Christian college softball is a unique experience. Any college athlete knows it is difficult to balance college life with practices and games, and Hannah Harless, a 2020 Grace graduate, experienced this first hand. While Hannah’s senior season was snatched away from her due to the pandemic, her time in Christian college softball helped her develop an athlete mindset that got her through her college years and will carry on long after.
After graduation, Harless and the other seniors on the team wrote letters to the incoming players that would receive their jersey number — a tradition that Coach Harman began when she took over the program. Every year, the seniors are given the summer to fill these letters with advice, encouragement, and life lessons they have learned during their time at Grace. Harless’s letter stood out from the rest for its honesty and vulnerability. When we got news of it, we couldn’t help but share, because this is the way of Grace.
Dear Future Jersey #12,
Let me introduce myself to you and share with you my story, journey, and some of the best words of wisdom I could ever offer to any future Christian college softball athlete. My name is Hannah Harless and I am a 2020 graduate from Grace. Maybe I had the privilege of meeting you, and being a part of your recruiting process, or maybe we have never met at all. Regardless, I want you to know that you now have a supporter, friend, and mentor in me.
Maybe #12 is your favorite number. Or maybe you are like me, and your favorite number has already been taken. Either way, embrace it, wear it with pride, and never ever take it for granted. There is someone out there who wishes they could be where you are at right now.
Have an “I GET to” Mentality
There are days when it is going to be hard. You are not going to want to go to practice, and you might even question if you are good enough to be there in the first place. We have all been there at some point in our careers. These are all normal emotions; however, I want to encourage you that when those emotions come to remember what it felt like to have your season ripped away from you due to a pandemic. Remember what it felt like for you to long to play softball again and do anything to be back out on the field. Getting to play Christian college softball is a privilege and a blessing. You GET to go to practice, you GET to go to early morning workouts, you GET to play another game, you GET to see your teammates daily. Having this I GET to be an athlete mindset is something that will benefit you in softball, school, and for the rest of your life.
Know Where Your Worth Comes From
Let me be the first person to tell you that playing softball at a Christian college does not define you. Your worth lies in much more than what you could ever do on the field. Your true value comes from who God says you are. It comes from your character and the kind of teammate that you are. Every time you step onto the softball field, you are already victorious because the battle has already been won! Jesus has already overcome and every day you are overcoming, too.
Trust God’s Plan
I can say with a great deal of confidence that God’s plan will become clear with time. While I do not believe that I ever received the blessing of playing time on the softball field, I was blessed with those who I was surrounded by and with my future career. I got accepted into one of the top Grad School programs in the nation, AND I was selected to be a graduate assistant for the program which pays for 25% of tuition. Out of 400-500 people who apply, 100-200 people interview, 60 people get accepted, and only 4 become GA’s. No one will ever be able to convince me that these things were because of my own ability. I know they are simply because God chose to bless me in this aspect of my life.
If You Let Grace Change You, It Will
At Grace, there is room for people of all backgrounds and walks with Christ. Wherever you come from, God cares about where you are and where you are going — not just where you have been. Be open and willing to grow and learn.
I experienced culture shock during my freshman year. I had been a Christian for a long time; however, I had not always been in church and didn’t know that much about the Bible. I want to encourage you to not be afraid to ask questions, especially within the team. If you have a lot of knowledge and wisdom, be someone who makes those who have questions feel comfortable and safe to talk to you. It’s all about growing and learning about God together! Regardless, I want to encourage you to go in with an open heart, and an open mind. I promise that if you do, God will come in and do a work within you. You will not come out of Grace the same person that you walked in as.
School Before Softball
You are at Grace so that you can get an education and be successful for the rest of your life. Christian college softball is just a bonus and will only last the next four years. Work hard in the classroom and take pride in your schoolwork. Be responsible and learn time management. DO NOT SKIP CLASS. This may mean that you have to say no to things. Do your absolute best, study hard, work hard, get things done on time, but if you do not end up getting the grade you want, know that you did your best, and know that at the end of the day, that’s all you can do.
Create Relationships With Your Professors
My advisor, who was my professor for many of my classes throughout my four years, has become a mentor to me. Your professors want to get to know you, and they are absolutely awesome! Take the time and make the effort to talk to them before or after class. Build a trusting relationship with them, especially those who are in your major (you are going to need it by the time the season rolls around). Communication is key!
Be Involved Around Campus
Go to fun campus events! Get to know people on your hall and go to hall events. Go win yourself a Beanie Bowl, a Joust competition, a Spikes night volleyball tournament, or some kiddie pool kickball!! Go enjoy all the free food, t-shirts, and Back in 5 shows. Just GO! If it is out of your comfort zone, find some outgoing teammates to go with you. You won’t regret it.
Invest in Your Teammates
These people will become your family. Be there for them, walk through their hardships with them, and let them know that you care. Pray for them. Some of them are fighting battles that they never talk about. In my career at Grace, I walked alongside two of my teammates who lost their fathers, and with several who lost their grandparents. If someone is having a bad day, send them an encouraging text, write them a note, or go get them their favorite candy. I promise you, the friendships you make on this team will be some of the most genuine and long-lasting friendships you have ever had. These people push you to be the best version of yourself. Don’t take a single day with them for granted. They will be what you miss most!
Know there is more to life than Christian college softball.
At the end of the day, softball does not matter. Go ahead and read that again. I know you are probably thinking, “Okay, Hannah, you’re crazy! What do you mean softball doesn’t matter?!”
At one point, softball was pretty much what my life revolved around. But even Christian college softball is never going to fulfill you. You need Jesus to do that. At the end of the day, the relationship that you have with Jesus is what matters most. We cannot take softball to heaven. We can’t take all the home run balls or our favorite glove or bat. And hey! Good news — the strikeouts can’t come either. The ability we have to play Christian college softball is given to us by God to use as a platform to glorify Him and bring more people into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Grace College truly is an amazing place! I pray that you love it as much as I did. I poured my whole heart and soul into the school and Christian college softball program. Good luck, future #12.
Hannah Harless #12 – from grace.edu