JOPLIN, Mo. - RELEASE FROM MISSOURI SOUTHERN ATHLETICS:
Four members of the Missouri Southern softball team have been invited to take part in the Italian Softball Series by the United States of America Athletics International (USAAI) that brings the world's athletes together through sports and education.
The USAAI up started in 1992 under the name Midwest All-Stars as an organization that allowed baseball players a chance to face off against teams from overseas and after a six-year stretch of success gained its nonprofit status in 1998 towards supporting 15 different sports to compete in 25 other countries outside of the United States with three key words symbolizing what to expect out of each opportunity including travel, compete, and experience.
Senior first baseman Erika Lutgen, second baseman Makaila Leonhart, outfielder Elizabeth Windsor, and junior pitcher Abby Atkin will spend ten days not only participating in the Softball Series but exploring and touring different sites such as the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, Spanish Steps, and of course the Coliseum among others throughout the three cities of Venice, Forli, and Rome.
An invitation to take part in this valuable experience isn't extended to just anyone who wants to go, but is based on recommendations from coaches, athletes, and athletic professionals and those that the USAAI feel will represent their team, school, and country with the most class, integrity, and character of a true athlete. Once invited, the athlete is able to travel overseas, experience a new culture, and express the qualities of leadership, ability, and scholastic efforts to their opponents.
The journey begins on July 29 and will last until August 7. Below are quotes from the student-athletes on how each of them felt when the opportunity presented itself and what they hope to take away from the experience of playing softball in another country.
ROAR of the FOUR
Atkin: "We are all beyond excited about the opportunity to play our sport in Italy while I am most excited about getting to know our opponents, learning more about softball in their country, and hopefully sharing our knowledge of softball with them as well. We've been working hard all Summer for this, and for the 2020 season. I can't wait to bring back the knowledge we learn and share it with our teammates. It is going to be an amazing experience that we will never forget. Go USA!"
Leonhart: "In softball, you are constantly learning so I am hoping to learn new things from the teams in Italy. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it's pretty cool that we get the chance to meet other people that share the same passion as us across the globe. I'm excited to experience it all, just to see what it's like there, and the things we have in common along with the differences as well. I've had the chance to play softball all around the United States while growing up so getting to play in another country is such a surreal experience."
Lutgen: "There are days I only see the difficulty/obstacle in front of me and not the opportunity as a quote from Winston Churchill explains 'The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.' I thought about not going to Italy for only a moment as meeting new people in a place you're unfamiliar with can be scary. However, the difficulty/obstacle turned into excitement in a split second. I get to play the sport I love in a beautiful place and honestly can't think of anything better than that! I'm excited to learn from the other countries and cultures I'll encounter while it with three of my MSSU teammates which will allow us to grow closer and learn together. We'll be able to make new friends with people around our softball community, further our knowledge of the game, and in turn bring that back to Southern and incorporate that into our 2020 season!"
Windsor: The quote "Successful people always search for and learn from new opportunities to improve and strengthen themselves" by Dr. T.P. Chia represents the new opportunity to strengthen more than just my softball skills in Italy as I get to learn about a new culture and go to a place that I have always wanted to go to while getting to play the game I have loved and competed in (16 years) in another country. I have traveled like this an estimated two times in my life, so it was exciting to find out that three of my teammates would be doing the same because I would have been terrified to go by myself. I want to bring back the knowledge of what softball is like over there and to learn more about myself."
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