This is why I play softball. We have the greatest job in the world not only because we are able to still play but to give back. USSSA and USA Elite Select created this very special opportunity that I am so grateful I was a part of and I can’t wait to see what the future holds internationally.”
With USSSA baseball already having a strong foundation in Italy, Megan Willis believes this could be a strong relationship between USSSA and Italian softball in the making. “It was such a pleasure being able to go over and represent USSSA Softball. The Federation of International Baseball and Softball is really looking to grow both baseball and softball so it was our job to continue this relationship and show them that we can become great partners and really help grow sports together. I felt we saw a need for more softball knowledge and hope to continue this relationship moving forward. My hope is that we can come back over to Italy and visit new regions with the same goal, to build the knowledge of the sport to both players and coaches.”
The USSSA Pride players finished their trip by touring an Italian winery, which allowed them to experience a huge part of the Italian culture, something the players thoroughly enjoyed.
USSSA Fastpitch is going global and this trip by the USSSA Pride players helped launch an international movement to grow the game. By sharing their knowledge and experiences with the future of Italian softball, the Pride players helped USSSA lay the foundation for a long-term relationship with fastpitch in Italy.