The article, Ashley Hansen set to give up softball, on espn.go.com was a tough one for me to read. Her statistics (something I will let you get from the article), along with her attitude and character as described in the piece, all seem to be most impressive. It says a lot to be considered “one of the best defensive shortstops in college softball.” For such a stellar athletic career like Ms. Hansen’s to end without being able to fulfill her lifelong dream, and right after college, well…it’s just sad.
Ashley’s original Olympic dream has become an unrealistic fairy tale now that softball has been dropped from the Olympic landscape. There really isn’t much more available for her. Oh sure, there is the National Team and the four-team professional softball league, but why? The Olympic stage was the pinnacle for national team play and who knows if the professional softball league will ever take off― more likely that it won’t.
I couldn’t help but relate to some of the frustration Ashley feels about her sport. Similar in nature to the frustrations some gymnasts might feel (the ones who are really passionate about one or two events―specialists), as their Olympic dream is non-existent since the Olympic gymnastics team centers on the all-around (working all events). And the year-round training (along with the passion in all events) that normally accompanies something like that starts at what…age 2!!! An exaggeration, yes, but you get my point.
However, for Ashley, it’s actually more devastating since the gymnast knows going in that there is no fairy tale with an Olympic dream while softball WAS an Olympic sport that was removed from the Olympics in 2008. And the U.S. was, and would likely still be, the team to beat as they have been dominant in the Olympics since its inception in 1996.
That’s like promising a child a trip to Disney World when they are in junior high and then saying “sorry, no can do” as they approach the age where that promised opportunity was to be delivered―and with no real apparent reason as to why!
Without even knowing her, I would guess that Ashley will be just fine as she takes all the tools she learned through the process of becoming an elite level athlete and apply them in whatever career path she chooses. Yet, there will always be that nagging feeling, that question; “what could I have accomplished at the Olympic level, could I have been part of the gold medal experience?”
All I can say is...I know the feeling.