How Softball Prepared Heidi Purtzer For Life After The Game
Heidi Purtzer has had experiences as both a player and a coach in high-level softball. She competed at the Division I level for Michigan State University and coached different levels of the sport. Now, Purtzer is a business and corporate law, franchise law and intellectual property attorney.
Below, we discuss what lessons softball taught Purtzer and how the sport prepared her for her life after the game.
Softball America: What are the best lessons softball taught you that you carried into your adult and professional life?
Heidi Purtzer: The first words that come to mind are accountability, leadership, trust, dedication, effective communication and sacrifice.
A former coach of mine once told me, “Heidi, my goal is to get you to trust me so much that you would run through a wall for me.” He understood the importance of building trust was on him as my coach to facilitate and build, but more, he understood that trust was earned.
He taught me that when you have someone’s trust, you have their attention and their time. They will make sacrifices for you and for their organization and the common goal. As I navigate my professional career as a lawyer, I take these lessons and awareness with me whether I am the leader or the one being led.
Softball also taught me to be self-aware and to keep an internal record of what environments I enjoy most, what environments I am most successful in and what type of leadership style I am most receptive to. This awareness is extremely helpful and important as I navigate and ensure that my professional career is sustainable for years to come.
SA: Preparing for the LSAT is notoriously difficult. How did being a college softball student-athlete prepare you to study for and take it?
HP: The biggest similarities to being a college athlete and preparing to take the LSAT and bar exam are the importance of determination, attention to detail, time management and sacrifice.
For example, as college athletes, especially in the Division I setting, you are expected to treat your sport like a full-time job. As athletes, you practice for several hours a day. Your school and personal schedules are planned around practice, games and training, and often we have to sacrifice a lot to succeed. Preparing for the LSAT and bar exam were no different.
When I was preparing for the LSAT, I was working full-time and getting my master’s degree and taking a LSAT course. Because my schedule was so full, I had to plan ahead and schedule time for practice tests and studying. The preparation for me was similar to going to hit or practice defense—repetition, understanding the process, focusing on the process and executing.
SA: How did softball teach you to deal with adversity off the field? And what did it teach you about success?
HP: We play, love and thrive in a sport that if you fail seven out of 10 times, you have a good chance of being one of the best players on your team or in your conference. Without even knowing it, softball taught me to overcome adversity from the day I walked on the field. There are very few industries, sports or professions where you can be the best and still have failed more than you succeed.
While the effect this has on your psyche as an athlete is challenging, it built a resilience in me that I do not think I would have otherwise. It taught me to move through challenges rather than away from them and to always continue showing up for myself and my teammates and colleagues.
I also can’t answer this question without mentioning my mom. As an athlete herself, she taught me the importance of showing up, even when it is hard or I did not feel like it. She taught me the importance of practicing intentionality and that great things are made when no one is watching.
She is one of the hardest working people I know, and I absolutely would not be able to process and move through adversity on the field or in the corporate world without her example.
SA: What kind of law do you practice and how has your experience as a player influenced the kind of lawyer you are today?
HP: I practice business and corporate law, franchise law and intellectual property. I also have experience in commercial litigation. My first recollection of advocating for myself was when I was being recruited to play in college.
Once I got to college, I realized very few female athletes and coaches had agents advocating on their behalf and negotiating deals for them in the professional context. This was also something I was aware of as the child of an LPGA Tour player.
The awareness of this shortage was the main reason that I went to law school. I wanted to learn and acquire the skills and license to advocate for others. Along my journey through law school and the early parts of my career, I learned what I enjoy most is creating strong foundations for individuals and entities to create and build their dreams and protect their assets and creations.