NCAA players, coaches teach next generation at women's World Series

Friday, June 3, 2011 | 8:41 p.m. CDT; updated 11:31 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 16, 2011
University of Kansas softball volunteer assistant coach Sara Ramirez demonstrates to a group of teen girls how to perform a bunt during the youth clinic taking place outside the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium before the 6pm game on Friday, June 3, 2011.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Outside of Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame Stadium, the site of the Women’s College World Series, Sarah Ramirez stood, bat in hand. Ramirez, a volunteer assistant coach for Kansas softball, talked through instructions on how to lay down a sacrifice bunt.

“On the sacrifice bunt, we always want to get the ball down and in fair territory,” Ramirez said.

Just footsteps away from softball’s largest stage, Ramirez taught some of its smallest fans the fundamentals of the game.

Ramirez is one of 13 coaches from across the country who made the trip to Oklahoma City to contribute to youth softball clinics put on by the NCAA Department of Student-Athlete Affairs. The coaches, along with two student athletes from each of their programs, volunteered to teach children about the game.

The half-hour clinics on the scaled-down Capital One Field during the WCWS Fan Festival are just a small part of the NCAA’s educational effort. Friday morning, the committee put on an event in conjunction with the Oklahoma Special Olympics, which more than 20 Special Olympics participants took part in. The committee will also host events Saturday and Sunday at the Putnam City Optimist Sports Club.

Cari Klecka, the NCAA director of educational programs, said about 400 children registered for Saturday’s event. Klecka and her department set out to put together a program that goes beyond softball skills.

“It’s an opportunity not only to engage the kids in skill development of the sport, but they’re engaged in nutrition and being a good sport,” Klecka said. “Those kinds of things, which are essential to thinking about student-athletes and the positive student-athlete experience and what feeds into that.”

The programs also offer children the chance to interact and learn from role models in the sport. Kansas pitcher and outfielder Alex Jones said she remembers looking up to college softball players at similar events as a child.

“I used to come to things like this when I was little,” Jones said. “I looked up to all those college players so much because that’s what I wanted to be.”

For her teammate Marissa Ingle, working with aspiring softball players serves as a reminder of how she reached the sport’s highest college level.

“It makes you realize that was you one day and that your hard work paid off,” Ingle said. “You work 24 hours a day, softball, softball, softball, and you make it to the highest level possible. You see these girls working toward it, and it kind of takes you back.”

As the festival came to a close, Jones and Ingle posed for pictures with some of the girls who participated in their clinic. Ramirez, who played four years of softball at Kansas prior to coaching, stood along the fence. She spoke with an aspiring softball player’s father about how to make it to the college level.

“I’m so blessed that I can even tell another parent how to go about it,” Ramirez said. “It’s just a blessing for me to be able to come out here and help another girl come fill my shoes.”

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