March 8, 2024

IWD2024: Inspiring Inclusion in High School Sports

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Celebrating Those Who Inspire Us.

In the male dominated sport of baseball, St. Luke's senior Chloe Yates has been inspiring inclusion for years.

hlöe Yates has been playing sports since she can remember. When she first started to explore her love for sports, she made it her goal to try every single one. In fifth grade, she prided herself in participating on the YDL track, cross country, and basketball teams. However, her love for the sport of softball wouldn’t have been discovered if it weren’t for her headstrong determination. Specifically, she remembers a conversation she had with another St. Luke’s Senior, Cammie Waite. In fifth grade, these two friends were talking about all the sports they both did, trying to outshine each other. Cammie Waite observed that Chlöe didn’t do every sport, because she had never participated in softball. Which Cammie considered the hardest sport ever because she played it. This prompted Chlöe to go home and plead with her parents to join a team. Now, fast forward about eight years later, Chlöe has committed to Lurleen B. Wallace Community College to play softball at the collegiate level. This is her story.

Chlöe has been playing softball since the fifth grade. Over the years, she has come across more than one bump in her path. For starters, St. Luke's does not field a softball team, but this never stopped her from pursuing her passion and love for the sport. Since the Amateur Athletic Unions (AAU) for all sports don’t allow their athletes to compete during the school season, she took her ambition and signed up for the Wildcats Baseball team. The idea sparked when she and her father were watching her younger brother, Quinn’s baseball game. While they were watching him, they were discussing how bored Chlöe had been during her off-season. As a joke, her father suggested she join the baseball team. Then, another baseball player from a traveling team began to snicker and told her “Girls could never play baseball.” Once she got home, she and her father drafted an email to the St. Luke baseball Head Coach, Coach Szymanski.

From the beginning, Coach Szymanski has made a huge impact on her personal and athletic growth. He was one of the only people who ever took her seriously. From the beginning, Coach Szymanski treated her as if she were just another player. It may not have been a huge deal to him, but at the time being treated as an equal in a male-dominated environment comforted her. Starting on the Junior Varsity Team was a trial-and-error experience. Chlöe was prepared for a lot of backlash, jokes, and awkward practices. She set the precedent for women's inclusion in high school sports at St. Luke’s, no one had ever done what she was doing. Opposing teams underestimated her, they targeted her with pitches or by cleating her. This only drives Chlöe's ambition.

The opportunity to play on the baseball team has shaped Chlöe for her softball career. Competing as the only female on an all-male team would certainly seem stressful to most. Not Chlöe, “ Baseball is a sport that is 70% failure, I just do the best I can and don't concern myself with what anyone else thinks.”

One thing she can take away from her experience on the Varsity Baseball Team is that it has mentally inspired her and prepared her for her future. When Chlöe began to play softball in front of real college recruiters, she wasn’t as nervous as she thought she would’ve been. Since she had been playing baseball with extreme amounts of pressure, this was nothing. Baseball has prepared her for failure and how to deal with it. It's hard to forgive yourself after a mistake, if you stay in your head it's going to continue to hurt you throughout the game. She believes that if you could take the stress of individual success out of the athlete's head, it would make athletics overall so much more enjoyable.

Chlöe's experiences on the St. Luke baseball team have inspired her to pursue a career in sports psychology. She wants to be able to aid all types of athletes with the mental stress and pressure of athletic excellence.

Chlöe looks to Olympic softball player, Montana Fouts, for inspiration. Fouts’ recruiting story has given her inspiration for her athletic career. When Fouts was being recruited, she had one of the worst athletic performances of her life. However, the recruiter saw that she was able to hold her composure and keep it together throughout the whole game, leading to Fouts recruitment at The University of Alabama.

Chlöe wants to share her similar experiences and her knowledge with other athletes at all levels. It has become too normalized for athletes to expect perfection when perfection is impossible. To be a successful athlete, Chlöe has learned that it first starts with your mental strength, then it feeds into your physical strength.