What a ride … and it’s only just begun!

08
May

Chelsie Robison

Chelsie Robison has been one of the most promising young fastpitch softball players in Britain for the past several years.  This year, however, at the age of 19, she made the decision to move to The Netherlands to improve her game by playing in the Dutch League, a path that other GB players have also taken, now and in the past.  Here are Chelsie’s thoughts on her adventure.


"If you have the opportunity to travel and experience a different culture doing something you love, what's stopping you?"

Moving to Holland to play softball was a decision that didn't come easily for me -- it meant leaving my family, friends and life to pursue my goal of becoming a better player and to eventually make the Great British Women's National Team.  But being out here has taught me that you have to seize the moment when it arises rather than wait for another one to come about.  An opportunity like this may never have crossed my path again.

The thought of playing in Holland came about at the end of the 2017 Junior World Championship when I realised I needed to be better prepared in all aspects of the game if I was going to successfully compete and make the starting line-up.  I knew I had to get better-quality game time and gather experience, and also get exposed to higher-quality pitching and different varieties of pitches on a regular basis.  Holland was the right choice; I had been there many times and I knew that in terms of softball, it was what I needed to achieve my goals.

What I didn't realise, however, is how much of an adventure and emotional roller coaster it would be.

The experiences I have had so far, the people I have met and the places I have been to -- incredible.  I have Stan Doney and Marielle Vleugels to thank for helping me start this adventure.  If it wasn't for Stan introducing me to Marielle and for her then inviting me to join the Blue Angels organisation, none of this would have happened.

It started with a really successful and enjoyable weekend at the Andre Prins Academy in December, just before Christmas.  The resources and coaches in attendance were so encouraging and it left me wanting more.  The information I was given for the next step was that the Indoor Cup in Schiedam in January would be a sort of trial.  My guess was that coaches would be watching and giving feedback to Marielle, as she would be busy running the tournament.

This was the case for both Hannah Pitman and me after we both played for a GB Select Team at the tournament, and after the weekend we were both invited to join the Blue Angels organisation, which is made up of four teams.

Hannah and I soon began weekly flights to Holland to join the Blue Angels for training from Thursday to Sunday during their winter season.  Later, it was decided that we would play for The Birds, coached by Johan and Rob Korpel. 

Pre-season began in March and our league competition started on the 21st of April.  I made the move permanently to Holland on the Easter weekend, the 1st of April.

Being part of a Dutch club, much to my surprise, wasn't that different to one back in England.  Everyone still has funding struggles, unfortunately, but the feeling is the same.  Just like in England, the girls I play with have become a part of my family.  All of them in their own way, without realising it, have inspired me, whether it be their softball ability or the true kindness of their heart.

Game Day is where I see the biggest difference in the leagues.  Every Saturday we play a mini-series of two games, and the crowds that gather is something I had never experienced before.  It definitely took some getting used to!

I have also come to realise the difference in pressure experienced here compared to back in England, on both a personal and team level.  Of course, every team wants to win no matter what country you are in, but the stakes feel so much higher here: the fact that there are promotion possibilities brings a different type of team drive.  That's what conjures the personal pressure, the desire to play well and consistently both on defense and offense.  There’s always that little devil thought that if you don't play well, there's someone on the bench ready to come on for you.  In the Great Britain Fastpitch League, you don't experience that because unfortunately teams don't always have a bench to make regular changes like coaches can here in Holland.

I think that's the biggest challenge and learning curve I have faced since moving.  The mental game of softball, and letting go, is something I haven't really had big issues with in the past, but I have definitely faced it this season.  Missing friends and family and coming to terms with being comfortable, being uncomfortable, and how it reflects when I'm playing.  Mistakes and errors happen but it's what you do to come back from it that counts the most.  It's a lesson I am still learning and will value forever.  It's definitely a work in progress -- but a good one.

Saying that, the team and coaches have been a massive support system for me, and the most fun I have had out here is playing with these girls and learning from them.  All the different personalities coming together every week to achieve the same goal.  It's been amazing being with them on and off the field, and learning the language and culture.  Kings Day is something that was recently celebrated here -- a massive party in the streets of the many cities in The Netherlands that definitely went down well.

My overall experience so far playing with The Birds is amazing and something I could have never imagined.  This move has had positive effects all round, and my confidence levels have increased along with my self-belief.  Not only that, but during the five months of training and playing out here I have become fitter and a better ball player.  It's opened my eyes to how many routes I can take with softball.  I have the coaches, Johan and Rob Korpel, to thank for that, but also all The Birds’ players, especially for welcoming Hannah and me with open arms.  We couldn't have asked for anything better.

Finally, I want to thank my parents, Robbie and Dawn Robison.  I say it all the time, but without you two guiding me, believing in me and encouraging me, this journey wouldn't have been possible at all.  I am proud to be your daughter and I honestly can't thank you enough.

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About Chelsie Robison

Chelsie Robison

Chelsie Robison has been playing fastpitch softball since 2011 after being introduced to the sport by Hayley Scott, former GB Women’s Team Head Coach. However, she has been a big supporter of the sport since the age of seven, when her parents first started playing slowpitch for the Zambezi Warriors. Chelsie has been a member of GB national youth teams since 2012, and has recently moved to The Netherlands to better her game.

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