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Upcoming Clinics!

St Cloud State Huskies - Softball Semi-Private Clinic Sessions August 1, 2014 - March 8, 2015
University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldog Fastpitch Top Dog Clinic   September 20, 2014
Winona State University Softball Camp   September 20, 2014
Minnesota State Univ. Mankato Mavericks'  Elite Prospect Camp - Session 1 September 27, 2014
NDSU Fall Clinic -- Pitching and All Skills Clinic   October 5, 2014
St. Benedict Fall All-Skills Clinics - Session 2   October 18, 2014
St. Scholastica Prospect Camp   October 18, 2014
St Cloud State Softball Clinics - Catching and Defense Clinics   October 19, 2014
St Cloud State Softball Clinics - Pitching Clinics   November 2, 9, 16 & 23, 2014
St Cloud State Softball Clinics - All Skills Clinic   November 2, 9, 16 & 23, 2014
Minnesota State Univ. Mankato Mavericks' Elite Prospect Camp - Session 2 November 2,, 2014

See the CLINICS PAGE for more information!


Physical Fitness Associated With Less Depression in Middle School Girls

Physically fit middle school girls are significantly less likely to be depressed, according to a study presented earlier this month at the American Psychological Association's annual conference in Washington.

The study examined 437 students (197 male and 240 female) from six different middle schools in North Texas during their 6th and 7th grade years. Each year, the students self-reported their levels of depression and fitness; they also completed a shuttle-run and were weighed during each assessment. The authors sought to determine whether cardiorespiratory fitness had any influence over depression.

To evaluate whether any of the participants demonstrated signs of depression, the study authors relied upon the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC), which assesses how children felt within the past week. In 6th grade, 28.3 percent of girls and 22.3 percent of boys had CES-DC scores that suggested possible depression; 28.5 percent and 18.8 percent, respectively, had the same in Grade 7. Only 13.8 percent of the girls and 10.2 percent of the boys had scores consistent with possible depression during both years.

For girls, higher fitness levels in the 6th grade were linked to both significantly less depression and a lower body mass index (BMI) percentile score in the 7th grade. With boys, 6th grade fitness was associated with lower BMI scores in the 7th grade, but fitness was not significantly linked to less depression in 7th grade. Instead, 6th grade boys with depression had significantly poorer fitness in 7th grade.

"Depression that begins at this time can lead to chronic or recurring depression in later years," said study author Camilo Ruggero, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Texas, in a statement. "Fitness programs are one way to help prevent depression in middle schoolers, but schools should also use other interventions, such as one-on-one or group therapy, that more directly address symptom treatment among depressed adolescents."

In the study, Ruggero noted that depression is "a multi-faceted disorder," and thus, "optimal prevention would couple fitness efforts with more direct interventions that target pre-existing symptoms or related vulnerabilities." In other words: Sticking your middle schooler on a treadmill won't necessarily prevent them from becoming depressed.

Given that, in 2011, about 37 percent of 6th graders reported being bullied at school, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the link between higher physical fitness and lower rates of depression shouldn't necessarily come as a huge surprise. Physical appearance can be an easy target for bullies, and those who are teased frequently suffer a host of negative effects, such as higher rates of anxiety, physical health problems, and, yes, depression, according to the American Educational Research Association.

Source: Schooled in Sports


Softball catchers battle heat to play game they love

With the high temperature hovering perilously close to 100 degrees with a heat index well above that Saturday, a handful of softball players had the pressure of not just battling an opponent but also less-than-ideal conditions.

To be a catcher wearing much more gear than other players, not collapsing in the heat, proves to be quite a job.

After all, even though the catcher's shin guards, chest protector and helmet are meant to be lightweight, many come in dark colors that soak up the sun and make life uncomfortable for catchers who have to wear such gear for half the game.

It is a job that, to a catcher, none of them would give up though.

"It feels like I'm in a human oven and I'm dying sometimes," Washington senior catcher Elanna Osthoff said. "I (need) a lot of concentration and mental toughness. It's a lot of practice and getting used to the heat and catching."

Osthoff said this softball season has started different than others for a single reason.

While it is hot now like just about every other August, the summer months playing club softball leading up to the high school campaign have been mild this year.

"Coming off of this summer and coming here, it's difficult," said Osthoff, who plays for the St. Louis Fusion. "Your body isn't used to this. Last summer, it was incredibly hot and we were used to it. Coming off such a mild summer, coming into this weekend, it's very tough and it's very hot. You get drained very quickly."

Osthoff said, in addition to the mental toughness required to succeed, smart preparation can be a key to staying in the game no matter how hot it gets.

"A lot of fluids, a lot of ice water and a lot of Powerade," Osthoff said. "You have to get back your electrolytes. I use Frogg Toggs (cooling gear) as cooling cloths all over my body and I just hope that works."

Even though it can be draining, Washington coach Phillip King said he marvels at what his catcher has been able to do in the extreme conditions.

"She's a tough girl," King said. "She lucked out because the first game, she only caught three innings."

Osthoff's counterpart Saturday in the championship game of the Union Tournament was Farmington junior Olivia Siebert.

She agreed that just doing her job as a game manager can be an issue at times.

"It is hot and I've been doing this for eight or nine years," Siebert said. "If you want something, you don't give up on it. You just keep pushing it until the end.

"There are times when I think 'Oh, when is this done?' But it's a God-given talent. That's why I just keep pushing through because it's something I want. It's my passion. "

Source: St Louis Today


Division III: Classification helps students compete, prepare for future

By the time Jordan Johnson graduated from high school, she had been playing soccer for 13 years and competing in the sport for at least seven. She was burned out and had no intention of playing at the college level. That was until she visited The University of Texas at Tyler and met head women's soccer Coach Stefani Webb.

Coach Webb's desire to not only improve her players' athletic ability, but also build their character is something that appealed to Ms. Johnson.

"When I came here, she's like our mom away from home …" she said. "She said one of her big things is she wants to make better women."

Ms. Johnson, 21, of Universal City, decided to come to UT Tyler and play soccer. The senior biology major, who was named Third Team All-Region last school year, launched her last year of undergraduate work this week. She is in the last stretch of a four-year university experience that has pushed her in the classroom and on the field, but it's a challenge she appreciates.

Ms. Johnson is among more than 300 student-athletes on the campus. Although these students don't get the athletic scholarship money or the prestige of their counterparts at Division II and Division I campuses, Division III allows them the opportunity to continuing competing in a sport they love while prepare for a career in another field.


Division III is the largest NCAA division with more than 170,000 student-athletes at 444 institutions, according to the NCAA website.

It is a division in which academics is the primary focus for its student-athletes.

The division is designed to reduce the conflicts between athletics and academics by having shorter practices and playing seasons and regional competition.

Student-athletes in this division are a part of the campus and treated like all of the other students so their focus can remain on being a student first.

Dr. Howard Patterson, UT Tyler's vice president for student affairs and government relations, said the presence of student-athletes benefits the campus as a whole.

"I think it helps with diversity because you have a cross-section of students who have been in competitive sports their whole life," he said, adding that intercollegiate athletics brings an excitement to the campus and helps students become more engaged.


Patterson said the division in which a university exists is somewhat of an institutional philosophy. At UT Tyler, officials believe athletics should complement the university's mission. Because of that, UT Tyler coaches recruit academically sound students who also want to continue playing a competitive sport.

These students come to the university to get a marketable degree, but while they are here one of their dominant activities is their sport instead of intramurals or Greek life, he said.

Coach Webb, who also is an assistant athletic director, said when recruiting she considers the quality of the athlete, their academic standing and their character.

Although she wants her team to win and they always have been at the top of their conference, her goals for her student-athletes go beyond that.

"For me, I work really hard to try (to) create strong women in our program," she said.

Head softball coach Mike Reed, who is also an assistant athletic director, said beyond improving his team members' athletic abilities, he aims to teach life lessons through the sport.

He considers the softball field another classroom and his job is to help them transition from high school seniors to someone who is willing and able to function in a career.


This dual focus of academics and athletics is something that appeals to many student-athletes, but it is not an easy road.

"It's definitely been tough," Ms. Johnson said. As a biology major, all of her science classes had a lab, which often fell in the middle of the team practice.

So Ms. Jordan went to lab, arrived at practice late with the blessing of her coach, and stayed late to make up whatever she missed at the beginning of practice.

A typical day last semester was packed with a 6:30 a.m. wakeup, class from 8 a.m. to noon, a three- to four-hour lab in the afternoon, and practice for two hours in the evening.

After that, it was home to have dinner, shower, study and go to bed. A midnight bedtime was considered an early night. But the challenge has been worth it for her. She said she plays on a team with girls who become like family and she has prepared herself academically with hopes of getting into medical school.

She also made time to participate in volunteer activities in the community such as feeding the homeless on Saturdays and serving as a leader through the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

Billy Lirely, 22, a 2014 UT Tyler graduate who earned an accounting degree and played baseball while doing it, also has learned about hard work and sacrifice.

Lirely practiced four to six hours a day on top of taking classes and working as a teaching assistant in the College of Business and Technology.

He said the sport taught him about determination, hard work, commitment, integrity, teamwork and friendship.

"If you're determined enough to want to be on the field, you have to do what's required in the classroom," he said. "It takes another level of effort and determination that some people just don't have."

Lirely's determination paid off as he graduated with a 4.0 GPA and was accepted to the professional accounting program at UT Austin's McCombs Business School.

"I think sometimes, student-athletes are looked at as things are given to them, and I don't think people realize how much student-athletes work for the things they receive at least at our level," he said.

Recent UT Tyler graduate Lauren Robenalt, 22, who earned a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in human resource development, said playing softball while in college challenged her and developed her.

"It was a great experience," she said. "It really was. I'm a different person because of it for sure."

She found great success on the field. Last school year, she was named First Team All-American, First Team All-Region, American Southwest Conference Athlete Medal of Honor and American Southwest Conference Female Athlete of the Year.

She said being a student-athlete helped her develop time management skills, leadership and the ability to effectively work together.

"I feel like team sports really do that for a person," she said. "I really did not expect to have the career that I did when I started my freshman year. I learned what my capabilities were, what my limits (were) and who I could count on, too."

She said she really appreciated that softball wasn't her entire life. She could play competitively, be a student and serve in a leadership role at her church.

"I just wish people knew more about Division III athletics and schools like UT Tyler where it's not the biggest and we don't have football, but there are great opportunities to grow as (an) individual," she said.

Source: Tyler Morning Telegraph


Kearney Nebraska Proposes Restaurant Tax to Build Youth Fields

The Kearney City Council will hear from the public on a proposed restaurant tax at its meeting Tuesday.

A public hearing will be on a proposed 1 percent restaurant tax to finance a new youth baseball and softball complex at 56th Street and Cherry Avenue, south of the site for the new Central Nebraska Veterans' Home. If the council approves putting the measure on the ballot, Kearney residents will vote on the tax in the Nov. 4 general election.

The tax would generate an estimated $750,000 a year and would sunset after 10 years. It would apply to any place that prepares and sells food for immediate consumption, including cafes, coffee shops, bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stories and supermarkets.

The 1 percent tax would be applied to food and drinks but not to alcoholic beverages. If approved by the council and then voters in November, it would go into effect on Feb. 1, 2015, and end on Jan. 31, 2025.

A citizens committee of individuals from Kearney Little League, United States Specialty Sports Association, Kearney Recreational Softball and Kearney Competitive Softball requested the tax at the council's last meeting. The committee says that existing baseball and softball fields in Kearney are overcrowded and limit teams' opportunities to practice and play games.

The committee estimates that the cost of a new baseball and softball complex would be between $7 million and $8.5 million. It would have eight to 10 baseball and softball fields, including two premier championship fields with additional bleachers and an announcing booth.

Source: Kearney Hub


School District Title IX Self-Audit Brings New Athletic Opportunities to Girls

Female athletes at Portland (Maine) and Deering high schools have one more sport to choose from this fall.

Both schools have added volleyball to their fall offerings to comply with federal Title IX requirements.

"When we did our Title IX audit, we found we were out of compliance for our (participation) numbers," said Mel Craig, the athletic administrator at Deering High. "So we did a survey throughout the district and saw there was interest in adding volleyball."

Both schools will compete on a club, or junior varsity, level this year. Both intend to play at the varsity level in the 2015-16 school year.

According to Craig, Deering High had 30 players try out for the volleyball team. Portland High had 35 girls at its first meeting, according to first-year athletic administrator Rob O'Leary.

"It's very exciting for us to be able to expand our athletic program," said O'Leary. "The girls seem very excited."

Craig said it cost about $45,000 for each program to be added to the two schools.

"The major costs are all upfront," she said. "We needed the equipment, the floors painted, the uniforms. After that it becomes a fairly affordable option to maintain year to year."

The athletic programs at Deering and Portland underwent a Title IX audit in 2011 conducted by the federal government's Office For Civil Rights. Among the findings were that the schools did not have adequate facilities for their softball programs at Payson Park as compared to the facilities at Hadlock Field for the baseball teams, and that the system of individual booster clubs for each sport were not accurately reporting their finances to the school, making it impossible to determine if the money was being spent equally among the boys' and girls' teams.

Since then, the Portland school system has gone to a single booster club system at both schools and renovations have been committed to Payson Park, including the construction of dugouts, restrooms and a scoreboard.

"It will never be Hadlock," said Craig. "But the city and the schools are committed to major renovations at Payson Park."

The audit also found the schools were not compliant with participation requirements, meaning the percentage of male athletes competing in sports compared to female athletes was higher than allowed by Title IX.

"We were close," said Craig.

But Craig found support to add volleyball, which is a girls' sport in Maine played in the fall.

"We all work very hard to be fiscally responsible," said Craig. "It's hard in these budget times to go to the community and ask to add another sport. But we have to be in compliance with Title IX.

"And the community, the school board and the city council definitely agreed. We were supported by everybody who could see the big picture."

Larry Nichols is the coach of the team at Deering. Joe Russo, the Bulldogs' boys' basketball coach, is the coach of Portland's team.

"He was interested," said O'Leary. "And he was the best person for the job."

Source: Portland Press Herald


Bringing Youth Girls Softball Back

A revival of girls youth softball is under way after a long drought as the Lewisboro (New York) Baseball Association is reintroducing the sport to local youngsters.

According to LBA spokesperson Leah Pizer, several years without organized girls softball has made it tough for local high school junior varsity teams to field enough players.

"(John Jay Katonah-Lewisboro High School) was unable to field a JV softball team last year, so we believe that there is a need to get girls involved in softball at an early age at the town level," Pizer said.

The fall program, which is being organized by New Rochelle varsity softball coach Tim Collins, a John Jay graduate, is open for girls in Grades One through Seven and will include clinics, infield/outfield instruction, batting techniques, scrimmages and more.

"The ultimate goal is to give an opportunity to the girls here and in surrounding communities like North Salem, Somers, to learn the skills they need to play softball and to help build the feeder programs for the high school," Collins said. "This will be a good start for young players and will help others who have played before."

Collins has coached baseball, softball and football at all levels. In addition to coaching the New Rochelle varsity softball team for the last five years, he is in charge of the junior varsity and two modified programs for the entire New Rochelle School District, runs various off-season workouts and clinics, and works closely with Youth Baseball of New Rochelle to prepare future athletes for their program."

The season is seven weeks, starting Saturday, Sept. 13 and running through Saturday, Oct. 25. All games/instruction/clinics are held on Saturday at times that should not conflict with soccer.

"I have the time during the fall when I'm not coaching to offer my help and with my third-grade daughter playing also, it's a win-win," Collins said. "We will teach the kids to handle a bat, field and make themselves better players."

The registration fee for the fall program is $95.

The LBA will also hold an introductory free clinic on Sunday, Sept. 7, to introduce the fall program

Source: .Lewisboro Daily Voice


The Race to Nowhere

"My 4th grader tried to play basketball and soccer last year," a mom recently told me as we sat around the dinner table after one of my speaking engagements. "It was a nightmare. My son kept getting yelled at by both coaches as we left one game early to race to a game in the other sport. He hated it."

"I know," said another. "My 10 year old daughter's soccer coach told her she had to pick one sport, and start doing additional private training on the side, or he would give away her spot on the team."

So goes the all too common narrative for American youth these days, an adult driven, hyper competitive race to the top in both academics and athletics that serves the needs of the adults, but rarely the kids. As movies such as "The Race to Nowhere" and recent articles such as this one from the Washington Post point out, while the race has a few winners, the course is littered with the scarred psyches of its participants. We have a generation of children that have been pushed to achieve parental dreams instead of their own, and prodded to do more, more, more and better, better, better. The pressure and anxiety is stealing one thing our kids will never get back; their childhood.

The movie and article mentioned above, as well as the book The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, highlight the dangerous path we have led our children down in academics. We are leading them down a similar path in sports as well.

The path is a race to nowhere, and it does not produce better athletes. It produces bitter athletes who get hurt, burnout, and quit sports altogether.

As I said to my wife recently, the hardest thing about raising two kids these days, when it comes to sports, is that the vast majority of the parents are leading their kids down the wrong path, but not intentionally or because they want to harm their kids. They love their kids, but the social pressure to follow that path is incredible. Even though my wife and I were collegiate athletes, and I spend everyday reading the research, and studying the latest science on the subject, the pressure is immense. The social pressure is like having a conversation with a pathological liar; he is so good at lying that even when you know the truth, you start to doubt it. Yet that is the sport path many parents are following.

The reason? Fear!

We are so scared that if we do not have our child specialize, if we do not get the extra coaching, or give up our entire family life for youth sports, our child will get left behind. Even though nearly every single parent I speak to tells me that in their gut they have this feeling that running their child ragged is not helpful, they do not see an alternative. Another kid will take his place. He won't get to play for the best coach. "I know he wants to go on the family camping trip," they say, "but he will just have to miss it again, or the other kids will get ahead of him."

This system sucks.

It sucks for parents, many of whom do not have the time and resources to keep one child in such a system, never mind multiple athletes. There are no more family trips or dinners, no time or money to take a vacation. It causes parents untold stress and anxiety, as they are made to feel guilty by coaches and their peers if they don't step in line with everyone else. "You are cheating your kid out of a scholarship" they are told, "They may never get this chance again."

It sucks for coaches who want to develop athletes for long term excellence, instead of short term success. The best coaches used to be able to develop not only better athletes, but better people, yet it is getting hard to be that type of coach. There are so many coaches who have walked away from sports because while they encourage kids to play multiple sports, other unscrupulous coaches scoop those kids up, and tell them "if you really want to be a player, you need to play one sport year round. That other club is short changing your kid, they are not competitive." The coach who does it right gives his kids a season off, and next thing you know he no longer has a team.

And yes, most importantly, it sucks for the kids. Any sports scientist or psychologist will tell you that in order to pursue any achievement activity for the long term, children need ownership, enjoyment and intrinsic motivation. Without these three things, an athlete is very likely to quit.

Children need first and foremost to enjoy their sport. This is the essence of being a child. Kids are focused in the present, and do not think of long term goals and ambitions. But adults do. They see "the opportunities I never had" or "the coaching I wish I had" as they push their kids to their goals and not those of the kids.

They forget to give their kids the one thing they did have: A childhood! They forget to give them the ability to find things they are passionate about, instead of choosing for them. They forget that a far different path worked pretty darn well for them.

So why this massive movement, one that defies all science and psychology, to change it?

We need to wise up and find a better path.

Parents, start demanding sports clubs and coaches that allow your kids to participate in many sports. You are the customers, you are paying the bills, so you might as well start buying a product worth paying for. You have science on your side, and you have Long Term Athletic Development best practices on your side. Your kids do not deserve or need participation medals and trophies, as some of you are so fond of saying, but they do deserve a better, more diverse youth sports experience.

Coaches, you need to wise up as well. You are the gatekeepers of youth sports, the people who play God, and decide who gets in, and who is kicked to the curb. You know the incredible influence of sport in your life, so stop denying it to so many others. Are you so worried about your coaching ability, or about the quality of the sport you love, to think that if you do not force kids to commit early they will leave? Please realize that if you are an amazing coach with your priorities in order, and you teach a beautiful game well, that kids will flock to you in droves, not because they have to, but because they want to!

Every time you ask a 9 year old to choose one sport over another you are diminishing participation in the sport you love by 50%. Why?

To change this we must overcome the fear, the guilt and the shame.

We are not bad parents if our kids don't get into Harvard, and we are not bad parents if they do not get a scholarship to play sports in college. We should not feel shame or guilt every time our kid does not keep up with the Jones's, because, when it comes to sports, the Jones's are wrong.

As this recent article from USA Lacrosse stated, college coaches are actually looking to multi sport athletes in recruiting. Why? Because they have an upside, they are better all around athletes, they are not done developing, and they are less likely to burnout.

You cannot make a kid into something she is not by forcing them into a sport at a very young age, and pursuing your goals and not your child's goals. Things like motivation, grit, genetics and enjoyment have too much say in the matter.

What you can do, though, is rob a child of the opportunity to be a child, to play freely, to explore sports of interest, to learn to love sports and become active for life.

Chances are great that your children will be done with sports by high school, as only a select few play in college and beyond. Even the elite players are done at an age when they have over half their life ahead of them. It is not athletic ability, but the lessons learned from sport that need to last a lifetime.

Why not expose them to as many of those lifelong lessons as possible?

Why not take a stand?

Why don't we stop being sheep, following the other sheep down a road to nowhere that both science and common sense tells us often ends badly?

It is time to stop being scared, and stand up for your kids. Read a book on the subject, pass on this article to likeminded people, bring in a speaker to your club and school, but do something to galvanize people to act.

There are more of us who want to do right by the kids than there are those whose egos and wallets have created our current path. We have just been too quite for too long. We have been afraid to speak up, and afraid to take a stand. We are far too willing to throw away our child's present for some ill fated quest for a better future that rarely materializes, and is often filled with so much baggage that we would never wish for such a future for our kids.

If you think your child will thank you for that, then you probably stopped reading awhile ago.

But if you want to get off the road to nowhere in youth sports, and to stop feeling guilty about it, then please know you are not alone. Our voice is growing stronger every day. We can create a new reality, with new expectations that put the athletes first.

We can put our children on a road to somewhere, one paved with balanced childhoods, exploration, enjoyment, and yes, multiple sports.

Someday our kids will thank us.

Source: Changing the Game Project


Local Fastpitch Phenom Comes Full-Circle from Her Playing Career to Choice of Career

Strike Zone Sports is thrilled to announce that Sara Moulton has accepted a full partnership in the local instructional business that, as a student, she helped build. Sara will work directly along side co-owner and founder, Michelle Harrison.

Strike Zone Sports has been in existence since 2003 and has been a licensed MN entity since 2006. It began humbly in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with one client and began to grow quickly with several clinics and one-on-one clients. At one point, Strike Zone Sports contracted 4 independent instructors and serviced over 120 clients in the Twin Cities metro and surrounding regional area. Since it's creation, most clients have worked with Michelle Harrison, a 1999 graduate of the University of Minnesota, originally from Southern California. Strike Zone Sports was created to provide an environment for exceptional fastpitch softball instruction and for several years has been touted as one of the best fastpitch pitching instruction companies in the Midwest. Strike Zone Sports has turned out the highest number of All-State, All-Conference and All-Section pitchers each year since creation and has seen many former students play and succeed at the collegiate level.

Sara Moulton is a former Strike Zone Sports standout client, a 2014 graduate and 4-year letter winner from the University of Minnesota, where she set records in nearly every pitching category and held top spots on most national leaderboards each year. She led the Gophers to 2 Regional appearances (2013, 2014), one Super Regional appearance (2014) and one Big 10 Championship (2014) in her tenure. Sara finished her career earning 4 All-Conference, 3 All-Region and 1 All-American status, a height every athlete dreams of and very few ever achieve. She was the 2nd all time Minnesota Gopher softball player to earn the Big 10 Medal of Honor. Sara was a top 25 finalist for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year and a top 30 finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. She finished her career as a Gopher with a 112-50 record, holding program records for wins, appearances (178), innings pitched (1,017), complete games (108), no-hitters (5), shutouts (47) and strikeouts (1,184). In 2014 alone, Sara finished her senior season leading the Big 10 Conference in wins (27), strikeouts (244) and a sub-2.00 ERA. She ranked 25th in the nation in strikeouts, 18th in wins and 6th in shutouts. She was named Big 10 Pitcher of the Week 8 times in her career and was the Big 10 Freshman of the Year in 2011. Sara was also a phenomenal student, earning the 2014 Outstanding Student Athlete Achievement Award, named to the Academic All-District Team (2014), Academic All Big 10 Award recipient (2013, 2014) and Big 10 Distinguished Scholar Award recipient (2013, 2014).

Immediately following her impactful career with the Gophers, Sara packed her bags and left for Chicago to play professionally with the National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) powerhouse, Chicago Bandits, in June 2014. She was a 5th overall pick in the NPF draft by the Bandits and has spent this summer playing with and against the best fastpitch players in the world. She has had the opportunity to find success against former Olympians and players that she grew up idolizing.

Sara was a 2010 graduate of Eagan High School, where she broke and reset every pitching record and even a few offensive records. She was a 2 time MN Gatorade Player of the Year (2009, 2010), Athena Award Winner (2010), Miss Softball Award Winner (2010), Star Tribune Player of the Year (2010), Pioneer Press Player of the Year (2009) and led her Wildcat team to a 2008 3A State Championship title and a 2009 3A State Consolation Championship. Sara was a 4-time All-State, All-Metro and All Conference Award winner (2007-10), 2-time Team Captain for the Wildcats and earned MVP honors in 2007, 2009 and 2010. She holds career records at Eagan High School for wins (83), strikeouts (1.142), ERA (0.35), shutouts (58), no-hitters (13) and perfect games (3). Sara Moulton's #9 jersey was retired at Eagan High School in a ceremony this past 2014 season.

Michelle Harrison remembers exactly when she met the Moultons' and what an impact Sara and her family have had on Michelle's life and on Strike Zone Sports. "I remember Jeff Moulton [Sara Moulton's father] approached me at the Irish Sports Dome in Rosemount to ask if it would be ok if he watched my lesson with another client. I said sure, and next thing I knew, he brought his daughter, Sara, in to work with me. What a life changing moment. Sara started working with me in 2005. She was amazing, just full of talent and drive. She was young but already possessed a great skill set and threw with exceptional speed. Jeff and Sara quickly became advocates of Strike Zone Sports and of me as an instructor. Within six months of retaining Sara as a client, Strike Zone Sports exploded and I was able to be employed full time with it. This was so heavily attributed to Sara and her success. She put Strike Zone Sports on the map in the Minnesota market just by being a successful pitcher and spreading the word about her development experience with me. "

Through the years, there had been several conversations about Sara someday working with Michelle and becoming a part of Strike Zone Sports as an instructor rather than a student. There were occasions where Michelle had Sara and other accomplished clients help run clinics for younger, developing pitchers. "We discovered early on that Sara has a true gift when it comes to instruction," said Michelle Harrison, in regards to clinic work that she has done with Sara under the Strike Zone Sports name.

Now that Sara's collegiate playing career has come to end and she has determined that she wants to stay closely connected to the game, it was only fitting for Michelle to offer Sara a full partnership in the business that she was so vital in helping to grow. With the acceptance of this role, Sara and Michelle will move forward with Strike Zone Sports as partners in all business activity and future growth of the business. Sara will be starting a regular schedule of clients in September when she returns from her rookie NPF season with the Bandits.


ASA Softball Tourney Brings Talent Salem, VA

Earlier this year, Makayla Burlingame helped the Auburn High School softball team make the Group 1A state tournament.

But she faced much tougher competition this week while pitching for the Virginia Scrappers in the Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball Girls Class A 16-and-under fast pitch national championship.

"It was way more than I've seen in my entire life," Burlingame said Thursday. "Every batter could hit. Every base runner could run. Every person in the field could field. There was no weakness to any team."

The tournament, which began Monday and concludes Sunday, has brought 136 travel-ball teams from 32 states to Darrell Shell Park in Roanoke County, the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, the Botetourt Sports Complex in Troutville and Lord Botetourt High School.

"It was very eye-opening," Burlingame said after the Scrappers lost at Darrell Shell Park to a team from Ohio to finish 0-4 in the tournament. "We just hadn't seen teams like this before."

Burlingame was an All-Timesland second-team pick as an Auburn sophomore this year. Her Scrappers squad, which is based in Roanoke County, also includes players from six other Timesland high schools, as well as a school in West Virginia.

The Scrappers also had another squad qualify for this tournament. Other area teams at the tournament include the Stix, based in Bedford County, and the Virginia Extreme Force, which is based in Roanoke.

But this tournament also features teams from California, Texas, Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, Utah, Kansas, Minnesota, Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana and Washington, among other states.

"Some of the best teams that we've ever played have been out here," said Mailey Harris, a 15-year-old from Krum, Texas, who plays for the Texas Glory, which is based in Fort Worth. "High school is nothing compared to this. It's almost like their changeups [this week] are the fastest pitching we've seen in high school."

More than 2,000 players are in the tournament. Some have already verbally committed to a college softball team, but most have yet to pick a college.

So plenty of college coaches have come to this tournament to scout them.

"It's a one-stop shop where we can go and see a lot of teams," Georgia State coach Roger Kincaid said.

Coaches from Virginia Tech, Radford, James Madison, Liberty and Longwood have attended games, as well as coaches from the University of Missouri, the University of South Florida, Cornell, Wright (Ohio) State and Murray (Kentucky) State, among others.

"You're going to see some really high-caliber kids," Virginia Tech coach Scot Thomas said.

During the spring, college coaches are too busy with their own seasons to get out to high school games outside their own area.

The summer provides them the chance to travel the country to scout the tournaments of the ASA and other organizations.

College coaches are using this tournament to eye players they already covet; evaluate players they are on the fence about; and discover new prospects.

"It's a good, high-caliber tournament, so it definitely helps us make a decision," Tennessee Tech coach Bonnie Bynum said.

"A lot of the things that we go to are showcases [where] they're … just playing a certain amount of games and then they go home. Here they're fighting for something, so we get to see who the true competitors are."

The tournament has been a boon for area hotels, restaurants, movie theaters and attractions.

Players from the Texas Glory have been to Dixie Caverns, Natural Bridge Caverns and the Roanoke Star.

Team Georgia, based in Johns Creek in suburban Atlanta, is staying at a hotel in Blacksburg. Its players went tubing on the New River Gorge this week.

The economic impact of this tournament to the area will likely be in the millions, said Salem parks and recreation director John Shaner, who is overseeing the operations of the tournament.

This is not the only national championship for ASA 16-and-under softball. Many elite prospects play at the ASA "Gold" level, whose national championship recently took place in Oklahoma.

The ASA is one of several softball organizations. Other college prospects, such as Morgan Bruce of Northside High School, played recently at Premier Girls Fastpitch's 16-and-under national championships in California. Bruce's North Carolina-based travel ball team, the Lady Lightning, is not competing in this week's event.

But Bruce's summer illustrates how important tournaments such as this one can be to a player's future.

Coaches from the University of Mississippi eyed Bruce when the Lady Lightning played in a tournament in Colorado in early July. The rising junior wound up being offered a scholarship and has verbally committed to the Southeastern Conference program.

Other players hope coaches will see potential in them as well.

"I'm trying to put my name out there [to colleges]," said Hallie Donald, 16, a Tupelo, Mississippi, native who plays for a team based in Jackson, Mississippi.

Burlingame said this experience has been invaluable.

"It showed me more competition, made me a better pitcher and made me realize what I need to work on," she said.

Source: Roanoke Times