As if studying for a university degree isn’t hard enough, Tamieka Whitefield has been doing it from the other side of the world while also representing her country at softball.
Whitefield played for the Aussie Spirit in the National Pro Fastpitch league this year, then went from there to the XVI Women’s Softball World Championship in Chiba, Japan.
Somehow, she managed to keep pace with her university studies, which she hopes one day will lead to her becoming a teacher.
The demanding daily schedule in the NPF made finding time to study difficult, but the Aussie Spirit coaching staff made sure she didn’t neglect her homework.
“It was definitely really tough, especially in the NPF, being away and so busy with the schedule, Whitefield says.
“But the coaching staff helped and made sure we stayed on top of our studies.
“We could submit work and catch up on lectures online when they got posted. And we could email our lecturers if we needed any help.”
At just 19, Whitefield found herself in Japan playing with and against players with vastly more international softball experience. But she was not overawed, and credits the NPF season for that.
“The experience we had in the NPF definitely helped set me up personally for the World Championship,” she says.
“We’ve never had that opportunity before. and that led into the Worlds in a good way.”
Whitefield didn’t get a lot of game time in Chiba, but that was not the point. As the youngest position player in the team, she was there to learn and help the team when the opportunity arose.
She played in six games, three of them as a pinch-runner and two in which she pinch hit. Overall she had two hits in five at-bats. But the lack of playing time did not bother her. “Just being there was really awesome,” she says.
Apart from her tender age, the other thing that sets Whitefield apart is her versatility. She plays multiple positions, and has no desire to specialise. “I want to stick with being able to play infield and outfield,” she says.
According to Softball Australia Chief Operating Officer Chet Gray, who was the Tournament Technical Director in Chiba, that defensive versatility is important.
“Tamieka is a very good athlete who brings some speed to the Aussie Spirit lineup, which is a valuable asset against other world-class teams,” Gray says.
“She is very young to be playing at such a high level but is not overawed by the occasion. Her versatility in the infield is also important, and she has a chance to be a valuable member of the Aussie Spirit team for many years to come.”
Whitefield began 2018 by helping Queensland win the Elinor McKenzie Shield as the Under-19 Australian champions and being named best player in the 5-4 win over New South Wales in the final. She was also named to the tournament All Star team at second base.
That performance helped her gain selection in the Aussie Spirit team for the NPF and for Chiba. And, she hopes, it won’t be her last trip to the northern hemisphere this year. The Japan Cup will be held in November, and Whitefield wants to be part of the Aussie Spirit team again.
“I definitely will have my hand up,” she says. “I’d love to go. I’ve never been to a Japan Cup and I’d love to play in one.”
Before then, the 173cm utility will be trying out for a spot on the Queensland team for the 2019 National Championship — and keeping up with her university studies.