Summer play is a whole new ballgame for Belles
When state softball is over and this year's champions have been crowned, the high school season is finished, but for some, it's just the beginning of a whole new ballgame.
Many players immediately move on to one of several summer softball teams, like the Belles coached by Bill Fletcher.
During a three-month period between mid-May and mid-August, the Belles play about 75 games.
Senior Amy Siler, who plays on the Belles with DHS teammates and recent graduates Jenny Fletcher and Brooke Moyer, says playing in the summer is a lot different from playing on the high school team.
"The summer is much more competitive. We play teams from all over the country, and it's become a national craze," Siler said. "This is where you really get recruited, and that's what you're playing for. Plus, it's much more time-consuming. I mean, I play six days a week, and we travel a lot."
The team is in the 18 and under Gold Division, with "gold" meaning the top division in the country. The team goes beyond competing in tournaments around the metro area.
"We play league here, but we go all over the country. We'll play in the Colorado Fireworks, the St. Louis Gold Qualifier and the St. Louis National, and in Oklahoma some, too," coach Fletcher said.
This past weekend, the Belles participated in the Las Vegas Gold Qualifier. They finished 0-2 against California teams teams that Fletcher says are the toughest opponents.
"Their seasons are longer and they are allowed to practice during the high school season, so they've had more time, more work. Kansas laws are kind of restrictive toward those who play in the summer because they lose that three months of time they could be working with their summer team, too," Fletcher said.
Siler agrees with changing the system to help out players participating in summer softball.
"A lot of schools we see have switched their volleyball season to the spring and softball to the fall, and that gives their summer teams an extra edge because they've been playing a lot more. Some of them have played like 50 games, and we've only played six and haven't really clicked as a team yet," Siler said.
Still, there's a common bond that exists among all of these girls that come together during the hot months of vacation.
"During the summer, all the girls want to be there. We're all working toward that common goal, whether it's a scholarship or whatever," Siler said.