Travel to South Africa. Check. Swim with sharks. Check. Play softball in a large stadium in a foreign nation. Check. Impact children while teaching the game you love. Another Check. What more could Concordia junior-to-be Michaela Woodward want?
Says Woodward, “I thought it would be an opportunity of a lifetime so I went for it.” So how’s your summer going?
The native of Cortland, Neb., had never before ventured outside of the country, but there she was this past June mingling with 10-foot great white sharks in the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Scared? Nah. Said Woodward, “We went into the caves and had sharks swimming around us. That was pretty awesome.”
The first team all-conference performer was granted such opportunity thanks to a program called the South Africa Softball Tour, put on by Beyond Sports in partnership with the Cape Town Softball Association. Woodward traveled along with former Bulldog teammate Julia Tyree and several other collegiate softball players for a stay that lasted from June 19 through July 1.
Most rewarding for Woodward was her time spent teaching local youths through free clinics.
“The camps were a lot of fun,” Woodward said. “The kids were so eager to learn. They just didn’t know about softball. They were asking us why we were there. We were like, ‘Oh, we’re playing softball.’ They would respond, ‘We didn’t know they played softball down here.’ It’s cool to branch out the sport and get people to learn about it. Some of them were really good.”
Woodward and the other travelers were treated with the chance to play at Turfhall Softball Stadium, a 3,000-seat pavilion located in Athlone, Cape Town. Woodward played in three games while showcasing her pitching talents that Bulldog softball fans have witnessed over the past two years.
Softball was only a portion of the excursion, which offered the opportunity to soak up South African culture. Woodward and her companions visited Robben Island, the Castle of Good Hope, District 6 Museum, hiked Table Mountain and enjoyed a Big Game Safari.
Of course the food was a departure from home cooking.
“The food was a little bit different,” Woodward said. “They eat rice with just about everything and have a lot of salad and a lot of juice. It was pretty good. One day after a game we had what was basically their barbecue. After I was about done eating, someone was like, ‘How was the lamb?’ I was like, ‘Uh, what?’ I had no idea that it was lamb. It was different. It was good.”
Living accommodations were exceptional for the group, which stayed about 45 minutes away from the stadium. Woodward described the location as a welcoming place where everyone was “super nice.”
Woodward says she would be open to doing something similar in the future. Many aspects of the journey opened the eyes of the biology major, who made new friends and developed a greater appreciation for the advantages she’s been afforded back home in Nebraska.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” Woodward said. “I did a hitting station and we had three separate tees. We didn’t have very many balls. We had two balls per tee with probably four kids at a tee. Resources were limited. We can’t take for granted what we have at Concordia.”
She also won’t take for granted the unique adventure in South Africa. Said Woodward, “Everyone was super excited to be there and super excited to play softball. We all really enjoyed each other.”
More can be learned about Beyond Sports tours by visiting www.beyondsportstours.com.