Good mental health is considered key to an athlete’s development, and Kelsey Lay has a deeper understanding than many.
The infielder for the University of South Florida softball team earned her psychology degree last May in a virtual ceremony due to the pandemic.
Having that background was a help to understanding how to survive the shutting down of the 2020 season, and the path to helping teammates.
“It was hard at times not seeing family, not seeing grandparents, not seeing anyone,” said Lay, on a Zoom call. “I think (her studies) did help a lot, it helped with a lot of thinking outside of the box, what to do, the ways that helped me (deal with lockdown).”
Before confinement, Lay was just beginning her attempt to improve her 2019 season which, so far, has been her best with the Bulls.
During her junior year she played 46 games, starting 39 at second base, with 60 putouts and three assists. She had a slash line of .206/.263/.224 (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage).
Assistant coach Tommy Santiago, who has been working with the Bulls for the last two years, says the new season seems to be suiting the player much more when compared to the last one.
“She is more confident in fielding and in hitting that I’ve seen, even from last year,” he said. “She is starting to show that comfortability and we just need her to kind of continue that.”
Putting the pandemic behind her has helped Lay focus on her role as a senior player within the squad.
“I’m more of a leader and more people are looking up to me,” said the infielder. “The younger ones figure out the system that we are in, figure out all the dynamics and everything, so it’s getting them used to it, so they can fill in my shoes when I leave.”
After four years defending the colours of UFC, the future psychologist has confirmed that she will stop playing competitive softball after the 2021 season.
Though there are no clear plans, mixing her passion for the game with her future career is in the cards.