TAMPA, Fla. – If NCAA sports is not supposed to be just fun and games, no one told the University of South Florida women’s softball team.
When freshman outfielder Jaycie Michael is not chasing down fly balls or at bat, she is enjoying being around teammates or cheering from the dugout.
Even in the heat of a double-header with Central Michigan, and Furman, last Wednesday, the players’ bench was loud and positive.
“Whether I’m playing or whether I’m in the dugout, I’m always going to have fun with it because softball is something that I enjoy so much,” Michael said, after a double header sweep. “So no matter (if) I strike out or pop up I’m still going have fun with it.”
The freshman had one catch in each game of the doubleheader (both wins), along with a single and a stolen base in the second game. The rest of her time was spent participating in various cheers or rituals with her fellow outfielders.
One such habit includes opening every inning by huddling up together, leaping in the air and bumping shoulders before take their positions. The tradition came from the making of a team video.
“It took us like five to finally find something that worked and we could all do physically because we were trying too hard,” Michael said.
Playing against the Bulls can be a tough task, not just because of the strength of the team, but because of the volume coming from the dugout throughout the game.
The team is constantly cheering, something that Michael appreciates. “The energy is really good. Like having each girl supportive. We all get along so perfectly,” the freshman said.
“I’m blessed with the teammates. They’ve really taken me in, the upperclassmen. They haven’t treated the freshman differently than any other class. It’s honestly really been a blessing to have that.”
Coach Ken Eriksen understands the importance of this energy from his team, even if dancing and cheers are not his cup of tea.
“You never see me dance. You don’t want to. I did not choreograph that,” the coach said with a laugh.
He describes himself as “more of a foxtrot kind of guy.”
However, “you never want to quell their enthusiasm and exuberance,” Eriksen said. “These young gals, they have to be able to feel good to play so they’ve got their own routines. They’re out there having a blast and it’s fun to watch them.”
For Michael, when it comes to the cheers, “the ones that we just get super loud and crazy on that don’t really mean anything are the funnest ones for me just because I get to go out of my comfort zone and I have fun with it.”
Even in the middle of a competitive game late in the season, “we have fun in there.”