Macy Oliver spends much of her time in the middle of a circle — and likes it.
While fewer and fewer youngsters are playing sports each year, Oliver, 12, can’t get enough. She has a passion for softball, particularly pitching, and has displayed a commitment to improving her skill not common for someone so young.
“She wanted to learn how to pitch the first time she stepped on the softball field (at age 8), but I told her she needed to learn how to throw overhand first,” her father Gerry Oliver said. “After her first season, we signed her up for pitching lessons.”
She has been throwing ever since under the guidance of Northwest Competitive Edge pitching coach Amy Suiter of Sedro-Woolley.
Oliver, a sixth-grader at Oak Harbor Intermediate School, plays both the traditional spring-summer season and fall ball. She also plays for two different teams at the same time — her North Whidbey Little League club and a select team. Her first select squad, the Tsunami, was based on Whidbey Island; her current club, the Blast, is in Bellevue.
It’s quite a time commitment for a preteen, but Macy said that’s not a problem because she “really likes” the sport.
“Besides, I don’t want to be a couch potato,” she added.
A spud she is not.
Once the competitive seasons are over, she spends the several days a week in the off months practicing.
The drawbacks are the long drives and doing homework in the car, she said.
“When I’m tired, I still have to go to lessons,” Oliver said. “My school work always comes first and sometimes it’s a struggle, but I get it done. My mom and dad expect me to keep up on my grades if I want to keep playing, (and) I do miss out on some sleepovers with my friends.”
However, the time spent with softball, she said, allows her to meet new friends and spend time with her family on the trips.
Gerry Oliver agrees that it allows for special family time.
“The commitment that goes with a young softball pitcher is many hours of sitting on a bucket and just playing catch,” he said. “During the season there is pitching lessons, practice time, games and then more of the same. I have learned over the years just sitting on a bucket is a great time to just talk about what’s going on in Macy’s life.”
Gerry Oliver tries to keep Macy’s workouts fresh and challenging: “It’s a fine line that I have to walk, to make sure it doesn’t become a job for her.”
He also requires rest, “a month off — no glove, no ball.”
That gives her time to “just be a kid and just relax.”
“Being a high school football coach, I understand the importance of rest and also time to just recharge the batteries,” he said.
Dad said he will always support his daughter as long as she is having fun and positive experiences.
“The only thing we ask of her is to do her best and always share what she has learned with someone who is younger,” he said.
Another benefit, Gerry Oliver said, is the confidence his daughter is gaining, which helps “in anything she does in life.”
If Macy’s obsession with softball ends, that is fine with Gerry, but for now he will do all he can, whether it means being a coach or chauffeur. He would like to see his daughter branch out and try other sports and will encourage her to give others a try when she enters middle school next year.
As Macy has grown as a pitcher, so has her success. Her select team won several tournaments this year, and Macy won three tournament Most Valuable Player awards.
Last summer, she pitched the North Whidbey Little League team to fourth place in the state tournament.
Macy currently throws 51 miles per hour; her goal is to reach 60 by the eighth grade.
Another goal is to lead NWLL to a state title.
“(I want to) continue to play at a high level against hard competition, to better myself and prepare myself to achieve the goals I have set for myself,” Macy said.
So it’s back to the circle in the center of the diamond for more work — and she wouildn’t have it any other way.