Archives For Creighton University

I couldn’t think of a better way to follow-up my coaching series (which featured insights from a baseball coach, a soccer coach, a basketball coach, and a volleyball coach) than to share recent and upcoming experiences that are connected to my former softball coach and teammates at Creighton University.

I had the privilege of providing color commentary for the Creighton University vs. DePaul University final regular season conference softball game on Mother’s Day.

It was a memorable experience that I won’t soon forget.

Big East commentary_Woodard and Ryan

Heidi Woodard and Jake Ryan prior to the start of the Creighton vs DePaul softball game on May 8, 2016.

Although my focus was obviously on the game at hand (unfortunately, the Bluejays lost 2-0 to the Big East regular season champion Blue Demons), I couldn’t keep my mind from drifting to the six C.U. seniors, particularly in the bottom half of the seventh inning of that game, who I knew were three outs away from seeing their collegiate playing days come to an end.

I remember what it was like to have to say goodbye to my coach and fellow teammates after they had influenced my life in a way that is indescribable with mere words.

senior day goodbye

Coach and Heidi Geier back in 1999

Brent Vigness

Coach and Heidi Woodard in 2015

There were five of us in the class of 1999 (self-nicknamed the Fab Five) who competed and grew up together for four years. We each entered into college as All-Stars from our respective teams, had our butts collectively handed to us as underclassmen, learned to elevate our game as we matured, and progressively raised our squad’s performance until we left the field as conference champs.

We won, lost, bickered, supported, belly ached, belly laughed, and most importantly believed in each other. As a result, we found a way under Coach Brent Vigness’s leadership, to improve year-after-year before recording our final out against the eventual College World Series Champion UCLA Bruins softball team in the NCAA Regionals.

fab five

Young and fearless: the very best friendships and memories are the ones that last a lifetime

Over the past 17 years, the Fab Five have grown up. We’ve returned to our home cities, married our spouses, started our careers and our families, have celebrated triumphs, and endured losses.

Sadly, the recent loss of a teammate’s mom prompted my reunion with these wonderful women this weekend. Val and her mom, Sandy, are pictured above in the photo of me jumping on my coach. Sandy passed away on April 26, 2016.

Isn’t that how life tends to work? It doesn’t wait around patiently for you to make the time to prioritize people. It slaps you in the face with a wake-up call when you’re least expecting it.

I am counting down the hours before I can see my teammates again and scream out their names in gratitude for the chance to hang out for a few days. I have missed past opportunities to get together…and I know I won’t be able to fly across the county at my every whim in the future…but THIS TIME, well THIS TIME I’m making it work.

Life has moved on with or without our permission. Loss will bring us together again. Love and laughter will remind us how much we mean to one another, even after all these years.

Every athlete will remember the memories made with their teammates over everything else. Crossing the figurative finish line is something to be proud of, but stories are told from one generation to the next about enduring the race itself.

Lastly, before I forget, yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the longest game in NCAA softball history: a 31-inning epic battle between Creighton and Utah. Even crazier than that, both teams turned around after a 20-minute break to play the third longest game in NCAA history – 25 additional innings. These doubleheader games took place in 1991, while I was still an overly confident high school player. 🙂

Thanks for allowing me to take a trip down memory lane.

Creighton Softball Timeline in the late 90s
1999:
Earned an NCAA Regional Appearance; lost to eventual National Champions UCLA Bruins in tournament elimination game
1999:
 11-3  MVC* record. Repeated as Regular-Season Conference Champs and won MVC Conference Tournament (31-28 overall record)
1998: Head Coach Brent Vigness earned MVC Coach of the Year Honors
1998: 16-2 MVC record. Won the first Regular-Season Conference Championship in Program History (33-15 overall record)
1997: 10-4 MVC record (32-30 overall record)
1996: 6-12 MVC record (17-24 overall record)

*Creighton moved from the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) to the Big East Conference in the 2013-2014 season.

Written by Heidi Woodard

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As 2015 winds down, I want to express my sincere gratitude for everyone who has supported the GiveTheGameBack movement.

I want to thank my very first brand ambassadors (see pictures below), Chris Breeling at the Omaha Indoor Soccer Center for his moral and financial support, John O’Sullivan at Changing The Game Project for being a mentor, Creighton University’s Department of Journalism, Media, and Computing for filming my story, the Pat&JT Show on Q98.5FM for allowing me to talk (and talk and talk!), fellow sports parents for sharing your stories and encouraging me to forge on, Maureen White at The Graphic Edge for quality promotional items, my dear friends Shannon and Melissa for always reassuring me I can do it, and finally…especially…my husband and kids for allowing me to pursue this path.

You have all helped me accomplish what I set out to do: Spread an incredibly important message to parents and promoters of youth sports, reminding everyone of how blessed we all are to be able to cheer on our able-bodied, motivated kids throughout their playing careers…no matter how long or short those careers end up being.

I can’t wait to see what Year 2 brings!

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Written by Heidi Woodard

I had the privilege of visiting my old college campus and presenting to a Feature Writing class on blogging.

It was a beautiful fall afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska. The air was crisp and led my mind to leisurely untangle itself from daily distractions.

Creighton University: Hard to articulate the impact of this place on my life.

Creighton University: Hard to articulate the impact of this place on my life.

As I walked down the same brick path I had traveled over 15 years prior to make my way from class to class, I reflected on perspective that only comes with age. A wisdom that reinforces something I had always known, but never stopped to fully appreciate. I was blessed beyond measure to have had the opportunity to walk this path, both literally and figuratively.

The brick path that has the power to take you places if you let it.

The brick path that has the power to take you places if you let it.

During my time on campus that day, I visited with both my former softball coach and my academic advisor – two people who helped me pave my way when I wasn’t yet old enough to grasp the weight that adulthood carried. Both pushed me beyond where I had falsely assumed my potential peaked.

Coach Vigness still teaching young ladies how to become better people in addition to better athletes.

Coach Vigness still teaching young ladies how to become better people in addition to better athletes.

When your academic advisor gives you such rave reviews, your first boss will forever refer to her as your "Aunt Eileen."

When your academic advisor gives you such rave reviews, your first boss will forever refer to her as your “Aunt Eileen.”

To see those two influencers after all these years and have a chance to absorb the enormous roles they played in shaping the person I am today is something I won’t soon forget.

Remembering what it was like to be young, carefree, and seemingly limitless.

Remembering what it was like to be young, carefree, and seemingly limitless.

Walking past the place where my husband and I shared our first kiss.

Walking past the place where I shared a first kiss with the love of my life.

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I followed up that memorable day with an equally gratifying evening later in the week. Since launching my own GiveTheGameBack movement in January, I have watched the work of international speaker and best-selling author John O’Sullivan. His organization, Changing The Game Project, has positively impacted athletes, parents, and coaches alike, through education and training on how to accelerate positive youth development experiences, as well as critical life lessons along the way.

He wrote a book titled Changing the Game, which was released in 2013. In it, he talks about how adults are taking over today’s youth athletic experience. “We stream 10 year old baseball games to our offices, we buy $400 bats and $300 shoes, chasing the myth of scholarships and guaranteed high achievement. At a time when popular culture is promoting numerous self centered values, our children need sports more then ever to teach them about courage, discipline, commitment, and humility. Yet 70% of kids are dropping out of sports by the age of 13, most of them because sports are no longer fun!”

Let that reality absorb in. Three out of four children are done with sports before high school. As parents, do we not owe it to our children to attempt to understand why so many drop out? As a former athlete who knows how much sports impacted my life, I want my own kids’ experiences – no matter how long those experiences last – to be positive.

I do not believe having a positive experience is synonymous to having a winning record; rather, it is in the athlete’s capacity to recover from setbacks and stretch their own personal potential beyond what they believe is possible. As John so eloquently puts it, “In the real world, the most successful people are the people who are willing to fail (and try again) the most.”

John spoke to a room full of coaches and parents and delivered messaging that I know to be true, but see so many people (including myself) easily forget. According to him, elite athletes need three things to succeed, i.e., make the leap to higher levels of competitive play:

  1. They must love what they do.
  2. They must be allowed to own their experience.
  3. They must be intrinsically motivated.

Here’s a wonderful Tedx Talk featuring John speaking to a group in Bend, Oregon.

I’ve now talked to John on more than one occasion and am happy to say he is the proud owner of a GiveTheGameBack t-shirt and Steering Perspective wheel reminder.

The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be. -Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn

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It’s been uplifting to hang out with so many great people as of late, men and women who have had positive impacts on me and countless others.Thank you for hanging out with me, by taking time out of your day to read these words. Have a wonderful week ahead and never forget about those in our world who are suffering. May we never take for granted how lucky we are to live in a country where we can share our thoughts freely.

Written by Heidi Woodard