Softball players from the Cowichan Valley and beyond had the chance in late July and early August to experience a top-level camp put on at Evans Park by some elite instructors.
Beyond the White Lines Softball Academy is a group of rotating top university and college coaches and players, professional players, and current and past national team players and coaches who give back to the game by holding camps and clinics for young players.
The camps are led by Joni Frei, a certified professional coach who oversees the event, which returned to the Cowichan Valley for a third year here.
“It is growing every year,” said Katrina Bull, who brought the camp to Duncan on July 30-Aug. 1. “This year had over 100 participants, mostly from on Island but some from off Island also. This camp is so fun, players forget they are learning and they improve so much over the three days, it reinforces the importance of educating coaches with the skills they need to teach the game properly but also instill excitement and confidence in the players.”
Along with the camp, tryouts were held for Canada Futures, a group that travels into the southern U.S. each fall so players can showcase their skills and play against collegiate teams.
“A lot of scholarship opportunities come from being a part of Canada Futures,” Bull said. “So we are super excited to have one of the tryouts held on the Island, making it more accessible to those outside the Lower Mainland.”
The camp boasted a ratio of one coach for every four and a half players. In addition to Frei, one of the more notable coaches at the Duncan camp this year was Sarah Pauly, a player in the National Pro Fastpitch League who has formerly played in Japan, Italy and New Zealand, served as pitching coach at the Chinese Olympic Training Center, and previously attended Texas A&M University, where she owns records for career strikeouts, ERA, shutouts, strikeout ratio, no-hitters and perfect games.
Other instructors included Katie Cochrane, a left-handed pitcher with Team USA who has a career slugging percentage of .800, and Jen Starkey, a mental performance coach at Fastpitch Fit and MVP Leadership Academy.