During the summer of 2018, the River Edge Girl Scout Troop 4022 zeroed in on a Girl Scout Silver Award goal near and dear to their hearts—improving the skills and spirit of team play among younger female softball players. As Girl Scouts and experienced softball players themselves, the troop recognized a need in their community that reflected several qualities of a Silver Award: “to improve their lives, help them out, or make them happier.”
Troop 4022 embarked on an original project idea. As part of the 2018 River Edge Girls Athletic League’s (REGAL) 3rd/4th grade travel softball program, these 8th grade volunteers initiated and executed a player mentoring program that involved assisting team coaches and younger players in practices and training drills. This player-to-player mentoring program would help improve player skills and better prepare the younger girls for more competitive play in their futures.
The Girl Scout volunteers—Olivia Byrnes, Chloe Finkeldey, Elizabeth Krautheim and Tayor Troncoso—spent hours creating drills for the younger players, helping assess the player skill areas that were in need of improvement and served as experienced mentors in field strategies and sports etiquette. The troop members relied on enhancing their own communication, leadership and organization skills. Team cooperation was a must, as well as the ability to work with all age groups, from coaches to grade schoolers.
The summer training experience not only benefitted the younger softball players, but also strengthened the community spirit among the Girl Scout volunteers themselves. Each had their own positive feedback about the program:
“Helping the little girls with softball was so much fun and was an amazing experience. The look on the players faces when they did something right after getting it wrong a few times most often was the highlight of my day. I also loved watching them improve—this was a great thing to witness. I am so proud of all the girls that participated, and I’m so proud of how great they have become.” — Olivia Byrnes
“After helping the younger girls learn more about softball it made me realize what a great thing it is to help others. Seeing the looks on the girls faces when they learned a new skill made me feel good.” — Chloe Finkeldey
“My experience with helping the third and fourth grade travel teams of the River Edge Girls Athletic League was an experience I’ll never forget. Seeing how hard the girls worked every single practice and pushing their limits was amazing. Being able to make a connection and help these younger girls who share the same love for softball as I do was truly a blessing.” — Elizabeth Krautheim
“Working with the younger girls and watching them play reminded me of when I was their age and doing the same thing. I wanted to inspire the girls to understand the complexity of the game and have the same passion for the sport that I have.” — Taylor Troncoso
The time the older players spent training the younger players had similar positive effects on the 3rd/4th grade girls. Watching the Girl Scouts set up the field, organize drills, dismantle equipment, work in unison with the coaches and give of their time during less than idyllic summer weather conditions did not go unnoticed by the players.
“I want to thank the Girl Scouts for helping me get better at my pitching. It really helped me improve my accuracy and my speed. The softball practices also helped me throw harder and farther, it also helped me improve catching pop flies with the back step. The girls were also great role models and examples of what we can become if we work hard and practice,” observed Olivia V., a 3rd/4th grade travel player.
The older girls’ efforts and experience weren’t lost on 3rd/4th grade player parents either. One mother observed: “My daughter loved having the older girls there. She felt they really helped out with her pitching form. They helped her with form and when to release the ball,” observed Ms. T.
Girl Scout Troop 4022 isn’t done with their involvement with the young players just yet. They have already expressed the desire to continue the REGAL softball mentoring program in the summer of 2019, and hope that after getting the word out, other experienced softball players will join them to create a successful community legacy program for young aspiring female players. •