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The Diary Of A College Softball Player

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(Photo by Duke Athletics)

Jala Wright is a junior pitcher for Duke University and a former intern for Softball America. Wright transferred to Duke following her freshman season at Michigan State University.

Wow! My junior year is officially here. As I am driving back to Durham, N.C. on Jan. 8, 2023, there are so many thoughts swirling through my head. First and foremost, I miss my mom. Those goodbyes never get easy! Unfortunately, my best friend will no longer be just down the hall. I can no longer run into my mom’s room causing chaos all to only give her a kiss.

Second, I am mentally preparing for training camp. I know it is going to kick my butt! The Duke Softball Stadium will hold me hostage from sunrise until sunset for two days. I can already feel my muscles begin to ache just thinking about all the work they're about to endure. However, and most important, I have acquired a more meaningful reason for this season. My grandparents will be supporting me from heaven this year. I lost them this past fall, causing my whole world to shift. As I enter this new chapter of reality, I know my angels will have the best seats in the house. This season is dedicated to them.

Training camp is an endeavor every Blue Devil must experience. It is a rite of passage to all the highs, lows and history Duke Softball will make in a season. We arrived at the stadium at 8 a.m. on Jan. 9 for the start of training camp.

We started with a classroom session to review team values, the focus for the season, how we want our season to look and important rules. We at Duke are dedicated to being women of excellence, while competing fiercely and communicating effectively. Each opponent we face will feel our energy and passion, as we are a gritty team who will win by all means necessary. We have already won an ACC championship and made it to super regionals, so now it's time for us to be contenders for the WCWS title!

Training camp day one consisted of testing and reps on both sides of the ball. My coaches wanted to ensure my teammates and I put in work over winter break. Well, of course we passed with flying colors! Our overhand velocity throw test was the highlight of the day. There were multiple players who hit the 70+ mph club. Coach Young always preaches how we need to take good care of our arms to prevent injury, while also getting everyone out. To cap off the day, we ended with a guest speaker, Russell Scott. Coach Russell Scott talked to us about what it means to “don’t panic, but pivot.” There are going to be challenging moments we experience as a team and as individuals. In order to succeed in such moments, we need to accept the challenge at hand, then pivot our thoughts and actions to handle the situation in the most efficient way.

Jan. 10 was day two of camp. We started with media training. With success comes great reward, and such reward includes talking to the media about our own journeys and success as a team. The team and I prepped different questions that may be asked this season. Next, we had the pleasure to speak with Coach Russell Scott again. This time, the focus was on our “confidence résumé.” We as individuals bring value to Duke Softball in a thousand different ways. Not only are we great athletes, but we are also multifaceted young women. All these facets help shape the women we are on the field. Finally, to bring training camp to an end, we hit the ground running with a live scrimmage. It felt great to be back with my girls getting ready for an official game day.

The next couple days included getting acclimated to school again and preparing for the run test. My classes are a bit tougher this year, as they are the core requirements for my sociology major and journalism minor. I am a bit nervous, as this will be a tough course load, but it's nothing I can't handle.

Jan. 13 was run-test day! This is another rite of passage every Blue Devil experiences. Our run test includes running the width of a football field, down and back in under 18 seconds. The grand race commenced at 7 a.m. My teammates and I cheered for each other during each rep. Thankfully, everyone passed! To celebrate, we got all pretty for media day. The girls and I put on our new black jerseys, glowing and ready to hit all the right angles.

The following week consisted of getting back into the student-athlete routine. The long cycle of lift, classes, practice and schoolwork is back again. It is draining to know games are still weeks away, but I remind myself each day is one day closer to the start of the season. January is all about conditioning our minds, bodies and souls for what's to come, but I am sure my teammates, all other collegiate softball players and the softball community is ready for the first pitch of the 2023 season just like I am!

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The Diary Of A College Softball Player - Season Reflections

Duke junior pitcher Jala Wright reflects on the season that was and looks ahead to next year.

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