Included in the gold-medal winner's message is the importance of education and making good choices.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANFIELD -- Attention softball players.
If you are planning to attend The Julie Smith Gold Medal Clinic on Saturday at McCune Park, be prepared.
Sure, the clinic will offer instruction, drills and fun stuff. But there's something else.
"They're going to hear my message," Smith said.
That message won't come from just anyone. It will come from Smith, whose most well-known accomplishment is winning the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Life's lessons: "I'm a firm believer, not just about softball and learning the game, but about life lessons," Smith said. "I want to share with them my own experiences and show these kids that if they set their minds to do something, they can accomplish it."
Smith, 33, of Arrow Bear, Calif., said she often surprises people with her size.
"A lot of kids look at me and say, 'Oh my God, you're so little!' " Smith said. "It's a mindset. Teaching these kids through little successes you breed bigger successes."
Included in Smith's message is the importance of education and making good choices.
"The age group I typically work with started to get into non-positive things," Smith said. "Some of the friends I grew up with started to take detours. I address those issues."
This marks the second straight year that Smith will make an appearance in Canfield. She also will return twice more in August for additional events.
"I go around the whole nation, and some towns I want to keep coming back to," said Smith, who has become good friends with Canfield baseball official Chris Cole. "I see an enthusiasm in that area, and the kids are starting to learn more about the game."
Initial contact: Cole, who initially met Smith when one of his former baseball teams was honored at Akron's Firestone Stadium, said he would like to see the rest of the area communities get involved in similar programs.
"The cool thing is," Cole said, "these professional women athletes are real accessible."
A No. 1 draft pick in 2000 by the Ohio Pride of the Women's Professional Softball League, Smith, a second baseman, has been honored around the world for softball successes.
But she continues to rank her gold medal first on her list.
"It's that journey of getting there" that's so important, Smith said. "The process is what I try to teach.
"When I got the gold medal, I looked up and saw my family in the stands," she said. "That's how I knew how I got it."
For information on the clinic, contact Cole at (330) 533-9125.