For the girls on Compton Unified School District’s (CUSD) varsity softball teams the upcoming season is a new opportunity to prove they can compete with the best.
Determined to improve on past seasons, the Compton, Dominguez, and Centennial teams are working harder than ever to improve.
Dominguez High School’s softball coach John Shapiro said that while he wants his athletes to sharpen their skills, he also wants them to succeed academically.
"It's a privilege as a coach to see them succeed both on and off the field. When you see them struggle but they finally realize what works and it clicks, and they succeed at it...that's great to see," he said.
"My objective is to bring a winning mentality. We have a young team here so I expect a good future. I am definitely on them about their grades. The league says you have to have at least a 2.5 GPA to play sports. I like to push them harder."
Coach Shapiro, who has coached different boys and girls teams over the past seven years, said the girls on Dominguez High's softball team show a lot of grit.
"Softball is definitely a different nature. I also coach boys football, but in my experience the girls are usually tougher. These girls are more committed, have more camaraderie, and work harder," he said. "They're putting in the hard work now, so it should pay off."
Dominguez High 10th-grader Ariana Olide, who plays second base, said she looks forward to proving herself as an important part of her team.
"I just started playing softball last year. I hope we win as many games as we can. We want trophies," she said. "I really love playing softball. My brother plays baseball, so that's what motivated me to try this sport. Oh, and I really want to win games."
Ninth grade shortstop Celeste Valencia said she loves playing softball for Dominguez High School and hopes the team can win important games.
"Softball takes a lot of team work and determination," she said. "Our coaches are passionate about the sport and make us work hard."
For Celeste, it is also important to have her school community supporting the team at home and away.
"Having support at our games, having people rooting for us...that motivates us to play better," she said. "When it comes to home games we have people here cheering us on. It helps a lot."
Coach Briana Rhodes is focused on strengthening Compton High’s softball team’s confidence as they head into the new season.
"This is my first year coaching the team. I hope to get the program up and running. The team had just won its first game in a long time in a preseason match against Morningside High School," she said.
"The girls have a lot of optimism, so they're learning and practicing. I have a few girls who come in the morning to work on their skills. I think our strength is in pitching right now. There's a few short stop and third base players who are showing potential."
"We're getting better. We won our first game in a long time. It felt awesome," she said. "Our coach is showing us new techniques and plays. Softball is my life. I just love it."
Yensi added that all girls should get involved in sports to stay active and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
"It's important to be active in any kind of sport. It doesn't have to be softball."
Second base player Leticia Osuna (left), 10th grade, said the team has been working hard to become a better team that can compete.
"I played last year for Compton High's junior varsity team. Our preseason win against Morningside High School was very encouraging for us. It's really good because it shows a progression for our team, especially with our coach who is teaching us a lot. We're still learning and still improving," she said.
For centerfielder Stephanie Vidal (right), 11th grade, it is also important to have students and staff cheering for the team at their upcoming games.
"Without support you have no one to boost you up, you're just there on the field," she noted. "It's good to know you're playing not only for yourself and your team, but for your school."
Stephanie added that in the meantime, she and her teammates are learning everything they can from their new coach.
"Our coach is amazing. She doesn't only want us to play better, but she also wants us to believe in ourselves."
Click the following links to view each softball team's season schedule: