The 2015 season took the Shorter Lady Hawks Softball Team to the Final Four of the NCAA Division II World Series in the team’s first year of eligibility. Along the way, the team also claimed the Gulf South Conference and NCAA Division II South Region titles, while maintaining grades that earned them a national top 10 finish in academic competition.
That type of athletic and academic achievement requires the honing of talent and the development of crucial skills like time management, confidence, and the ability to overcome adversity, according to Lady Hawks Abi Valdes and Carson Carriker.
The pair – two of a group of seven education majors who take the field as members of Shorter’s softball team – say the life lessons they have learned on the softball field as student athletes will enhance the lessons they will share in their careers as educators.
Valdes, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., plans on teaching at the middle school level and believes her experiences will help her reach students who are struggling to overcome difficulties.
“With our season last year – the way we would play, the way we would act with each other, the way we would perform – everything started out really low, and our team had to click together to be able to become the team that we were at the end of the season. And that took literally all the way up to our last conference game. From then on out, our post season was amazing. We fought through a whole bunch of hardships. Overcoming like that takes determination and perseverance, and that’s a lesson I want to share with my future students. I want to share the importance of not giving up.”
Working together as a team will also be a theme for Carriker when she begins her career as an elementary school teacher. Carriker is a native of Warner Robins, Ga.
“I love working with little kids; they’re up for anything,” she said. “The lessons we’ve learned through our experiences about the importance of working as a team will help me when I teach them about concepts like responsibility and working with others.”
Bottom row left to right – Maddie Hunt, Kalei Kimbrell, Abi Valdes; Top Row left to to right-Peyton Barthel, Hannah Draper, Carson Carriker, Taylor Ann Oda.
The pair can also share personal insights about academic success. As a whole, the Lady Hawks turned in an overall team grade point average of 3.515 for the 2014-15 academic year. Carriker and Valdes were both named to Shorter’s dean’s list and earned recognition on the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) All-Academic team, the Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll, and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Scholar Team and were named Scholar Athletes by both the NCCAA and the NCFA. The Lady Hawks are currently ranked No. 1 in the country academically after posting a fall semester team grade point average of 3.8195.
Shorter’s head softball coach Al Thomas said the students’ accomplishments are especially impressive considering the length and intensity of their schedule. “Fastpitch softball has both a fall and a spring season; the spring season begins Jan 11 and continues through May 20. These young ladies practice every day, play games every weekend, have a 60-game schedule and attend all scheduled class meetings. That equates to having only one day off – Easter Sunday – in 130 consecutive days.
“The expansive schedule these young ladies adhere to is grueling both mentally and physically which makes their accomplishments and success in the classroom, on the diamond, and in the community even more amazing. Carson and Abi, along with their teammates, are a blessing to coach and are a coach’s dream. Their dedication to detail, positive attitude, and their willingness to finish all tasks at hand will ensure their future success in all challenges and endeavors that may come their way.”
For Carson and Abi, those endeavors are likely to include careers in the education profession, and Dr. Norma Harper, dean of the School of Education, said the hard work, determination, and experience they have had as student athletes will serve them well. “It’s a pleasure to see the student athletes plan to take the life lessons they have learned on the field into the classroom to support student learning.”
Valdes said the support of mentors including Associate Professor of Education Dr. Kristy Brown and Coach Thomas have been instrumental in her success at Shorter – a fact with which she says her teammates would agree. “The difference they make in our lives is crucial. Take Kristy Brown for example. She travels with us a lot, does devotions with us, and takes time to pray over us. It is awesome to feel like it’s not just our families who are involved in supporting us.”
Other Lady Hawks softball players who are education majors include junior Kalie Kimbrell, of Chickamauga, Ga.; sophomore transfer Peyton Barthel, of Decatur, Ala.; sophomore Taylor Ann Oda, of Mililani, Hawaii; sophomore Hannah Draper, of Trinity, Ala.; and freshman Maddie Hunt, of Evans, Ga.
Their individual academic honors include:
- Kalei Kimbrell: Shorter Dean List Recipient 2014, 2015; NCCAA All Academic Team 2014, 2015; NCCAA Scholar Athlete 2014, 2015; Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll 2014, 2015; NFCA Scholar Team 2014, 2015; and NFCA Scholar Athlete 2014, 2015.
- Peyton Barthel: JSU Dean’s List Recipient; OVC Scholar Athlete 2015; and NFCA Scholar Athlete 2015.
- Taylor Ann Oda: Shorter Dean List Recipient 2015; NCCAA All Academic Team 2015; Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll 2015; and NFCA Scholar Team 2015.
- Carson Carriker: Shorter Dean List Recipient 2015; NCCAA All Academic Team 2015; NCCAA Scholar Athlete 2015; Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll 2015; NFCA Scholar Team 2015; and NFCA Scholar Athlete 2015.
- Abi Valdes: Shorter Dean List Recipient 2015; NCCAA All Academic Team 2015; NCCAA Scholar Athlete 2015; Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll 2015; NFCA Scholar Team 2015; and NFCA Scholar Athlete 2015.
- Hannah Draper: Shorter Dean List Recipient 2015; NCCAA All Academic Team 2015; NCCAA Scholar Athlete 2015; Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll 2015; NFCA Scholar Team 2015; and NFCA Scholar Athlete 2015.
- Maddie Hunt: Greenbrier High School 4.0 GPA and High Honor Roll all four years.
The Lady Hawks begin their 2016 season on Feb. 5 against Palm Beach Atlantic University and face Christian Brothers University for their home opener on Feb. 13 with games at 1 and 3 p.m.
Founded in 1873, Shorter University is a Christ-centered, four-year liberal arts university committed to excellence in education. The Princeton Review annually includes Shorter on its list of best Southeastern Colleges. Shorter is a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). The university offers traditional bachelor’s degrees in 40 areas of study, online courses and degree programs, undergraduate programs for working adults, and four master’s programs. Learn more about Shorter at www.shorter.edu.