By “Play Ball”, USA on June 20, 2017

High school can be a challenging time for anyone, regardless of whether or not they participate in athletics. Adding extracurricular athletics to the mix can make high school even more challenging as student-athletes balance school, athletics, a social life, and more. An extra layer of difficulty can be added for girls who want to play baseball, on an all boys' team, in high school. If you or your daughter are considering playing baseball in high school on an all boys' team, some of USA Baseball's Women's National Team members have offered their opinions and best advice based on their experiences.

What is it like being the only girl on a male team?
Marti Sementelli: Being the only girl has its up and downs. It's great being able to continue playing the sport I love and competing at a high level, but you always stick out like a sore thumb. You are constantly turning heads from opposing teams and people in the stands because you are a girl and have longer hair. But with all the attention of being a girl on a boy's high school team, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world because I'm playing my sport and not softball.
Anna Kimbrell: When I was playing high school baseball, the guys always acted as if I was one of them. It honestly never phased me that I was on a team with guys. As far as I was concerned, they were all my brothers and best friends. Of course, when we would go out of town to play in tournaments, the other teams would have something to say about it, but my teammates always stood behind me and had my back. I never felt singled out on the team or different. As far as I was concerned, I was normal and I thought it was weird to play softball at that point.
Sarah Hudek: My teammates in high school are the same group of guys I've been playing with since I was in little league so I was thankful to already have their support, which in my opinion is the biggest factor when playing in high school. The only thing that was hard was not being able to be with your teammates in the locker room before or after games, but you just have to learn to adjust to that.

What is/was the biggest challenge you faced being the only girl?
Sementelli: The biggest challenge I faced was always trying to prove myself. Because I am a girl I always had to prove why I deserved my spot. There is no room to make mistakes. If I didn't have the best pitching outing I would think my coach would never give me another chance on the field. Always thinking I had to be perfect because everyone in the stands is waiting for you to fail. I just wanted to be treated just like any other teammate and not judged with everything I did and not all eyes staring at me waiting for me to give up.
Kimbrell: The biggest challenge I faced was dealing with my coaches. The one coach that I thought would be the worst turned out to be one of the best coaches I had. He put me into pitch in some of the toughest situations, but I managed to get us out of them and in turn gained his respect. On the other end of the spectrum, the coach that I thought would be the best coach out of all of them turned out to be one of the worst. In the end, I found out that he was "scared I would get overpowered by the guys." Therefore, he only played me if he absolutely needed to it seemed. Being from a small town in the south, there were a lot of issues with "daddy ball" and the usual politics that I had to learn to deal with and get over. In the end, they have made me a better person and taught me how to roll with the punches and just make sure to perform when the time comes no matter the situation.
Kelsie Whitmore: The biggest challenge I face while being the only girl, is having to have the courage to step out onto that field every time knowing that there's always someone out there waiting for you to make a mistake. Another challenge I would have to say is learning to teach myself how to put all of the comments said behind my back aside and forget them.

Was your experience with the coaching staff a negative or positive one?
Sementelli: My experience with my coaching staff for my first two years wasn't good. I wasn't given any chances to prove I can play at the next level on varsity and some of the coaching staff seemed adverse having a girl on the team. When I transferred after my sophomore year my coaching staff was nothing but positive. They allowed me to play on varsity and be one of the top pitchers on the squad. Being a reliever, they always trusted me going into tough situations with the game on the line.
Whitmore: The experience with my high school coaching staff was positive for the most part. I would have to say the main thing I tried to work really hard for other than a spot on the team was earning the team and the coaches respect for me.
Hudek: I had a very good experience with my coaching staff. They gave me fair opportunities just like any of my male teammates and that's all I asked for. I didn't want that special treatment because I was a girl, and I'm sure majority of girls playing baseball would agree that we just want to be viewed as another player.

What would your advice be to other girls participating as the only female on a male team?
Eliza DeMers: You earned your spot on the team so go and play your heart out. Don't be afraid to make a mistake; hold your head high and don't let anyone intimidate you.
Kimbrell: Always work harder than the guys and out-hustle them. There is no excuse for a lack of hard work or hustling on and off the field. As long as you are happy and doing something that you absolutely love, then keep going. Any time you feel like giving up always remember that there are other girls out there fighting the same fight that you are. Last but not least, never give up. As long as there is a desire in you to play baseball and continue playing baseball, keep going. People will try to tell you no and that you aren't allowed to play baseball, but all you have to do is use that as fuel for your fire and find somewhere else that wants you to play ball for them.
Whitmore: The advice that I would give to other girls participating as the only female on a male team is to just keep going. The way I got myself through it all was before every baseball practice, tryout and game I asked myself if this was all really worth it -- and it was so I got through it. Basically if there's something you really want, then don't let anyone stop you from it. Because at the end of the day, once you accomplish something you once weren't sure of, you will be thanking yourself. Overall, I would just say to follow your dreams and set the goal of proving everyone wrong. Because that's what I've done all along and plan on pursuing it.
Monty Sandoval: Keep going there is nothing stopping you. It's not who's going to let me, who's going to stop me.
Megan Dedrick: Don't think of yourself as being different than the guys, just play like you are supposed to be there.

Any additional information you'd like to share about your experience?
Sementelli: You would think that being the only girl on a high school baseball team is all physical but really it is a mental game. As long as you believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself then you will be successful at this level. You can do anything. Let there be doubters -- it's just that much sweeter when you prove them wrong.
Jenna Marston: Keep playing baseball as long as you can and want to. But don't think of switching to softball as "failing" or a "downgrade." Though it is different, softball is an awesome sport too. There are tons of amazing female athletes playing softball as well.