- Terra Molengraff/Daily
By Kelly Hall, Daily Sports Writer
Published July 27, 2014
In Brighton, Michigan, a 2012 University alumna helps young girls hone their softball skills when she’s not off winning the World Cup of Softball. For former Michigan softball player Amanda Chidester, the future of the USA Softball Women's National Team is bright, and the game of softball is a lifelong passion.
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This summer is Chidester’s third straight with Team USA, and she’s learned a great deal about being both a teacher and a teammate since graduation.
In her spare time, she also holds local softball clinics in her hometown of Allen Park, Michigan, but right now, she’s with the national team. Team USA won the World Cup of Softball on July 13 in Irvine, California, but is currently preparing for the most important competition of the summer — the World Championships in the Netherlands starting Aug. 15.
Though Chidester was never able to play for the U. S. in the Olympics (the International Olympic Committee cut baseball and softball from the Games in 2012), she believes that she’ll be playing in the 2020 Olympics.
And who knows? Maybe some of her students will be as well.
Chidester spoke with the Daily recently to discuss her time with Team USA, her outlook on the future of softball and the constant support she receives from the Michigan softball community and coaches.
The Michigan Daily: What’s changed for you since you were first on Team USA in 2012?
Amanda Chidester: I was out of college so I, myself, changed a lot. For me, I love softball, so I decided to continue with softball. Being a part of representing Team USA was huge, but coming from the University of Michigan helped me too. All of the opportunities I was given through Team USA and the University of Michigan have been awesome.
TMD: Have any of Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins’ mantras really stuck with you and helped you during your time with Team USA?
AC: Oh yeah, there are so many. “Leave the place better than you found it” is a huge one for me. She says that one a lot, and everywhere I go, I want to leave a mark and be an important part of whatever it is that I’m doing. Never settle for anything less than your best and give it your all. One hundred percent effort. That’s something I carry with me with my work, with whatever I’m doing, and with dealing with people. It goes a long way.
TMD: How often do you get to talk to Coach Hutchins about your game and how has your relationship with her developed over the years?
AC: I was able to be an assistant after graduation and saw a whole different side, the coaching side, of the game with (Hutchins) and saw behind the scenes. There’s so much that goes into it that we don’t even know about as players. Going through that whole year was pretty awesome.
Last year, I was able to go to games and stuff, but I was kind of on my own. I didn’t get a chance to see (Hutchins) as much as I would’ve liked to, but when I did, we always had great talks. She was right there to congratulate me when I made the USA team again. I was able to go in and talk with her a little bit on one of my breaks. She’s always there for me — for all of us — which is awesome, absolutely awesome. She always says, “You’re a Wolverine forever.” That’s what makes her so great.
TMD: How has the culture of Michigan softball impacted your career?
AC: Those people that were around me during my four years in college have continued to support me through my time with USA. There’s a big family that continues to stick around and when I go back and watch a game, everyone’s there to ask me how I’m doing and to tell me they miss me. It’s just a great, great family with everybody. To go back and be a part of that family is pretty awesome.
TMD: You and your teammates posted a 7-0 record during the World Cup of Softball Championships. You had five RBI and batted .385. How were you feeling throughout the tournament and what was the energy like?
AC: It was good. The whole team had great energy the whole time. The team is just so deep. Any of the 17 players could be on that field at any point in time, which is pretty awesome. The last couple of years, we didn’t have that. This year, the event is a lot deeper, and I think that’s great. We just feed off of each other.
TMD: What have you and your teammates been focusing on as the World Championships get closer?
AC: This year there are some returners, but there are also some new players, so just growing together and continuing to get to know each other more, working together more and just growing as a team. I think that will be our biggest thing, just continuing to get that experience with each other. We’re not used to playing with each other all the time so it’s a growing process for us, and I think we’ve come a long way. USA has given us the opportunity to play a lot of different teams and continue to grow.
TMD: What do you see yourself doing after the World Championships this year?
AC: I work in a facility in Brighton so I’ll be back there again and training little girls to become softball players and do the best they can. I’ll be doing camps with some of my USA teammates as well.
TMD: Though your dreams of playing Olympic softball were stolen from you when the IOC decided to get rid of softball and baseball, you’ve still been able to travel the world with Team USA. What’s the message you send to the girls at your softball clinics that just love to play the game?
AC: We’re fighting to get it back. In my mind, it’s coming back in 2020 and I’m going to play in 2020. While giving lessons and doing camps, we just tell these girls that we’re fighting like heck to give you guys the opportunity to do this, but just because it’s not an Olympic sport doesn’t mean that they can’t have their passion in college and continue to play after that. There are still opportunities, but it’s everyone’s dream to play in the Olympics. We’re going to do everything we can to get it back.