On Mar. 3 the Muhlenberg Women’s Softball team will board a plane and take off to (hopefully) sunny and warm Kissimmee, Fla. The week-long, annual spring trip slates the Mules to open their season in a double header against Worcester Polytechnic Institute, on Mar. 4. In the days leading up to the trip, the program has spent early mornings and late nights preparing, including weight lifting, conditioning, and practicing in the Life Sports Center.
However, the women on the Softball team have made team bonding a focal point of the offseason and have stressed the importance of displaying not only skill, but also team chemistry on the diamond this spring.
Team Captain and second baseman Karissa Astrella ‘18 explained how skill is not the only important aspect of a team.
“Team chemistry is vital to a team’s success,” said Astrella. “A team has a better chance to play comfortably and together when you know the person on the left and right of you.”
For that reason, buying in to the idea of needing team chemistry was not difficult for the group of women. “The team was already close coming into this year, so all returners are aware of the importance of team bonding,” said Astrella.
Astrella’s comments also touched on an important aspect of a team: introducing new members.
“The general goal is for individuals to get to know each other more. In the end, it really does help the freshmen join the family, and feel comfortable,” said Astrella. “We never want freshmen to feel unincluded on our team: age does not matter, we are all close.”
Fellow captain and pitcher Hayley Peterson ‘18 concurred.
“Our team bonding goals are to initiate the underclassmen into our culture and have them learn our team works the best when we’ve got each other’s backs,” said Peterson.
To build team chemistry, the softball program aims participate in several team-bonding activities every month. “Some people share a meal, go on a hike, or see a movie — whatever you do, the point is to spend undivided time with another teammate and get to know them,” explained Peterson. “The full team bonding that we do at least once a month is just such a break from school work and practice that we all look forward to it.”
Getting creative with team bonding activities has been a strong suit of the team so far this offseason, as they have thought of many outside-of-the-box ideas to become closer as a unit.
“A game like softball has no individual components, no one person can win or lose a game, so each person in the line up and in the dugout needs to know that each girl has the team’s best interest at heart.” – Hayley Peterson ’18
First Baseman Paige Setiz ‘18 mentioned her favorite activity was a trip to an escape room. “In order to be successful on the field we need to trust each other, and by doing these bonding activities we are able to form better trusting relationships with each other.” said Seitz. “It truly shows out on the field.”
“My favorite team bonding moment is the holiday party that we do each year. Each class puts together a music video to their favorite holiday song, and we showcase them over pizza before winter break,” said Peterson. “It is always a riot and such a way to cap off the semester during finals week.”
Coach Molly Rathbun has also integrated exercises into the team’s practices, a method which Astrella sees as extremely effective. “My favorite specific team bonding are the challenges we do at practice. Coach has team challenges for us that usually involve some type of challenging exercise that can only be completed if the whole team,” explained the Mules’ sure-handed second basemen. “This type of bonding is difficult, but you are forced to work together under harder conditions.”
Rathbun strongly believes team chemistry is a key to a her team’s success. She emphasized that “team bonding, for us, focuses on getting to know each other better outside of softball. We want our players to be able to identify with each other in multiple ways, not just because they play on the same team.”
“To me there is team building and team bonding. It’s not always just about being friends and having fun together; it’s more than that,” said Rathbun. “Team chemistry is the ability to trust and depend on one another, and being able to work towards a common goal”.
These activities date back to as early as the Fall, and Peterson and Astrella can see progress. “Our team is tremendously close thanks to all of the team bonding we do. It’s easy to tell because even off the field, we choose to spend all of our time together,” said Peterson.
The Mules look to their outstanding team chemistry to improve upon a 13-25 mark in 2017 during their 40 game schedule in 2018. “The team has definitely become closer through this year, which can be seen through the everyday interactions and on the field. If a team is comfortable with each other, that team will stand out no matter what,” explained Astrella.
“We never want freshmen to feel unincluded on our team: age does not matter, we are all close.” – Karissa Astrella ’18
Peterson summed up the importance of the team’s efforts well.
“A game like softball has no individual components, no one person can win or lose a game, so each person in the line up and in the dugout needs to know that each girl has the team’s best interest at heart,” said Peterson. “It all comes natural when the team becomes your second family.”