Rochester Softball on the Rebound
As part of the National Girls and Women in Sport Day celebration across Minnesota, and the U.S., the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is running a three-part series to celebrate the role that sports have in the lives of women and girls in our communities around the state. At www.mcacsports.org a team, a coach/administrator and an athlete are featured to bring attention to this important day. With hundreds of student-athletes, dozens of teams and almost 30 women in key coaching and sport administration roles in the MCAC, it would be impossible to highlight every great story around the league. We hope our fans, friends and followers of the MCAC enjoy our feature stories and be sure to use our social media feeds on Twitter and Facebook to post and tweet in telling the stories of women and girls in sport in your MCAC community and campus.
Rochester Softball on the Rebound
The 2017 spring softball season was tough for RCTC last year; several different factors combined to create a situation in which the Yellowjackets were unable to field a team to compete in the MCAC Southern Division. However, with the leadership of newly hired head coach Cori Ronnenberg, Rochester looks poised to return to the ranks of the MCAC in pursuit of a softball title.
For Coach Ronnenberg, one of the best ways to show that RCTC Softball is back is by giving back to their community. When she recently accepted the coaching position at RCTC, Ronnenberg felt it was imperative the players knew that winning was not all there was to accomplish; there would be life lessons and experiences along the way.
Ronnenberg notes: "Without question, it has been a daunting and tough task to rebuild the program while molding positive, hard working, dedicated ladies. However, I believed it important that they learn about giving back to their community, building relationships, getting a good education, and making memories they will carry forth into the rest of their lives." The RCTC mentor goes on to say, "Within the short 3-4 months we have been together, a wonderful family has emerged, as well as a foundation for the future of the RCTC Softball program. Our ladies have really bought into the system and process of rebuilding, and understand the sometimes- uphill climb of not only regaining sport status at the school, but garnering respect and notability from the surrounding community."
Several examples exist of the new Yellowjacket culture taking shape. In the fall, RCTC opened up the semester by hosting a "rent an athlete" fundraiser, in which members of the community "rented" the players to clean, paint, move heavy items and perform yard work. The department received nothing but rave reviews and citizens proved eager to get to know the faces and names of RCTC's new queens of the diamond. Additionally, over a month of Sundays were donated to the Rochester Youth Fastpitch Softball Association's (RYFSA) Youth Softball Clinic, in which RCTC was instrumental in helping 100 girls learn the basic skills of the game. As fall semester completed, Rochester used Christmas break as a way to get together as a team to paint and send remembrance rocks to the U.S. soldiers stationed in Kuwait. Other events have included speaking engagements with local high school athletic teams and Clubs, and attending the Rochester Sports Banquet.
Even with the start the 2018 spring season, Yellowjacket softball maintained their off-the-field service by volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, a home-away-from-home for families seeking medical care for their children. With Coach Ronnenberg connecting with Volunteer Coordinator, and sharing her story, Rochester CTC was able to get in before the season started. RCTC student-athletes served dinner, played games, and signed softballs. Perhaps best of all, the team spent time meeting the wonderful children and their families. Ronnenberg reports: "As head coach, I can speak to what these types of efforts mean to the families and children battling illness. A few years ago, my 14 year old niece, Alysta, was diagnosed with and treated for cancer; the efforts of volunteers and inspirational role models provided her the impetus upon which to get well. The team was humbled by the life-changing experience, and grateful that they could make a difference in the lives of the families encountered. RCTC plans on honoring a child and their family during some home games in 2018 as well."
RCTC's new look softball team also has an focus on career and personal development for their players. Most recently, RCTC had four of it's players attend the NFL Women's Summit in Minneapolis during Super Bowl weekend. They had the golden opportunity of listening and meeting some amazing female role models, and learning how they have made an impact in the world around them through sports. It is unknown if the Yellowjackets were pulling for New England or Philadelphia in the big game; it is certain that the trip was an important teaching moment for some of their athletes.
Coach Ronnenberg reflected to MCAC sports recently: "Rebuilding in any sport involves a confluence of factors which extends beyond fielding a group of ladies willing to play; it involves forming that group into a team and establishing an identity that goes beyond that of the individual. From this extends a desire to be successful not only for oneself, but for the good of the team. These service efforts will benefit the ladies on the field, and well into their respective futures, whether it be as an athlete continuing on in collegiate athletics and studies or forging their own way in today's workplace environment." The first-year mentor also wanted to be sure and thank the current Yellowjacket Captains, Breanna Burr, Tiffany Martins, Kylie Ahl, who have helped with all these activities and have been a big part of getting their program back in the right direction.
In conclusion, Ronnenberg had this to say about her new team and the path they are forging for themselves: "We hope to hold these service functions - and more, with each successive season as we continue to rebuild RCTC into what will hopefully be a NJCAA staple for on- and off-the-field success. We would encourage more players, teams and collegiate programs to not not only meet the community within which they compete, but engage in mutually beneficial service activities. In the sport of life, it is a win-win situation!"