Years of travelling to the Lower Mainland for practices and games, late nights, homework on the ferries and little time for much else are small sacrifices for Gibsons’ Megan Olsen who is hoping to land a full-ride scholarship to play softball and go to school in the U.S.
Since Grade 8, Megan has been playing on teams in the Lower Mainland from the North Shore, Burnaby and now Maple Ridge. In August she tried out for and made Synergy Gold, a select team that has been put together specifically to go to college recruiting tournaments in the U.S. during the fall.
The idea behind this team is to showcase the players to try to help them obtain college scholarship offers from U.S. schools. The team disbands in early November after the final tournament. This year, about 50 girls from across the province tried out. Megan is one of 12 who were chosen. Megan plays infield, mainly second base and some outfield.
“I’m pretty excited to have made this team. It’s a great opportunity,” she said.
The team played their first tournament in Seattle two weeks ago. They head to the Southwest Showdown in Las Vegas Oct. 6 and 7 and the Surf City October Showdown in Huntington Beach, California, Oct. 19 to 21 where more than 100 teams from the U.S. will compete alongside only two Canadian teams. Then Nov. 2 to 4, it’s on to the Ronald McDonald Showcase in Houston, Texas where 180 teams from the U.S. will compete along with two Canadian teams.
Scores are not kept at any of the tournaments — the games are played strictly to allow the players to showcase their skills to potential college and university recruiters.
“I hope this leads to potential scouts who will offer me a scholarship to a university or junior college in the U.S. It would be awesome if someone came up to me and said we want you to come play for us for the next four years,” she said. “SFU is a back-up plan for sure. I’ve been going to SFU camps for years and I know [SFU] coach [Mike] Renney very well. But scholarships are tough to come by in Canada, whereas in the U.S. they give them out all the time, so that’s the general route. I would play at SFU if I got a full-ride scholarship, but that generally doesn’t happen.”
Megan said she has no schools in mind at this point, but would like to stay close to home on the West Coast if possible. If an offer does come her way, she also hopes it has the programs she’s looking for.
“All the travel, late nights, ferry rides — it’s all around this and what it’s leading me towards,” she said. “The ball up here on the Coast was great when I was younger. There were lots of girls and lots of teams, but now there are just not as many girls. The quality of ball is still good, but there just is not as many coaches who want to spend the time.”
“If the parents up here recognized the opportunities that girls could have, I think more girls would play softball. It’s unfortunate to see the numbers so low and to see players have to go off-Coast to play,” added Megan’s dad Eric.
Megan would love to see more opportunities for girls’ softball on the Coast.
“I just want to see the organization grow. I had so much fun playing here, but once I got older, I was playing against girls who could barely throw and catch and it was tough. Sure it’s a girls’ sport, but we play just as well as the boys do,” she said. “I’d like to see little kids starting. They have Grade 8s playing against Grade 12s and I don’t think that is fair. It would be great to see us get back to the levels that we used to have.”