Your inside access to the Delaware State University softball team. Posts from coaches, players and support staff.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hornets Softball Teams Up With Army ROTC

On the first week back from Winter Break, the DSU Softball Team encountered their first challenge of the season (The DSU Army ROTC). These two Hornet organizations teamed up for Basic Training which focused on team cohesion, excellence, leadership, and mental toughness. The girls learned a lot about themselves, each other and what it takes to accomplish a common goal together. Tasks throughout the week challenged them in their ability to fight through adversity, problem solve, communicate and hold each other accountable.  Each day held a different set of challenges that the Hornets had to overcome together. Below is an account of their adventure.

Day 1: D-Day

Day 1 was a shock to the Hornets. None of them knew what to expect or what was going to happen. The whole day was used to push the players past what they thought they were capable of. The Army Cadets taught the team basic military formations, how to stretch to a cadence, and other military commands.  They were pushed physically through a series of exercises that would challenge their endurance, focus and resilience.

When asked about her expectations, senior third baseman, Jordan Stamps responded "I expected it to be challenging because they are the army and nothing is easy about that. I expected to be pushed hard and treated as one of them".

"After Day 1 I realized that I had more mental strength than I thought I had.The ROTC cadets forced me to get out of my comfort zone" said junior pitcher, Tara Tursellino.

Day 2: Mental Endurance 

Day 2 posed a brand new challenge for the Hornets. Not only were they still adjusting to the regimen of ROTC, but also endure the harsh cold weather. The girls stepped up to the plate and faced the cold and the physical exercises head on. Starting with a 100 yard suicide the girl dominated the day, completing a series of team pushups, more sprints, 150 team setups and more. The Hornets and cadets learned the importance of pulling their own weight, how to pick up the slack of others, and that no one can be left behind.

Commenting on the day, senior Rocky Sablay stated "I learned that when times are tough you have your teammates there to help you out and encourage you, but you also have to do the same for them". Sophomore, Jess Shalongo added that "moving forward, I know that my teammates are relying on me to get the job done, therefore I cannot let them down"

Day 3: Communication

Day 3 required the Hornets to rely heavily on communication. Nicole Brock and Nicole Gazzola were up first, and were faced with the challenge of leading the cadets through military formation and stretching in cadence. Though the pressure was on, when it was their moment to step up and lead they endured and overcame adversity. The team then worked in groups to accomplish three different tasks. 1. Tug of war against the Army (Softball won). 2. Tire Flips across the field.  3 Push a 2.5 ton truck across the field. The team a lot about pulling their weight, that each task would require all of them to be all in and committed to accomplishing the task. If one let up, then it would make it impossible to complete the task. They learned about momentum, communication, and being relentless in their pursuit of accomplishing the goal.

Freshmen Sabrina Quarles had this to say after day three. "After the first two days, I had no idea what to expect. I knew it would be tough and we would have to work together as a team in order to succeed and have a successful day during training".

Additionally, transfer sophomore, Haley Jones said, "I learned that it can be really motivating to uplift each other when struggling or even being successful. Also, communication is essential when working in groups to help each other out when giving directions or leading".

Day 4: Competitive Team Building 

Day 4 required senior catcher Sandy Hawthorne and junior pitcher Tara Tursellino to command the team through the stretches while giving cadences.The Hornets got off to a slow start this morning and learned that if they were going to dominate the day, they would have to focus on taking it one step at a time, as exhaustion started to creep in. As the cadets led the team through a series of exercises the team learned that together they could endure anything and the true meaning of mental toughness. The day ended with a competitive game of Ultimate Football. The Lady Hornets persevered and came through with the come from behind victory over the ROTC cadets. The Hornets worked on their competitive edge along with their leadership skills to complete the day motivated and ready to finish the week off strong.

Senior outfielders, Nicole Gazzola and Nkili Matthews-Blue were asked how they thought the team was handling basic training and what improvements have they made. Gazzola replied, "by day four, I think we were more mentally prepared and mentally tough since we knew what the previous days were like. We were able to grow from the experience and past mistakes. We also knew that it was going to take the whole team's effort and support to accomplish the tasks". "I think by day four we were comfortable and much more cohesive as a team than on day one. We grew closer and knew the only way we were going to get through it all was if we did it together" said Matthews-Blue.

Day 5: Team Building: Putting It All Together

On Saturday, the team was put to their final challenges. They were given five different problem solving tasks to complete for time.  The first challenge involved communication and trust. They had to select one leader to lead their blindfolded teammates to build a shelter that would cover one of them with sticks, rope, and a poncho. Each group decided to build their shelter a little differently, but all succeeded in making their shelter.

The second challenge would test their physical and mental strength, trust in each other, their resolve to finish and ability to support, motivate and encourage or push each other. Each team had to lift one another up and fasten them to a rope. While hanging upside down, each person had to take turns pulling themselves across the rope from one tree to the other. This task would be the most difficult task the Hornets faced that day, but even in adversity, the team came together and motivated each other to cross the rope.

The next two challenges required then to be creative and think outside the box to accomplish the task within the given time frame. One required the group to have one player hold an "ammo box" and traverse a "lake" without falling in. The team sacrificed themselves to make a human bridge for the ammo carrier to walk across. The second resulted in the players standing inside a tire, armed with a grappling hook as the attempted to collect objects scattered around the field.

The fifth and final station required strength, communication, and problem solving skills. Each team member had a rope attached to very heavy "toxic waste". Each team had to get the waste out of a tire container, carry it across the field and get it into the ending tube. Again each team had different ideas of how the get the waste from one side to the other. This day allowed the Hornets to demonstrate all of the skills they learned over the week to become one successful unit.

"The toughest challenge was the tree bridge because it was physically difficult to do". - Vanessa Washington

"The biggest challenge for me was not knowing the entire plan, just doing what they told me."- Nicole Brock

"My group learned to put the team before yourself during times of adversity".- Khaliyah Flournory

"The biggest lesson the team learned over the week was that in order to succeed at anything, we must work together as a whole".- Danielle Velez

This week challenged the girls in ways they have never seen before. They rose to the challenge and succeeded in everything they tried. They were willing to learn and give their all for their teammates.

"I'm very proud of the girls.  I wanted our players to be put in a unknown, uncomfortable, and stressful environment, one that would require them to come together as a team, to overcome and endure whatever comes their way. The ROTC created that environment and more. As a team we made huge strides towards the ultimate goal which is for them to have the courage to pursue and achieve excellence as a family, as Hornet sisters" Coach Jackson.

Congratulations to the following Hornets who were voted as team Captains.

Senior- Nkili Matthews-Blue (OF)
Junior- Nicole Brock (P,SS)


Junior- Tara Tursellino (P)
Junior- Danielle Velez (2nd,OF)

Be on the look out for more updates on your DSU Hornets Softball Team