Moving towards a future where every girl is visible on field

Courtesy of Jade Hewitt/Athletes Unlimited

This is a special op-ed from Odicci Alexander in collaboration with Athletes Unlimited. 

If someone would have told me that I could inspire young women to go for their dreams and follow their hearts, I would have said that one could wish, but that would not happen to me.  

Growing up, my life was consumed with sports. Whether I was competing or watching my siblings play, sports gave me an outlet and provided me happiness despite anything else.  

I was seven the first time I held a softball in my hand. At that moment, I instantly knew this was the sport for me. I loved the intensity, the fastness of throwing pitches and being at the ballpark with other girls my age. I never envisioned myself playing in college. In fact, I was recruited accidentally by James Madison University and I jumped for joy just thinking that someone wanted me to play for their program.  

I didn’t experience first-hand discrimination from my coaches or teammates, but it was always in the back of my mind that I was the only one at the mount that looked like me in  Harrisonburg, Virginia. I knew the sport of softball was populated by predominantly white  player rosters with a lack of minority players, but I never let that statistic hold me back from being the competitor I wanted to be out on the field.  

Softball became a home for me to escape the outside world’s judgments about my race. I could always silence the noise and focus all my attention on perfecting my skill.  

Those four years were some of the most formative years in my pitching career and as an athlete. I learned how to perfect my craft while simultaneously building confidence in myself as a woman, young adult, and black person in a sea of unfamiliarity.  

My senior year was when I finally thought to myself that I could take my softball career to the professional level after the 2021 season.  

I wanted to go hard not only for myself but for other girls out there who watched me and saw themselves in me.  

My team went on to reach our first-ever NCAA Women’s College World Series and I received a ton of accolades I never thought possible for a girl like me from Boydton, Virginia. 

After college, I planned to stay in the softball community with the goal of trying out for the upcoming Athletes Unlimited Pro Softball season. Everyone in the softball world had heard of Athletes Unlimited. Before I could even sign myself up for the tryout, I received a call asking to be on the roster for the 2021 season. I was ecstatic and grateful to have this opportunity to continue my professional career in the States. 

Being a member of the AU community has been a pleasure and a great tool to connect with other minority softball players, as well as other professional athletes who play lacrosse, basketball and volleyball. Through the organization, I have worked to give back to my community by donating money to The Natasha Watley Foundation. Not only was Natasha someone I looked up to as a black softball player, but she was also a mentor to me who truly inspired me to pursue my career. 

Being a black professional softball player was never something I envisioned for myself, but now that I am in this position I want to show girls who relate to my story that it is possible to accomplish your dreams. The adversity in my life stood as stepping stones to make me go harder out on the field and truly play a game because it made me happy.  

The softball world still has a way to go, but I am helping create a future of the sport where every girl can look up to someone on the field and be inspired to play the game. I am so appreciative for the platform Athletes Unlimited provides for me to help continue growing the sport of softball. 

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