Every athlete knows about obstacles ranging from team issues to
time management. But few must deal with an obstacle that affects
their health on a daily basis. Senior first baseman Jennifer Olds
Olds has worked her way up the ranks of the Michigan softball
team in the face of adversity and disease to lead the team in
batting average (.338). After transferring to Michigan from a
junior college last year, Olds has made a name for herself in the
maize and blue tradition.
Although Olds lived and attended high school in North Palm
Beach, Fla., she is originally from Lansing, where most of her
extended family still likes. Starting at the age of 15, Olds
annually made the trek “up north” to play softball for
the Lansing Crown Club while staying with her relatives. After
three years of playing on the team, Olds formed a solid
relationship with coach Bob Every, who also headed up the Lansing
Community College softball team. Between her junior and senior
years of high school, Every offered Olds a scholarship for the
“I was being recruited by top Division I schools,”
Olds said. “But I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so
(Lansing) was the best choice at the time. I wanted to get away
from home, but I still wanted to be able to be around family. I
knew I would be happy there, so it was a great decision.”
Olds’s career at Lansing was paved with impressive
accomplishments, including being named the Division II NJCAA World
Series MVP when she was a sophomore, after leading her team to the
Division II national title. Olds also led the nation with 30 home
runs while compiling a .513 batting average, 85 RBI and 16 doubles
in 56 games. Although Olds achieved greatness within the Lansing
program, it didn’t have the intensity of the Division I
“We didn’t do any conditioning or weight
training,” Olds said. “It sort of had the feeling of a
summer league team, but just with more competition.”
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins received news from her father, who
lives in Lansing and attends all of the school’s softball
games, of Olds’s abilities.
“He asked me if I had seen this girl from Lansing
play,” Hutchins said. “He told me that she was an
incredible player, so I went to watch her play.”
Hutchins was impressed by what she saw and offered Olds a
position on the Michigan squad for her final two years of
eligibility. When Olds joined the team she had a tough time
adjusting to the demands and conditioning regimen of the program.
She also was in an unusual position of joining the team as a
junior. While she wasn’t technically a freshman, she was
often grouped together with the first-year players because she was
new to the team.
“I had to prove myself all over again,” Olds said.
“It was hard to adjust because I was confused why I was being
treated like a freshman. I had been on my own for two years
already, and I had had more experience than all them.”
Hutchins recognized the adversity that Olds was going through
and was impressed with her composure.
“Olds was one of the best players in the country at her
level,” Hutchins said. “But here she had no status. She
had to make her mark in a new system. I am so proud of the way she
On top of managing the adversity within the program and the
toughness of the training, Olds also deals with the difficulty of
being a diabetic. Checking her blood sugar levels during practice
and games has become a constant battle.
“I try my best not to let it interfere with my playing,
but sometimes I just have to sit out for a while,” Olds said.
“More exercise lowers my blood sugar, so I have to always
have candy and insulin nearby.”
Hutchins has never had a diabetic player on her squad, so over
the course of these two years, she has become very educated on the
“She is incredibly responsible about her situation,”
Hutchins said. “Most competitive athletes aren’t
willing to come out of games or practice when they are obviously
hurting themselves. She knows what she needs.”
While Olds is the only Michigan softball player with diabetes,
there are a few other Michigan athletes that deal with the disease.
On a monthly basis, she and the other athletes meet and discuss
their situations with one another.
“It’s nice having a support group,” Olds said.
“It’s a serious disease that many people don’t
know much about.”
With graduation on the horizon and the thought of her final
softball season becoming a reality with each passing game, Olds is
bittersweet about leaving Michigan.
“This year, it feels like I’ve been here for four
years,” Olds said. “I’ve learned that tradition
is the most important aspect of the team and school. I’ll be
sad to leave, but I’ll be ready. I know I have a future in
front of me and I’m ready for the next step of my