Nov. 22, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
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By Ben Knibbe, The Western Front
Even in the offseason, Western Washington University's women's softball team doesn't stop competing. Everyone on the team is aggressive, a necessity for any collegiate athlete.
Head coach Amy Suiter and her coaching staff channeled the ambitious nature into something constructive, to bring the team closer together: they created the Black vs. Navy Games.
The Games is an offseason-long competition, that encompasses nearly every aspect the team does, between the players, split into two teams.
Organized in September, "The Games" started with daily or weekly competitions and has evolved to incorporate most of the activities the team does together. The competition was originally slated to last through fall quarter, but may be extended through winter, Suiter said.
Most of the competitions were simple intra-squad scrimmages or weight room competitions such as sit-up contests, sophomore Jordan Walley said.
The team's first competitions came when they were on a camping trip. The challenges were widespread. Teams had to build a fire, then roast two marshmallows without catching them on fire to make s'mores. Another was to build a fort using only tree branches.
The last competition of the camping trip was catching a fish. Senior Jenna DeRosier said the process of catching fish lasted about three hours.
Community service became a part of the competition as well.
"We are doing some recesses with kids and reading in the schools," Suiter said. "We also did some skill sessions with some of the local softball organizations."
The staff just makes it up as they go, Suiter said.
Senior Kaleigh Keating's favorite event was indoor soccer. They decided, just because they could, to play indoor soccer -- with a volleyball. Keating and team Black were the victors.
Scoring doesn't always have to involve direct competition between the two teams.
"We go to different sporting events, and if we dress up or if we get a picture with [the other athletes], we get points for our team that way," Keating said.
The players did a pumpkin carving contest and a costume contest for Halloween, senior Jenna DeRosier said. She and sophomore Lauren Bennett dressed up as Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife, Beth Chapman, to win the costume competition.
One part of the competition every member of the team seemed to enjoy was in the weight room. The team set up mats, and drew a circle on the mats. The challenge: knock the member of the other team out of the circle.
"Kiki [Harper] got pretty into it and plowed Lynsey [Amundson] over, which was pretty funny, and pretty intense," DeRosier said.
The members of the team don't know what the prize would be for a win, or even if there would be a prize if their team wins. For a group of hyper-competitive college athletes, competition is about all the motivation they need.
"I think it's more for bragging rights," DeRosier said.
The friendly competition is used as a spark to keep the team members focused. It has brought extra energy into their practices and workouts. Sometimes the competition will be used within warm-ups to bring in that focus.
The competition has gone beyond its original premise to bring the team together. It helped children in the community. It has kept the team focused during the workouts. Yet, it still hasn't lost its focus of building friendships.