Jun. 11—Inspiration can come from many different places.
Like many of you, I've been watching every game of the Women's College World Series for the entirety of this tournament. It's something I do every year, and it's one of my favorite sporting events ever.
I find it incredible that the WCWS has its home right here in Oklahoma. It's fun to tune in and see that familiar Oklahoma City backdrop behind the most impressive softball facility in the world. I've even been fortunate to attend the tournament, and Jennie Finch is still one of my favorite athletes of all time.
But really, you know who gets the most out of the tournament? Our youth, especially young girls.
Millions across the country watch on their televisions, and the stadium has been packed nightly with nearly 13,000 fans every session. High school and youth softball teams gravitate to the event, and what transpires is nothing short of magical.
Take for instance Oklahoma's Jocelyn Alo. She is quite possibly the greatest to ever play the game, and every time she steps onto the field, the fireworks are set to begin. But she got her start as a young girl in Hawai'i with a dream as she watched the WCWS. Now? She's that role model herself — a two-time national champion and currently inspiring young girls everywhere to go out, grab a bucket of balls, and get to work.
Another cool instance was Oklahoma State's Kelly Maxwell. One of the best pitchers in the country this season, she and the Cowgirls came up just short of the WCWS championship series. But despite the heart-wrenching loss, she stayed taking pictures and signing autographs with a genuine smile until every girl finally left the stadium.
That's just one small instance of the impact these student-athletes are having on today's youth. But as I got to thinking about it, they aren't the only ones. We're seeing that happening on a smaller, more intimate scale here at home.
If you see me cover a game, you'll find I'm scanning the crowd from time to time. And what I see are young girls —and boys too! — looking on with awe. The bright lights twinkling in their eyes, you can see the flames of inspiration ignite.
And not just in the big games, but in the every day. Whether it's a 3 p.m. softball game in August or a 6:30 p.m. basketball game in January, you can look into the crowd and see the next generation witness those core memories in real time.
If you're a high school athlete just walking the hall, you probably don't even realize when you pass that elementary class that there's someone to whom you've become a hero.
It's also not lost on me that this month, we are celebrating 50 years of Title IX — and the gargantuan positive impact it has had in that span. I can't wait to see how these games grow for the next half century.
So ladies, whether you're playing in the WCWS or for your high school team, this is the tip of the hat to you. You inspire us all each and every day.
Contact Derek Hatridge at email@example.com.