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Posted May 1, 2012, 9:59 am
While University of Arizona’s Chelsea Goodacre seems calm and poised, she cannot hide the disappointment in her voice.
“It’s been my dream ever since I started playing softball. I always dreamed of playing for Team USA, winning a gold medal,” Goodacre said. “I think that’s everyone’s dream when they first start playing."
Goodacre, the freshman catcher and former USA Junior National Team member, is one of thousands of women who had their dreams dashed when the International Olympic Committee decided to eliminate softball from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The sport also failed to get back on the program for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
“We had thought we had done everything in our powers to be able to show them that number one, softball would draw and it was competitive,” said Mike Candrea, two-time National Team head coach. Candrea coached Team USA to a gold medal in Athens in 2004 and a silver in Beijing in 2008, as well as eight national championships for Arizona.
“We just really got caught by surprise,” Candrea said.
Softball was played in the Olympics from 1996 through 2008. The United States won three gold medals and a silver, making it to the finals in all four Olympics.
Candrea blames softball’s exclusion on fundamental differences between Europe and the United States. Belgian born Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, lobbied for the inclusion of golf and rugby in the summer games, forcing the committee to exclude what became baseball and softball. Rogge is a former member of the Belgian Rugby National team.
“The future to life after NCAA softball ... there really isn’t much,” said Arizona assistant coach Stacy Iveson, who was instrumental in developing Olympic pitchers like Jennie Finch.
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Alicia Hollowell, director of UA softball, knows exactly what it means to represent her country. Hollowell was a member of the national team from 2005 to 2008, playing in Beijing as an alternate.
“The Olympics is always the pinnacle. It is the highest level that you could achieve,” Hollowell said. “So many little girls will not have the chance to wear USA across their chest and stand on a medal podium. It is really disappointing.”
The creation of a professional softball league has helped to soften the blow for some. National Pro Fastpitch was created in 2004 and has four teams in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Illinois.
“I hope it will infuse professional softball,” Arizona State head coach Clint Myers said. Myers, a baseball convert, has led the Sun Devils to two NCAA National Championships, most recently in 2011. “I hope they [NPF] end up with 10 or 12 teams.
While softball may be down for the count, it is not out for good. Members of the International Softball Federation, along with members of baseball’s governing body, met with the IOC to discuss the merger of the two federations in hopes of gaining inclusion in the 2020 summer games. The IOC will add one more sport to the 2020 games and the sport will be decided by a vote in September 2013.
While the NPF may be a dream for some, Goodacre is not optimistic.
“It’s kind of hard coming into college, and then you’re a senior ... and that’s all we get. There is no real future in fast pitch,” she said.
“It’s been my dream ever since I started playing softball. Always dreamed of playing for the USA, winning a gold medal, being like Jennie [Finch]. I think that’s everyone’s dream when they first start playing,” Goodacre said.