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Katie Burkhart's Story: Part I, Now What?

(Stephen Pingry/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Katie Burkhart was at the top of her game when she led Arizona State to its first NCAA Championship in 2008. Since retiring from her playing career in 2012, she has been all over the country in hopes of finding herself. Burkhart now wants to share her story with the world in a series of posts for Softball America. This is Part I.

What the heck happened?

Since retiring from professional softball in 2012, my life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but mostly downs. I’ve battled depression, anxiety and fear of failure. Worst of all, though, I've battled perfectionism and a fixed mindset.

I’ve worked in retail, marketing, hostessing, wine, owned my own business, worked construction (like, actual manual labor) and everything in between. I went from being at the top to hitting rock bottom at age 31. I was not just struggling psychologically, but I was also clocking in at 245 pounds. My doctor told me I was on the path to having pre-diabetes and was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which would make getting pregnant very difficult. My life felt like it was spiraling out of control, and I was miserable, unhappy and constantly asking everyone, “What’s even the point of living?”

My name is Katie Burkhart-Gooch. I am a former professional athlete, national champion, All-American, Hall of Famer and Division I coach. I even have my No. 7 jersey retired at Arizona State.

In first grade, I drew Olympic rings and became obsessed with the idea of being an Olympian. That was before I even picked up a softball. I started playing softball when I was nine years old and fell in love with catching. My pitching career started at 11 when I witnessed one of the greatest defeats to win an All-Star tournament. Our pitcher threw six games in one day. Yes, six games at 11 years old! That summer would change the trajectory of my career in softball and start me on the war path of pitching.

Throughout my whole career, there were so many signs and wonderful things people said to me that kept my head on straight, specifically, Lisa Fernandez at her camp in 1996 in Lake Elsinore, Calif. She came up to me and said, “You’re going to be great one day.”

For whatever reason, that stuck with me and it fueled me for the next several years. I was even able to share that story with her at the 2008 Women's College World Series. During those years, I would face politics, softball dads, team drama, moving to central California, injuries, bad grades, weight loss and gain, depression and sicknesses.

In college, I would be named as one of the best during my era. I am still No. 10 in career strikeouts in the NCAA, hold many of the records at ASU and was on Team USA in 2009.

Softball has been my life, it has encouraged me to be my best, saw me through my worst and introduced me to new cities, countries and people around the world. Softball was my dream as a kid and I practiced relentlessly with passion, determination and dedication for 20-plus years to later become disillusioned, angered and despondent from the sport I loved so much. I found myself with my hands raised at 28 asking, “Now what?”

maddi hackbarth photo by jade hewitt.jpg

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