MITCHELL – From the start of the 2021 season, all eyes were on Josie Campbell and Audrey Young. Literally.
As the Mitchell softball team’s very first practice of the year began, the two seniors found themselves in the center of attention, bringing everyone together and occupying the middle of their team’s stretching circle before the start of opening exercises. Their teammates all huddled around them, mimicking every stretch as they both counted to 10.
Campbell and Young didn’t need to know what to do with Mitchell head coach Stevie Canada. They knew how things were to be done, how the practices were to be conducted.
They understood what was expected of them.
From day one, it was pretty clear – where these two are going, and so are the Bluejackets.
“In previous years we have been leaders, but not really the best leaders of the team because we have had other seniors,” said Campbell. “Coming into this year, we knew it was our role to take over. I realized I had to keep a positive attitude because other people really admired you. And I think that’s the closest that I can get. we’ve been as a team for a long time. “
The roles of the two seniors in this team were really settled long before the end of the season. Canada and its coaching staff knew they were going to rely heavily on both of them on the pitch – Young as a regular center and heads-up baseman, and Campbell as a hard-hitting first baseman with a lightning-shaped arm in the launchers. ‘circle.
But those leadership roles, the ones they both embraced so willingly, were something that sort of came out of necessity.
As part of Mitchell’s senior little class, which also includes Madison Clark and Alexus Holt, Campbell and Young were by far the most experienced players on the program. Since being talented young freshmen, they have played a major role for the Bluejackets every year of their careers – excluding the lost season which was 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
And that experience has been more valuable than ever for this year’s squad, which is made up mostly of sophomores who lost their first season in high school due to the pandemic and freshmen coming straight from. middle School. Joining the two seniors in the Bluejackets’ starting lineup are six sophomores and one freshman.
Campbell and Young could see this quick role reversal coming, however, and they knew exactly how they wanted to approach their new duties as the group’s senior statesmen.
On the one hand, they wanted to lead by example, stay the course in the midst of adversity and give their young teammates a calming presence to lean on. If they were struggling in the middle of a game, they had to keep everyone optimistic. If the coaches were chasing them a little more than usual, they had to remind others that they were just trying to help them get better.
But in order to do that, they also had to build strong relationships with their teammates on and off the pitch.
As Campbell and Young said, they wanted to create a family atmosphere.
“This year we’ve become really close to a lot of the girls on the team and it’s really like having a family,” Young said. “We try to talk to all the young players outside of softball. It’s not just about talking to them in training and not talking to them outside of school anymore. They come to us with problems that are not even softball. talk to us and we hang out all the time. “
This family approach as a team is nothing new to Campbell or Young, as in a way they already saw each other as kind of sisters.
And it was softball that built this bond between them. They’ve known each other from their daycare days, but have been playing softball together since the tee-ball days when they were still learning the game at age eight.
Nowadays, they know everything about each other on the pitch – their tendencies, what turns them on the most.
Campbell knows how competitive Young is and how much she needs someone to match her intensity level at all times.
And Young knows how hard Campbell can be on herself as a perfectionist on the plate, knowing that she needs someone to rejuvenate her self-confidence every now and then.
Either way, they always knew the other would be there to defend themselves.
“We are really like sisters, we are inseparable,” said Campbell. “We get angry sometimes, but it’s just normal for the sisters. We’re still doing well and we’re still there for each other. It helps so much to have him on the pitch. If I’m down, all she has to do is join me so I realize I have to get there.
“We grew up together and we’ve always been there for each other, which made it that kind of connection between friends and sisters.”
And that sense of brotherhood has now spread to the rest of the team.
Canada agreed this is one of the most tight-knit teams they have had in years at Mitchell, and thank Campbell and Young for helping to create that culture.
Not only did their chemistry and friendship set an example for their young teammates, but they also involved the younger players as much as possible.
“These two have been great this year,” said Canada. “That’s what we wanted from them because we knew they played in great games and played a lot of softball. They included everyone on the team, doing activities to try and bring the girls together. They talk about softball. together outside of training. This is what we needed because these young girls are very impressionable of these old people. If the coach gets mad at them and they’re with their heads down, (Josie and Audrey) are there to say ‘hey that’s not what he means by that, stand up, we’ve got this .
“He’s one of the best leaders we’ve had in years, and I’m very proud of them for that.”
Although Campbell and Young have spent many hours together on the softball field, there is still some time left as the season draws to a close.
And they still have more to do.
A very winnable section looms on the horizon, which they have both been looking for since their first year. From the moment they entered that first stretching circle this year – and each since then – a section title was the main goal they had in mind.
But to achieve this goal, the Bluejackets must do it as a team – as a family.
And they need their two older sisters to lead the way.
“This season means a lot to us,” Young said. “With the squad we have this year, we really think it’s one of the best teams we’ve had since we were in high school. And we know what we’re capable of. Now that we all come together. as a team, I think we have a good chance of winning in the section.
“It’s been a while since we’ve won one, but we think we can.”
Contact Times-Mail Sports Editor Murphy Wheeler at 812-675-2296, [email protected] or on Twitter @murph_wheelerTM