Rachel Matthies Bash Alum & USML Student Athlete Graduate
The Illinois Bash program helped me in various ways. I first started playing with the organization when I was 15 years old. I was the youngest on the Gold team for a while and playing with the older girls was a huge adjustment for me. I had originally lost a lot of confidence first coming to the team, but after working hard and learning new techniques that proved to make me successful (or successful as you can be in this game of failure) at softball, I regained my confidence. This is extremely significant because this is the case for most players transitioning to elite programs, and most importantly, college programs. Players that play on competitive softball teams usually come to the team with the wrong mindset. They are used to being the stud on the field. Usually there are two ways players respond to what’s known as the “Big Fish Small Pond” syndrome. Either players shut down and give up (usually gives a lot of attitude, disrespects teammates and coaches because they are upset with their new situation) or they lose a lot of confidence. I experienced the second response and I’m glad I was with the Bash program to overcome it. I had support and I mastered new skills that made me a better player. As a result, I did not experience it in college. I came from an elite team and was prepared to work my tail off at UMSL with a very humble attitude.
The Bash is a unique program. I do not know of any other organization that works as much on mental toughness as this one does. I know that I was pushed harder by Jim and my teammates than I would have been at any other organization. I also played in tournaments with a significantly higher competition level than the girls I had grown up with. Whether it was practicing in the rain, holding a plank longer than most think is humanly possible, or trying to hit a line drive with numerous people in your ear trying to purposely bother/annoy you to make you overcome distractions, the Bash program makes players mentally tough. I used to love the crazy looks we would get when we grinned and told our high school teammates about our experiences in the program because they would look at us with wild eyes. People thought we were crazy! And we were… but in a way that made us successful. I can still remember beating the Texas team on the World Series field in Oklahoma after playing numerous, long games in the grueling summer heat. I remember winning because we were mentally AND physically more conditioned than the other team. It was moments like the ones I previously mentioned that supplied our team with the tools necessary to beat our opponents.
Another advantage of the Bash program is its knowledge about the college recruitment process. Jim has more experience in this field than most coaches and there is a surplus of Bash alumni that continually come back to share their knowledge with the girls standing where they were just a few years back. Most people think Jim is nuts for making all of the players learn almost every position, but that is such a great asset to any player. Coaches love versatility. I played shortstop and third growing up, but learned to play outfield and second base while being with the Bash. Halfway into sophomore year in college, I was moved to outfield. He needed someone athletic, versatile, and aggressive to step up and move to the outfield after one of our seniors got injured. He chose me and I am very thankful I had experience in the outfield with the Bash to help me prepare for that.
I committed to my school very early, but that does not always have to be the case. It was the right choice for me though, and I love it at the University of Missouri- St. Louis. Our team is extremely competitive and successful, and I have had an amazing softball experience at the school. Most importantly, though, I am having tremendous success in the academic field. I am in the honors college working on my bachelor’s and have received straight A’s every semester. The softball program has influenced my academic success without a doubt, which is hard for some people to understand. The program gives me a support system and additional motivation to work hard not only on the field but in the classroom as well. UMSL is the right school for me academically and athletically, which I learned very early on is extremely important. As you can see, the Illinois Bash program has helped me excel in numerous ways and has given me the opportunity to use softball to open doors. (Even though I won’t admit it to Jim…) I know the Illinois Bash program has a lot to do with my success not only as a softball player, but also as a young woman.