Playing for New Zealand "written across my chest "was the best feeling I have ever experienced and what made it that much better was the group of girls I was playing with! Being from the USA I came into Cape Town not knowing what to expect from the girls because I hadn't met any of them yet (with the exception of the USA based players). Well, it only took one day for me to feel like I was a part of the team. I can't thank my teammates enough for making me feel instantly welcome. There was one specific moment when I thought that we all became more than teammates; we became sisters. Our meeting before our first game against China we all had to stand up in front of the team and say what the Silver Fern meant to us, and let me tell you I've never been in a room filled with so many tears and emotion. Here I saw how much this meant to every single one of us, even the coaches.... Words can't even explain. I thought it was in that moment we all started our special bond as a team and more importantly, as a family... And it only got better from there. I have never seen a group of girls play with more heart and more guts than they did, they were scared of no one! In any tough situation they always pulled through. I knew that if I needed someone to pick me up one of my sisters would be able to and it made playing so much easier. There was never a dull moment with this group of girls. We were always laughing and having a blast. More than anything, I think our team chemistry is what helped us succeed as well as we did on and off the field, throughout the whole tournament. I know one thing is for sure, I have sixteen new sisters and one big happy family that I look forward to seeing again some day. Saying goodbye to the team was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. That just shows how truly amazing my experience was with these girls. I will never forget all if the crazy memories we have. We may be thousands of miles apart but they will always be with me in my heart. I am so blessed that I had the privilege of playing with this group of girls. I love my JWS!!!!
With only weeks away, I feel like I still need to work on my out field techniques so that I am ready for competitive high intensity play, things like diving, cutting off line drives and throwing home with full momentum, I also think that I need to practice my hitting against some faster pitching before I leave as we will be expecting some much quicker pitching at the World Series. Fitness wise I am prepared but will still be thinking about climatising in these last weeks.
I feel like the girls in this team have all been working hard to improve their game in the past couple years and the commitment and determination of each of them has definately paid off. As for our training in the past months we have gained some high fitness levels and work really well as a team (Auckland based girls) we still have some skills to work on which will take individual determination in these last weeks.
I think the first game is going to be a real challenge against China as many of us will have nerves to overcome, but because we all have a strong connection and are able to support each other I think that we will manage to be competitive. We can't wait to take them on. We know that they may display different strategies and techniques and also have a history of top world rankings, all of which we hope to challenge.
The heat could effect our energy levels, hydration and performance, luckily we have a team that is full of talent so substitutions could be made for struggling players. It's going to take some adjusting but because we are such a tight knit team I'm sure the support of our peers and management will get each individual through. Some girls have also had game experience in hot places like Perth and myself in Hong Kong which will provide insight into how to avoid heat related problems.
The American and Australian girls will bring experience from bigger leagues and franchises as both America and Australia have higher numbers of players and teams. They could possibly bring different strategies and insight into what we should expect when facing the U.S.A and Aus teams. They are all extremely talented and we can't wait to play with them.
We are really confident in our coaches Venita and Kevin, they show great knowledge and experience of the game. They have a true passion to improve the game as a whole and also improve NZ's world rank. Our management staff Aroha and Nicky are dedicated and show full intent to lead and support us to the best of their abilities. The time they have all invested in us and the world of softball is immense.
The Junior White Sox team are really close, especially what I have experienced with the Auckland based girls. Not only do we work as team mates but also as true friends off field. Everyone is open, caring and happy and I'm sure this level of closeness will be achieved with ease within the full team when we meet up in South Africa.....
A call up into the national team for NZ to compete at a Junior Women’s World Series is a dream come true for 19 year old Melbourne based player Jessica Hollet. Playing against the Junior White Sox at last years Waverley Easter Carnival was an eye opener and Jess reports being impressed by the overall skill and in the NZ Team particulary the base running speed of the team. Coming into the team as catcher, Jess fills the vacancy left behind by the withdrawal of Arahia Fowell and Rebecca Hicks. Coach Venita Hokai welcomes Jess into the team and is confident that her experience and maturity will add value to the team. Jess will join the team for the first time in late October when the Junior White Sox will play in the Waitakere Bears Classic Tournament at Labour Weekend in Auckland.
Draw for Bears Classic Saturday 22 October 10.15am Junior White Sox vs Ramblers 1.45pm Junior White Sox vs Bears Sunday 23 October 10.15am Junior White Sox vs Papatoetoe 12pm Junior White Sox vs Bears 3.30pm Junior White Sox vs Ramblers Monday 24th October 10am Junior White Sox vs Papatoetoe
Getting game time, exploring combinations and facing tough competition was the gaol for the weekend for the Junior White Sox World Series Team during the September training camp in Hawkes Bay from 23 – 25 September 2011.
The weekend included five scrimmage games against an invitational NZ White Sox squad. Five games over two days tested fitness levels, stanima, and mental toughness. All players got plenty of time on diamond and in the batters box.
“As part of our preparation for the World Series in December it was important to get on the diamond so we can put into practice what we have been training for over the winter”, reports Coach Hokai, “this camp provided the opportunity to do just that”.
A highlight of the weekend for the team included staying at Pukemokimoki Marae in Maraenui. The powhiri was warm, welcoming and affirming of the JWS as a team. The Marae is tino ataahua (very beautiful) and a great place to appreciate the wonderful hospitatility of the locals who are staunch supporters of softball through the local Maraenui Pumas Softball Club. As host Roger Aranui (Managing Director of Hawkes Bay Softball Association) was aware of the needs of the team given that he is also the Manager of the NZ Junior Black Sox. Our many thanks go out to Roger and his whanau for hosting us so well. Mihinui, mihimahana kia koutou mo to awhi, me tautoko kia matau.
The next outing for the team is to attend the at the Waitakere Bears Premier Women’s Tournament at Labour Weekend (22 – 24 October).
As I sit here writing I think about how the “All Blacks” must feel, on their opening day of the World Cup Rugby. Auckland has given tourists perfect weather so far and tonight should be a boomer at the Viaduct with the fireworks show going live around the world! Imagine the feeling as an athlete walking out onto the field, asking yourself questions...am I ready, did I do enough, why am I here? It must be an awesome feeling like no other and very few people get to experience that feeling..wow! As a coach you question yourself all the time, and I am trying to fast forward 3 months from now when we take our first step out onto the diamond in Capetown. Imagine how Graham Henry is feeling today, the expectations of the whole country lies on his shoulders, and that’s the responsibility we have taken as coaches. I guess I am no different and we will have to pull out every trick in the book, and use my past experience as a player to pull off wins.
This little team is full of enthusiasm and they are a great bunch of girls on and off the field. The work ethic of these girls have amazed me and even if we came last I would be so proud of them knowing they have given me everything they have. The conception of this team started 4 years ago when some were only 12, 13, & 14 when I was a selector at the Under 15 Girls tournament in Tauranga. To see these girls mature into 17,18,19 year olds has been a real transition for us all-this is not just about the game of Softball, but the “Game of Life”! I am so lucky to be given this opportunity to lead this team to the World Series, and over this time we have spent a lot of time on issues that don't even relate to the game on the field. The holistic approach was one of my objectives from the start given they are young, and if the girls could learn one thing from me I would be pretty happy. What makes this team unique is that we have built something from nothing, given we are self funded, have minimal resources unlike the All Blacks.
There is a special feeling amongst the girls, and I am looking forward to putting it together at the Hawkes Bay camp in a couple of weeks, where we will take on the White Sox in 5 games. I don’t see this as a US vs THEM because the gap has closed between Seniors and Juniors in this country. This is a gauge of where we are, and where we want to be in 3 months time!
Well signing off-I will be heading to my beloved “Ramblers” club tonight to watch the RWC and do a bit of fundraising for the girls.
Today I saw the first spring blossom – outside on my cherry tree – so that must mean that spring is truly here. I’m am rightfully sceptical because last week I was being blasted by freezing wind as I walked leaning into the horizontal rain, snowy sleet and icy hail. I too was transfixed at the winter scenes outside my back door – like icing on a frozen cake. All this thanks to a ‘polar blast’ from Antarctica. But today with the blossoms and the warm spring sun on my face I am intensely aware that our journey to Cape Town is just around the corner – only one more season to go because by the time summer arrives we will be on the ground in South Africa!
My job as Manager of the team is to ensure that everyone (that’s our contingent of 23 people) get safely to the World Series and home again. Everything off diamond is my responsibility. This means much planning needs to be done. Flights, accommodation, meals, transport, security, uniforms, apparel, promotions, giveaways, and daily schedules for the 26 days of the tour need to be decided, negotiated, agreed, contracted, booked and paid for. The hardest thing about my job is balancing the self funded / user pays requirement with the needs of the team. Whilst the team absolutely deserve ‘gold standard’ I find myself continuously having to compromise in order to be affordable. As I am near the end of the planning phase I am really looking forward to putting the plans into action. We will have an amazing time, I know because I have planned it that way!
I love softball and being part of the Junior White Sox since 2008 has been a privilege. I have the utmost respect for Head Coach Venita Hokai. She really knows her stuff and together with Kevin and Israel form a strong coaching staff. Keith as Statistician and Nicky as Medic are extremely competent in their roles and are worldly and wise to boot as both have been part of NZ World Series teams in the past. As a six person management team I am confident that we have all bases covered in order for the players to perform at their best. I can’t wait for the games!
The players – you are an amazing bunch of strong, determined and beautiful young women. I have watched you grow (including struggling through tough times) to meet Coach Hokai’s challenge to ‘step up’ and be fitter, faster, smarter and mentally tough. In these final 12 weeks give it heaps – you have already made me proud to be associated with the team – now let’s make our country proud of us too.