Meeting bright and early on a Saturday morning at Stansted airport, nobody could anticipate the week that awaited us in Denmark, playing for the Great Britain under 19’s softball team.
Our first day was aimed at getting to know everyone a bit better, and also to bond as a team. It was during our first training session that it began to sink in as to where we were and that in fewer than 48 hours’ time, we would be singing the nation anthem to a small crowd, gathered to watch the best teams in Europe face off.
Day 2 started much later in comparison to the day before, and each member of the team was under strict instruction not to ‘overdo it’ in the pool or on the training ground. With that in mind, we headed out into the beautiful city of Copenhagen, and given that most people spoke English, we felt immediately welcome. After we returned to the hostel it was a quick training session before we all got an early night. The tournament would start the next day, with us facing the best team, the Czech Republic. When we saw them arrive, we understood why; two regimental lines in identical outfits (even shoes), dragging matching bags behind them, creating enough dust to be classed as a sandstorm. Each throw went straight, flat and fast to its target – they were a cut above. It may be possible that we psyched ourselves out of the game before it had even begun.
We eventually got underway and did well in the first two innings, keeping their lead to only 2 runs, although that was when they really showed their class, scoring 10 runs in their 3rd innings. We were inspired by our captain, Carl Sharpe who scrambled like a terrier to get us our first run of the tournament, however it wasn’t enough, and the Czechs won the game in the next innings, 16-1. The next two games went in a similar fashion, losing to Croatia and Israel (a game we really should have won). Then it came to the Danes, who were good enough to not only take the Czechs to a 7 innings game, but were also one of the most gracious teams I have played against. They were clearly winning and ended the game early -something I only appreciated on reflection.
Mid-tournament, it was clear that we weren’t going to be pushing the Czechs off their perch, but we could still qualify. However, playing the Czechs for the second time, we were completely outclassed, reduced to ball fetching duty, as they hit in 39 runs to our pitiful nil. We had to turn it around if we were to qualify, a feat that we achieved against the Israeli’s, blasting the ball to all parts to win a 14-4 result. With two games still to play, and only one victory lying between us and qualifying, our team spirit was high. Sadly, we were well beaten by the Danes and narrowly lost to the Croatians. Our tournament was over. However, we can all be proud of what we achieved, given that for most of us, it was the first major competition we had played in. I cannot wait until we get to have another go, and show our true colours.