The Story Behind Oregon Softball's Viral Videos
EUGENE, Ore. — Posting short, funny videos on social media platforms, such as Tik Tok and Twitter, has become an increasingly popular phenomenon among collegiate athletes. Kentucky softball players, Texas Tech and Arkansas baseball players and even Northwestern women’s basketball players have all seen videos they’ve posted go viral.
But, some of the first college athletes to get into the viral video craze were two University of Oregon softball players, senior outfielder Haley Cruse and sophomore infielder Jasmine Sievers.
In early April 2019, with the Ducks on a road trip at Missouri, Cruse said she and Sievers were “goofing around” in their hotel room in between games.
“A bunch of us had made up this dance at practice one day to the song ‘Level up,’” Cruse said. “We had all been doing it for a few weeks just for fun in the locker room.”
The duo decided to record themselves dancing in their hotel room and posted the short video on Instagram and Twitter. It wasn’t long before all the likes, comments and retweets started pouring in.
To date, the video had garnered more than 440,000 views on Twitter and an additional 232,000 views on Tik Tok.
“We didn't think anything of it, and then it blew up,” Sievers said. “Ever since then we just kept doing it because everyone reacted so well to them. It wasn't even our intention to even try to get the attention that we did get from it. It was more just us having fun and bringing light to our sport. It was really cool the way that the fans reacted to it though.”
The floodgates had opened. Cruse and Sievers have continued to post short dance videos on Tik Tok and Twitter since last April and the viewcounts haven't wavered, with most videos generating hundreds of thousands of views.
Cruse has also added short video skits to her viral video repertoire, utilizing themes like “What athletes look like during the first week of team workouts and practice” and “Student-athletes doing group projects,” which generated more than 2.1 million and 800,000 views on Twitter, respectively.
Cruse’s favorite video is also her most viewed video. The 10-second long clip of her dancing in Oregon’s batting cages to the song “Run It!” by Chris Brown, culminating with her swinging her bat and hitting a ball, has been viewed more than 3.3 million times on Twitter and more than 2.5 million times on Tik Tok.
“I thought that one was super fun because it was just me being my normal self and people enjoyed seeing it,” she said. “I liked combining my goofiness with my sport and showing that even though I'm goofy, I still work hard at what I do.”
However, with increased exposure and popularity on social media, negative comments can follow, and Cruse has had to deal with her fair share of “Internet trolls.” While at home in San Diego for the winter holidays, she wrote a note on Twitter detailing her thoughts and emotions regarding the negative and hurtful comments she’s received online.
“That was something that was really hard for me to get used to,” she said. “I have just focused on the people in my circle and my support group, and have tried to put myself in situations where I can't see the negative things being said about me, whether it's like muting notifications or anything like that. That's helped a lot since then.”
Oregon softball’s 22-30 season a year ago came during a period of uncertainty and rebuilding for the program after nine players transferred from a team coming off a 53-10 campaign, a No. 1 ranking and an appearance in the Women’s College World Series in 2018.
The dance videos provided a fun, positive outlet for the players during that tumultuous time.
“I think you get a little opportunity to see what (the players) are like off the field,” said head coach Melyssa Lombardi. “I think about when Haley first started posting videos, it was a time for us in our program where there were some changes taking place, and I think it was her way of saying, ‘Look, this team is great. We're doing fine, we love what we're doing, we love being together and here's a little taste of what's going on.’”
Hoping to bounce back, the Ducks have high hopes for the 2020 season. After leading the team in batting average last year, Cruse said she wants to make sure she ends her career on her terms and continues to serve as a guide and mentor to the younger players on the team. Sievers said she wants to improve upon her performance from last year and continue to work toward her goal of becoming an All-American.
“The opportunity to win the Pac-12, to go into the postseason and to compete for a national championship, I think those types of goals are things that they want and expect to accomplish,” Lombardi said. “But I think the most important thing is that for them as a team to be able to unite for a cause, which will allow them to play their very best every time they step on the field as a team.”
Even with such lofty goals, Cruse plans to continue to keep the videos coming during the season and beyond.
“Right now, the motivation for me is just to put smiles on people's faces and to show that even under a stressful time athletes can have fun,” she said. “That's the message I'm trying to portray, and to get people to not be afraid to be themselves. If that grows into something else, then great.”