Wake-Up Call Leads Amanda Chidester To U.S. Olympic Team
OKLAHOMA CITY – Amanda Chidester got a wake-up call she won't soon forget. It was back in January, just following the 2019 USA Softball National Team Selection Trials. When she didn't see her name on Team USA's 2019 roster, Chidester was rocked to her core.
"I got to experience what it feels like to not be on that list," Chidester told Softball America. "Twice it happened when I didn’t see my name on the list I wanted to see it on. You take a hit for that."
The first time it happened to Chidester, who was introduced as a member of the 2020 United States Olympic softball team on Tuesday, was the summer before when she was moved to Team USA's "B" team. Before that, Chidester had been a member of Team USA since her graduation from the University of Michigan in 2012.
Though disappointed by both decisions, Chidester took some time in January after the Selection Trials to be introspective and ask herself some tough questions.
"At some point, being an athlete, and even a person, you have to step into reality," Chidester said. "They told me I’m not good enough to be on this team. I could be mad at them or do something about it and go fight for it and prove that I am. That’s the route that I took. It wasn’t over for me yet."
First, Chidester asked her coaches—including the University of Oklahoma's Patty Gasso and four-time Olympian Laura Berg, who coached her with USA Softball during the summer of 2018—what she needed to improve upon in order to take her game to the next level. Then, she got to work.
"What was it that I needed to do? I could be in better shape, I could be stronger, I could be quicker," Chidester stated. "I needed to get my body to be able to do things I wanted it to do, especially catching. I caught in high school, but I didn’t catch in college and I needed to catch up to everyone."
Chidester knew it was time to up the ante with her physical training and made a commitment to travel 30 minutes each way on a daily basis to see her trainer. She also understood that a big part of her improvement would revolve around her ability to practice and play softball at a high level, as much as possible. As a result, she signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch in February.
"We had 50 games for me to get better," Chidester said. "As much as I was dedicated when softball got back into the Olympics, I wasn’t all in compared to the all in I was in once I found out that I didn’t make (Team USA in 2019)."
And get better Chidester certainly did. She batted .374 with 49 hits, 35 RBI and 15 home runs to go along with a .814 slugging percentage for the Bandits, the NPF's regular-season champions and NPF Championship Series runners-up. Chidester also narrowly missed out on winning the league's Triple Crown honor for the 2019 regular season.
For her exceptional performance during the NPF's 2019 campaign, Chidester took home several honors, including the league's Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year awards, while also being recognized as an All-NPF selection and the league's leader in home runs.
"All the things I told myself I needed to get better at, I felt like I did," Chidester said. "That was a lot due to being with the Bandits and being able to have that practice and all those games."
Thus, Chidester went into the USA Softball Olympic Team Selection Trials last week with a level of confidence she had previously lacked. She trusted in her preparation and growth, and believed that this time around, things would be different. She was right.
"I told myself, if you’re going to do this, do this being yourself fully," said Chidester. "I can’t tell you how much I got back from that."
Now, as Chidester prepares to represent the U.S. at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, she'll take with her the lessons she's learned over the past year.
"It’s been quite the journey," Chidester said. "I grew so much as a person. I’m so glad I went out knowing I was me fully and I gave it everything I could."