Maryville High School Softball Coach Chandra DeMott treated her team to a special preseason event to kick off their 2018 season. The squad met up with former Spoofhound softballer Taylor Gadbois, whose post-high school career included stints with Division I Mizzou and professional fastpitch team Dallas Charge.
Gadbois announced her retirement from the game of softball earlier this year and has gone on to pursue her career in other ventures. DeMott took advantage of having the Maryville-grown pro-softball player in the area as an opportunity to talk with her team earlier this month.
“I contacted her about three weeks ago, knowing we have a group of seniors that is really looking to continue their careers, and knowing these girls knew Taylor in a uniform, but really didn’t know Taylor. I think that prior to listening to Taylor speak to the girls last night, I initially thought how often do you get the opportunity to have a hometown girl play at that level and be able to share her experience with our girls,” DeMott said. “I really thought that showing them what was possible, even from a small town, and even when your original plans change was an important part of our long-term program goals. After listening to Taylor last night, I still think all of those things were what we needed, but I also think it was huge for the girls to see that she was just like them.”
What made Taylor’s perspective so valuable was that she was just like them just a few years ago. The former Spoofhound was talented, but was a small-town girl with only hopes of continuing her softball career in college. But she made it happen, and even went a step further with time as a pro. However, the challenges were real: team drama, losing focus, the hatred of workouts and even failure.
Gadbois shared with the team how she struggled with failure and stressed the importance of knowing that softball is just a game. She shared that softball is a game of failure, because even the batting average of .300, while impressive, is still three out of 10.
“She told the girls to stop worrying about failing and to stop dwelling on it,” DeMott said.
During the meeting with Gadbois, DeMott was shocked at how quiet the room of high school girls was. They were soaking it all in. They knew they were in the presence of someone who had accomplished a lot in her life and wanted to hear it from the first-person perspective.
“I think Taylor accomplished more than even she and I realize last night,” said DeMott. “We joked after that the girls were so quiet, which is rare with high school girls. I think she forgets that they grew up watching her play; she really is an example to them. All that to say, Taylor was worried she hadn’t prepared anything grand for them, but that is exactly why it needed to be her talking to them.”
DeMott added that because Taylor could relate to them on such a personal level, the girls were just in awe. Gadbois shared how she liked basketball over softball in high school, lost focus at times because of boys and even hated working out through the summer.
Because she was so real with them, the girls couldn’t help but admire Gadbois more. Her time with them was just what the team needed as they set their sights on the upcoming season. Every team struggles with what Gadbois talked about, and Maryville’s recent seasons have been an uphill battle. DeMott knows this won’t solve all of her team’s problems, but will hopefully guide the team as to what is and isn’t important on and off the field.
“It’s still early in the game, but my feelings going into this season are pretty good. We are all healthy, looking strong and ready to accomplish things, which is what every coach wants,” DeMott said. “I guess what I have found we struggle with time and time again is the mental aspect of being an athlete and just competing. I think sitting down with Taylor and hearing that even playing for a program like Mizzou meant having failure and figuring out how to mentally overcome it. She talked to the girls about some things she did to overcome that, on and off the field, and she really stressed to stop letting the outcome of the game impact the next game or the rest of your life. I think those points are going to be key for us this season.”
Maryville softball has set their motto as #unfinishedbusiness in relation to what the team would like to accomplish and what the seniors have wanted for years – to get past the first round of districts.
In order to accomplish that, the team has already made practice action plans, discussed roles of each team member and set the team focus. Each girl is also responsible for their own personal goals on both defense and at-bat.
What impressed DeMott most about Gadbois wasn’t her career, though incredible in itself, it was how real she was with her team.
“Taylor has a lot that she could be proud of, and honestly, a lot of players in her shoes forget where they came from. They play D1, they go on and they don’t look back,” DeMott said. “Sure, they visit home and all, but they don’t care about it the way she does. She never once talked to our girls like she was better or that she was above them. She came in, hair in a messy bun, dripping from the rain, sat down at the table and just talked to them. She asked them questions and was real. There was no front, no mask, just Taylor. She’s amazing because she’s still just a townie trying to figure out life, and she’s going to say ya’ll and shoot it to you straight. That’s the kind of role model these girls need.”