Win or lose, Charlotte Stephan always has a family within her team

Charlotte+playing+softball

Charlotte Stephan

Charlotte playing softball

Attempting to contain her excessive giggles, junior Charlotte Stephan realized softball is so much more than winning and losing.

Of course, receiving that coveted first-place trophy at a tournament is a feeling that is unsurpassed. But the knowledge that regardless of what bold numbers show up on the scoreboard, Charlotte’s love for her team is much more than any win. 

Growing up, Charlotte attempted every sport in the book. From soccer to basketball to dance, she just couldn’t find her niche. That is, until first grade when she began softball. Her recollection of exactly why she started is vague, but it was the only sport that captured her love so much that it stuck. 

“I don’t really know how I got involved with [softball],” Charlotte said. “I think I saw it, and it just looked fun. I tried all the sports when I was little, and this was just the one that stuck.”

Although beginning her softball career playing recreationally at the YMCA, Charlotte quickly found herself being intertwined with the competitiveness and enjoyment of stepping up on multiple levels and playing club as well as school softball. 

From playing all over the diamond to taking her place on the pitcher’s mound, then to catcher, to centerfield, Charlotte was unsure where she would fit into the lineup for her new high school team. But, she was pleasantly surprised where she ended up—as her team’s starting shortstop. 

Along with claiming a starting spot, the only thing Charlotte had left to do was to select the number that would follow her for the next four years. Since she was little, number 24 has always followed her around like a stray puppy. The thin plastic letters taped to her back encompassed comfort. 

“It’s just always been,” said Charlotte, recounting why she happened to select this special number. “Growing up, I have always been number 24.”

When the high school season started, she ran into a slight dilemma. Number 24 wasn’t available. Opting for 11, which contains no specific meaning to her, Charlotte’s new identity was based on nothing. 

With her new position and number, Charlotte was ready for her season to begin. Training on and off at home since summer travel season had ended, her preparations were put to the test. To Charlotte, softball seems to come off as a relatively simple sport. As running bases is the only physical attribute that’s apparent, her practices seem simple to the eye, but that is nowhere near what supervenes. 

“There’s a lot of running,” Charlotte said. “I feel like it doesn’t seem like there would be that much, but at our practices, we have a ton of running and drills that we have to do over and over and over again, and we really never sit. We are just constantly going for two hours straight.”

Physical preparations are important to Charlotte, but her mentality before and during the game has an intense impact on her playing. 

“As soon as I make one mistake, it just stays in my head,” Charlotte said. “It keeps in my head, and I keep thinking about it, and it affects me, so I feel like I make more mistakes. So whenever that happens, I just make sure I drain it out of my brain and pretend it never happened.” 

Although softball can bring such struggles, she finds joy in her team and the relationships she has made with her teammates. Charlotte has created many incredible memories throughout the years, but there is one in particular that left her unable to stop laughing.

But we had a great bond that made it fun, no matter what happened.”

— Charlotte Stephan

“We were playing Zeeland West,” Charlotte said, “and our catcher—she’s really tiny, but she’s a really good catcher—[got trucked.] There was someone on third [base], and she was definitely bigger, and she just trucked our catcher. [The catcher] just flew back, and it was really funny. She was totally fine, so we were all allowed to laugh, and we won that game so it was even better.”

Throughout the years, Charlotte has experienced so many unforgettable memories in softball, from traveling to Kentucky for tournaments to meeting some of the best coaches in her entire life. But, the bond she had with her last year’s teammates was unparalleled in every way. 

“We weren’t the best team,” Charlotte said, “but we had a great bond that made it fun, no matter what happened.”