Former players of the Canadian Open fastpitch championship many years ago, coaches Joni Frei and Dani Damel are getting their excited group of athletes prepared to play in the largest women’s-only sporting event in B.C. this year.
Both of their teams — the Okanagan Elite Gold Showcase Gold (U16) and Futures Gold (U18) — will be competing for the very first time from July 9 to 17 at Softball City in the same fastball championship Frei and Damel once played in.
Frei, who both starred as a player and also coached at the NCAA level, last year moved from Georgia back to Kelowna, the place where she grew up.
With a concept in mind to start a program for athletes to pursue their dreams and train them to be the best they can be, Joni called friend and former teammate Dani and asked if she wanted to be an assistant coach for these teams and she couldn’t resist.
Damel moved up to Kelowna from Langley with her boyfriend to start this dream. This is the first time their teams will be competing in the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship in Surrey.
“We’re very excited and proud to have our teams participate in such a prestigious event as the Canadian Open,” said Frei. “I know that both Dani and I agree that some of our greatest softball highlights and memories include competing and participating in this tournament. Softball City is our old stomping grounds and to have our athletes enjoy and share in the same experiences that we have had at these same fields means so much to us.
“In fact, it’s being able to share experiences like these with our girls that inspire us to commit our lives to coaching, teaching, and mentoring them.”
Frei and Damel also started a brand new academy, Beyond the White Lines, to train athletes and coaches that want to pursue high level training in Kelowna.
They will be flying in coaches from top teams in the States to participate in this academy.
Joni and Dani are inspirational coaches and are proud of their four athletes from their team to fundraise at the Shave for the Brave event.
Alexa Brickenden, Madison Wilms (both U-16), Brittany Smith, Kassie Keir (both U-18) each shaved their heads, and raised close to $3,000.