White dust lines the field and parents gather on the bleachers, signaling the start of a JV softball game. Players warm up by taking practice swings or catching fly balls, as both sides check out their opponents’ skills. But Redwood isn’t looking at Marin Catholic or Tam. Those schools don’t even have JV teams. In fact, Redwood has Marin’s only JV softball team.
Although there has been a JV softball team in place at Redwood for the last three years, it hasn’t always been that way. No other school in the county has ever had the option to offer a team in the past couple years due to lack of players. However, this situation does not hold back Redwood’s team from playing outside Marin and keeping up a winning record. The team has to travel further for competition, playing against teams such as Berkeley High School, Alameda High School and Cloverdale High School for regular season games. Although it takes more time and effort to play in away games, the girls on Redwood’s JV softball team believe the opportunity to play makes it well worth it.
Sophomore Kennedy Dora is one of these players that is beyond grateful for the chance to play on the team and collaborate with teammates of different skill levels.
“You get to work with different people. Half of the people [on the team] don’t know how to play and half are experienced, so it’s nice to teach those who don’t know how to play,” Dora said. “We have to go out farther to play some high school teams, but overall, JV is a really good thing to have for people who like to play and like to have fun.”
JV is a great learning opportunity for girls that are not ready for varsity and girls that are looking for the enjoyment of playing a sport according to players. That being said, the team is no place for slackers. Head coach Steve Lightfoot sheds light on the fact that JV is a developmental stage, but nevertheless still competitive.
“There’s a lot of development in the league, but the teams that we play are still very competitive, and we try to run a very competitive program. We don’t say ‘even though it’s JV’ or ‘it’s just JV’ because that’s a discredit to the girls that are playing. We want them to be as good, if not better, than the girls who are playing varsity,” Lightfoot said.
Although there is loads of competition on the JV level, having the chance to play on the varsity team is an event to which players look forward when they are able to make that team after surpassing the JV expectations. Dora is ex
cited for next year’s season, because she will get to play teams around Marin and experience the stronger attitudes and rivalries.
“I’ll be moved up [to varsity] next year, but MCALs is a great experience when you’re moved up, to see how they really play and how hard they work to get there,” Dora said.
One reason behind the fact that Redwood has the sole JV team might be credited to the large population of the school. Just short of 1900 students, Redwood is the largest high school in the county by a significant amount. Redwood’s Athletic Director, Jessica Peisch, believes numbers may be the reason Redwood has had the opportunity to have a JV team these past years.
“We’ve had [a JV softball team] on and off for years. It depends on how many [players] come out. It’s always an option, it’s just about making sure we have enough numbers. But we would never not want to have a JV team,” Peisch said.
Peisch sees the advantages of offering a JV team at Redwood and is glad JV softball has had enough interest for the past few years. Additionally, she sees some benefits of traveling far to play in games.
“You’re exposed to potentially different athletes you haven’t played against. Sometimes when you grow up in an area, you’re all in the same little league, you’re all on the same recreational team. So it’s nice to be able to start playing different athletes in different areas and maybe not knowing what’s coming instead of ‘Oh, I know how she pitches every time,’” Peisch said.
Peisch agrees that it is a great opportunity for students to be part of a JV team and a gift that Redwood offers one for softball. She believes it’s important to offer lower-level teams whenever there’s an opportunity.
“I think anytime we can have a freshman team or JV team, it’s always important for a sport. It helps build the necessary developmental years, and you just need that extra time sometimes to get ready for the varsity level. When it’s all varsity, it’s fine, that’s what our district is set up to do, but it’d be nice if we had developmental teams in all sports,” Peisch said.