Janice Blackman has gone from being the ‘kid who couldn’t throw straight’ to the cusp of Olympic selection after initially making her Australian debut in 2015.
From humble beginnings in Mt Isa, Blackman says she fell into the sport that’s seen her travel around the world speaking to Bianca Chatfield on the Softball Insider Podcast driven by Kumho Tyre.
“Softball kind of found me, I was always cruising around with mum and dad at their sports, and then my brother started to play softball competitively and I was like, ‘I wanna do that’,” said Blackman, who made her Travelodge Aussie Spirit debut in Japan.
“So I started playing softball and it only took me about 15 years to throw the ball straight!
“The way we were taught in Mt Isa wasn’t technical, we just got taught the best parts of the game, throw the ball as fast you can, hit the ball as hard as you can, run as fast as you can.”
Blackman’s persistence with the game eventually paid off, the speedster climbing her way through the Queensland system where she eventually found motivators from a couple of Aussie Spirit alums.
“It became part of my lifestyle after a while and when I started making rep teams more and more, it was the senior players that had this drive that I wanted to be a part of.
“When I came through the ranks I had Jodie Bowering as a captain and Melinda Weaver, and those girls were some of the most passionate I’ve met in this game.
“The drive they had on every single play, they were encouraging but they also ripped you when they needed to and I need that, that’s the kind of player I am, I need teammates that pull me up on my errors.
“Jodie and Melinda were those kinds of players, they would support you and be passionate about the game, but if you weren’t in line, they were going to put you in line, real quick,” laughed Blackman.
The 25-year-old ambassador for Deadly Choices says her respect for the senior players is a result of her indigenous heritage and she’s been able to take that part of her identity to better herself on the diamond.
“In our culture we respect our elders, I would never disrespect an elder whether they’re indigenous or non-indigenous, but I don’t like to use the term old when referring to my teammates in that instance, it’s more experience with them.
“They ripped into when I was a kid coming through, but they did it in a way I understood and it was always going to make me better for myself or my team.”
With over 30 games for the Travelodge Aussie Spirit under her belt, Blackman again says her culture plays a massive part in her drive to be a better athlete on the diamond.
Her connection with the land she plays across the country having grown since moving from Mt Isa.
“My mob is from the Gubbi Gubbi tribe and the Butchulla mob, Gubbi Gubbi is along the Sunshine Coast area and covers all the way down to Nambour and all the way up to Narangba and Butchulla mob is Fraser Island,” said Blackman.
“Because I grew up in Mt Isa, I never grew up on my land, but now I have for quite a bit of time and it’s really hard to explain, because some people don’t understand it, but it’s a spiritual connection with the land.
“I find that so empowering especially when I play in Perth or even Redlands because those places are on traditionally owned land. Once I get permission from the elders, that’s acknowledging the land, getting that acknowledgement is getting you that spiritual connection to the land.
“It’s a different kind of feeling and I think it also drives my passion when I do go out and play especially for Australia or Queensland or whoever I’m representing at that time.
“I’ll play hard and I’ll always play hard because I know my team has got my back, the land has got my back, everyone that I’m around has got my back at that point.”