Adam Dunivan/ BoCoPreps.com
Adam Dunivan / BoCoPreps.com
Ask Silver Creek head coach Ryan Beavers what area of Colorado has the best talent and passion for softball, and there’s not a second of hesitation.
For Beavers — and yes, there is ample evidence to back it up — the counties of Boulder and Broomfield leave everyone else in the diamond dust.
In order to keep that tradition alive, though, Beavers and a number of other high school coaches around the area have realized they have they opportunity to reach kids at a pretty young age — a chance to make an impression beyond just teaching the fundamentals of a sport that they love.
Creating relationships between some of the current high school athletes on their rosters and those in youth leagues and feeder programs are at the heart of the free clinic that Beavers has helped put together for the past 12 years.
What used to be an event put on by Beavers and the coaches at Niwot — including April Martinez and Bobby Martinez — has now extended to any coach in the area willing to take a little bit of time and energy on a random day in the off-season to reach out to the players within the Niwot Youth Sports softball program and the Indian Peaks Girls Softball Association.
“Broomfield to Fort Collins is the best softball in the state in my humble opinion, so right in this pocket, when you have so much good softball — promoting it when they’re young, hopefully they’ll be in these same uniforms some day,” Beavers said on Wednesday after wrapping up the clinic, which had around 87 girls in attendance from ages 6-12. “That’s kind of the theory behind the whole thing.
“We’re always trying to beat each other on the field, but off the field we’re all friendly and we all want the same thing — for softball in our area to continue to be a strong presence in Colorado.”
Players and coaches from Erie, Mead, Longmont, Brighton, Broomfield, Legacy, and Frederick have joined the cause along with representatives from the Raptors and Cougars.
What was a bit unique, though, is that it was the high school players themselves running many of the instructional stations. In many instances, rivals on the field during the prep season were seen coming together to help a group of girls work on their glove placement on a pop fly, how to bunt a teammate over or even how to spin a rise ball.
“What’s really cool is to see the athletes come out and be supportive,” Beavers said.
The clinic has been a hit ever since its inception, and now it’s bringing girls back to coach that may have participated as a camper years before.
Silver Creek junior Brooke Wager was eager to come back, remembering the kind of advice imparted on her when she was younger and trying to direct that back to girls who may be the next great players in BoCo.
“I grew up through Niwot Youth Sports, so I remember when I started to come to this camp around age 8,” Wager said. “Softball to me isn’t about a sport, but it’s about building a team and building bonds. Relationships are important.
“Playing high school ball now for Silver Creek, and seeing Legacy here and other teams … it’s cool to see that we can come together despite our rivalries and help teach the kids to love the sport and love their teammates.”
There’s a lot to like about the environment. First of all, it takes place right at the time when many youth leagues get their seasons going for the spring and summer. Kids who come to the clinic will be able to take what they learned in two hours and work on those fundamentals for an entire season with it fresh in their minds.
Second, there was enough volunteers to make sure the girls got a lot of individual attention. And for Glenn Wager, the director of NYS softball, that goes a long way.
“To me, part of growing the sport is learning to love it, and for these girls I think seeing all the older girls that are involved in it gives them a good foundation to build on,” Glenn Wager said. “It makes an impression.”
Though softball is what is being promoted, Beavers said he felt there are many more reasons to attend the camp.
“The honest truth is … a percentage of the girls we see will go on to play soccer, or volleyball, or drama or music,” Beavers added. “That they’re getting out and doing something active is the point, and softball is just something we happen to be passionate about as coaches. We want to give something back to the community.”