Softball has given a lot to Joni Frei and Dani Damel.
Now the two local coaches are doing their utmost to return the favour.
Frei and Damel have been selected to lead the Canadian team at the Adidas Futures College Showcase next July in St. George’s, Utah.
The tournament will feature 500 to 700 players between the ages of 14 and 18 who will audition their talents for college coaches and scouts from across North America.
“This is an opportunity for girls to chase their dreams, to see the possibilities that are out there for scholarships,” said Frei, a native of Kelowna who played and coached softball at the NCAA level. “This is a five day tourney with some of the best coaches in North America. It will be tremendous exposure for the girls who make our team.”
Frei and Damel will take a squad of 12 to 14 players with them to Utah, with a maximum of five of those coming from B.C.
Frei said that number could potentially include a player or two from right here in the Okanagan.
After earning an education and enjoying a successful playing career at Georgia College and State, Frei gained extensive coaching experience over several years in the NCAA.
She returned to Kelowna two years ago with the goal of growing girls softball in the Okanagan, while also exposing young players to the many softball opportunities available—including regional, provncial, national, collegiate (NCAA and NAIA) and professional teams.
With that in mind, Frei founded Beyond the White Lines Softball Academy.
She is also the head coach of the Okanagan Elite Gold Softball program where players 12 to 18 years of age play on A level teams. In addition delivering top level instruction, Frei and her staff try provide the girls with the resources and guidance to help them move on to a higher level.
“Our whole goal is to create awareness of what’s out there for girls,” said Frei. “I have two degrees and I’ve seen the world…it’s because of softball. We want other girls to have a good, pure experience like we did. Softball is merely the vehicle to do it.”
Damel, a former pitcher at Texas A & M-Corpus Christi and professional player in Denmark, moved to Kelowna from the Lower Mainland this year to help Frei realize her vision.
“College gave us what we needed, kept us out of trouble, made us the people we are today and gave us rules to live by,” said Damel. “We want other girls to have the same opportunities, help B.C. and Canadian athletes to realize what’s possible. I jumped on Joni’s bandwagon.”
And for Frei, it’s a way to say thank you to the game that shaped her life.
“I owe a lot to softball. I’m doing it for the love of the game, it’s certainly not the money,” she said with a laugh. “Hopefully we can continue to grow the sport and help girls move on to bigger and better things.”
For more information on the Adidas Futures College Showcase, visit www.adidasfutures.com
For more on the Okanagan Elite Gold Softball Association, go to: