Maggie Ballentine ’23 knew that the softball season was over as soon as she heard her coach’s phone ring. It was March 29, and the softball team was practicing in the snow, listening to music over the loudspeaker courtesy of head coach Tiffany Ozbun’s phone, when the sound of an incoming call interrupted the tunes. Any lingering doubts were erased when Ozbun actually picked up. “She never takes calls during practice,” says Ballentine.
There was immediate grief, mostly for the seniors, who would miss out on their final season and whose leadership the rest of the team would sorely miss. But as the team regrouped in the fall, they made due, first creating player pods—infielders, outfielders, pitchers and catchers—in a first phase, and then gradually easing into more rigorous all-team workouts. They even got to play their annual Tradition Cup, an intrasquad series. Being on the field again was a welcome relief, but the weight room was the team’s pumping heart. “Our lifts are like nothing else,” says Ballentine: Music blaring, teammates cheering each other on, hard work with positive vibes.
Even without the prospect of real games last year—and remaining uncertainty about the spring 2021 season—Ballentine says that the team’s tight culture is a huge motivating factor. But, as she outlines below, there are also individual habits that help keep her ready for whatever the future might hold—and might offer guidance to anyone looking to develop healthy habits.
FIND A WORKOUT PARTNER
Ballentine has worked out with her younger brothers for years. “We have a park by my house with a sledding hill, and we’ve worn down a path,” she says with a laugh. The competitive aspect helps: At home, she usually lifts weights with her brothers, both high school athletes. “They’re just young enough that we’re still competitive on the weights. In a couple more years, they will surpass me—but that will happen when it happens.”
“I’ve wanted to play college softball since I was four years old,” says Ballentine. “And that was the motivating factor for the majority of my life.” Having achieved that goal, she’s set a new one: Winning championships. But there are smaller objectives, too. “That’s something that our coach talks about—game goals for every game, where we want to get so many stolen bases, or we want to get so many doubles,” Ballentine says. And she knows there is a direct line between the workouts and results on the field. “So, saying this extra set of squats is going to make it so that I can steal that base, or if I bench more, I can throw that ball an extra five feet. We know that being able to push ourselves in the weight room is going to make us better softball players.”
BUILD A ROUTINE
Ballentine is the rare college student who schedules her courses as early as possible, with a daily 8 a.m. class. She tries to get all her homework done after lunch so that she can focus on the afternoon’s team workout—and that routine starts before she even gets to the gym, with all of her sophomore teammates meeting up outside her dorm and walking down together. “We have made being together part of our routine,” Ballentine says.