Gabriel Garcia | The Advocate & Democrat
Lady Vol softball player Hannah Akamine (right) speaks in front of a crowd June 13 at the Sweetwater Softball Complex.
|Published: 12:27 PM, 06/24/2013
Author: Gabriel Garcia
Source: The Monroe County Advocate
SWEETWATER вЂ” Tennessee softball player Hannah Akamine had much to impress on the young prospective players gathered on June 13 at the Sweetwater Softball Complex.
Especially one thing applicable to life as much as to playing.
"To get to where I am you have to work really hard in the classroom," said the rising junior catcher for the Lady Volunteers. "Just to get into the University of Tennessee is not easy to do. Most people don't think of that.
"All you little ones, after softball's over, you have your work ethic that helps you for your job in the future. I can't stress that hard enough: Work hard in the classroom."
Another thing Akamine stressed was not only the value of hard work, but also the mindset needed to overcome adversity.
"Everybody that I've played with and competed against, especially at the World Series, they've all worked hard to get where they are," she said. "And not only working hard, but going through adversity. Everyone has ups and downs all the time вЂ” in sports, you have it in your life, you have it with your friends and family. Adversity is always there, and you need to overcome.
"At the World Series, it's the teams that have gone through all the hardships of being a team and all the troubles and have still gotten there together."
After imparting the wisdom in her opening speech to the audience in Sweetwater, Akamine took questions, which covered a wide range of topics, starting with when she began to take up the sport of softball.
"When I was 3 years old I told my parents that I wanted to be a softball player like my sisters," Akamine said. вЂњBoth of my sisters played Division I softball, too, and I wanted to be just like them. My goal was to get there, get to the World Series and, hopefully, next time we're there, win a national championship. Those are my goals, that's what I'm striving for, and I'm not going to let anything get in my way."
However, it wasn't long before Akamine would diverge from her sisters in one aspect вЂ” her position on the field.
"The moment I decided I wanted to be a catcher was when my dad told me, 'Your sister had that pitch at that age,' and I didn't have that pitch at that age," she said.
Akamine also recalled the moment she wanted to play for Tennessee, during a recruiting visit from Lady Vol coaches from Ralph and Karen Weekly for her older sister, Sarah, who would sign with Arizona.
"I went up to them and I said, 'I don't care if my sister chose Arizona, I'm going to Tennessee,'" she said.
Tennessee's orange also had an appeal all its own.
"My high school was orange, my middle school was orange, I'm orange," she said.
Akamine offered some selfless advice for players who had a rough time during a game.
"For me, when I donвЂ™t do that well, I strike out or something, I take myself out of it and I go cheer one of my teammates," she said. "That really helps me, because you cheering them on in return brings your energy back up. I'm there for my teammates, they're there for me."
Akamine also gave some insight into which of the Weeklys was tougher.
"Ralph likes to play like heвЂ™s the hardest," she said. "But if youвЂ™re about to get a punishment, you definitely want a Ralph punishment. Karen will make you run for days. IвЂ™m scared of Karen, she intimidates me. She has a law school degree, so she can argue any point."
But Akamine was also quick to point out that both coaches maintain high expectations for the Lady Vols, with a mentality called "give one more."
"Instead of doing a 100-yard dash, we do a 101-yard dash," she said. "If we're supposed to do 50 crunches, we do 51. Because if you do what the other teams are doing, then you're always going to be with the other teams, so they always push us to be ahead."
And, yes, Akamine did offer a glimpse into her personal life.
"I do not have a boyfriend. There's other things I have that take up my time, besides boys," she said, drawing cheers from the dads in the audience.
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