Softball players from across Manitoba are currently trading indoor practices for outdoor ball diamonds and none are more excited than the female players vying for a spot on Team Manitoba’s 2019 Western Canada Games team. At this point, the squad of 25 who are all aged 16 or under, are focussing on an upcoming trip to Kansas City from May 3-5. The current Toba roster will be split into two teams for this event which will provide the coaching staff ample opportunities to evaluate the players on and off of the field. For some, Kansas City will mark the end of their Western Canada Summer Games journey, as once the team returns home, only the top 17 will move forward in the selection process.
For Head Coach Holly Kitchen this is an exciting time. The 2019 WCSG being held in Swift Current this August will be her third Games but first as head coach.
"This trip to Kansas City will be our first real look at these players outside and will show us more about their potential," Kitchen said.
Kitchen describes this group of athletes as eager to learn, aggressive, powerful, and always maintaining a team-first attitude. What also makes this group unique is that this is the first time the players truly are from all over the province. Kitchen says currently it's about a 50/50 mix between city and rural players.
This past fall, the team brought in strength and conditioning coaches to work with this group of young women. Since then, these ball players have been training for the opportunity to represent Team Manitoba anywhere between three to five times a week. Kitchen explains they will work with a nutritionist and potentially a sport psychologist over the next few months as they continue to prepare and finalize their team. The to-do list for this coach also includes overall skill development and furthering their defensive positional play. Kitchen says working on putting a team like this together is like arranging puzzle pieces so they fit just right.
Before heading to Swift Current for the 2019 WCSG, the final roster will compete in Chicago at the end of June.
"The 50-team tournament includes the top teams from the Midwest and is where our final roster will fine-tune their game," Kitchen said.
She notes this a perfect opportunity for players in this age group to showcase their skills in front of as many as 40 different college coaches. Adding it's truly an added benefit as many American coaches don't spend a lot of time in Canada scouting and watching Manitoba players.
The team will play at John Blumberg Softball Complex this summer. Stay tuned to Softball Manitoba’s website as they will be updating fans, family, and friends through the season.