07/07/09 — MOC players enjoy YES clinic

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MOC players enjoy YES clinic

By MOC Sports Information
Published in Sports on July 7, 2009 1:46 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. - For the second year in a row, Mount Olive head softball coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham and members of the Trojan softball team participated in the NCAA YES Clinic at the Women's College World Series. Rising senior Allison Czerski and rising sophomore Katie Nalley joined Kylis-Higginbotham for the Youth Education in Sports Clinic, held in conjunction with the Division I Softball National Championship at Oklahoma City, Okla.

The YES Clinic was the second for Kylis-Higginbotham and the first for Czerski and Nalley. Jenny Jackson and Kelly Minshew participated in last year's clinic.

Czerski and Nalley were assigned a group of 10-year-olds and walked ("Or in some cases, ran," said Czerski) them to different stations for hitting, defense, base running and life skills. Czerski, who's known on campus as "Z," says she and Nalley wanted to establish a rapport with their kids beyond softball instruction.

"As each girl came to our group, we'd ask their name and ask them questions other than the obvious of what position they play," said Czerski, a third baseman from Charleston, S.C. "It seems like they all planned to go to college at Oklahoma, Alabama or Arizona, so I guess they'll be teammates someday."

Besides Czerski and Nalley helping their group with softball, the kids also taught the Trojan players a new game called "No Tag Backs."

"It was fun," said Czerski, "but it turned out to be pretty complicated for poor Katie. She was always it."

Along with being "it," Nalley's stature was also a hit with her group. At 5-foot-3 and of slim build, Nalley wasn't much bigger than the kids she was instructing, something that may have given the kids some inspiration.

"I think they related to me because I was pretty much their size," said Nalley, a second baseman from Bowie, Md. "I know when I was younger, I always looked up to the smaller girls who were good ballplayers. It gave me hope, and I thought maybe I can actually play ball in college."

Both Nalley and Czerski started virtually every game for Mount Olive in 2009.

In addition to the clinic, Nalley and Czerski were able to attend the games at the WCWS. Both agree that television doesn't do justice compared to watching the championship in person.

"I'll always remember walking into the stadium and looking down at that beautiful field," said Nalley. "It was also a great learning experience studying how the top players in the nation play their positions."

Czerski says she was able to watch parts of the game as a spectator that she doesn't get to see when she's playing.

"One of the cool parts about being there was getting to look at everyone," said Czerski. "I didn't have to stare at the pitcher or the batter, I could watch everybody else on the field too and notice the different styles and positioning of the defenses. I could also see the emotions that you don't always see on the television. All of that makes them look more human. Also, they are so not as big or tall in person!"

Czerski and Nalley both appreciated the fact that even at the Division I championship, the players were indeed human and made mistakes.

"Sometimes seeing an error or knowing errors are still possible on that level keeps the game exciting," said Czerski. "No matter how much somebody practices, a bobble or overthrow can still happen."

"Watching the championship in person kind of humanized the players," said Nalley. "You see that even the best make errors."

As for the most memorable moment of the World Series, Nalley could answer in two words: grand slams.

"So many of the games came down to home runs and grand slams, it was incredible" said Nalley. "I'd have to say hands down the most exciting moment was Florida beating Alabama in the last inning with a walk-off grand slam." The walk-off grand slam eliminated Alabama and sent Florida to the championship series.

Rather than recalling one play, Czerski says she was especially impressed with one of the participating teams.

"I think Georgia put up a good fight. There were a few games where they just seemed to come out of nowhere with the win," said Czerski. "The 9-8 win against Washington was incredible. It ended on a walk in the ninth inning and I think there were four home runs in that game. It was just an awesome game to see because both teams kept fighting and every inning we had no idea what was going to happen." Washington eliminated Georgia in the next game and defeated Florida twice to win the national championship.

Both Czerski and Nalley say their experiences at the YES Clinic and the World Series are something they won't soon forget.

"It was beyond fun! It was such a great experience 'Z' and I got to be a part of," said Nalley. "It was definitely one of the most memorable things I have ever done."