By Mary Elizabeth Dial, Staff Correspondent
Former Florida State softball star and Glencoe native Danielle Cox Brock returned home to help young softball players pursue their talents to college ball and beyond with the DCB Elite Academy Softball Training Camp.
The camp was held on Sunday (Oct. 2) at the Gadsden Sports Complex and was open to players age 8 – 18. Over 160 players received instruction from Brock and other college and professional players, while parents got information about college teams and scholarships. Players and parents also had access to the Mindside, a Birmingham-based sports psychology practice that serves teams at the University of Alabama, Jacksonville State University and the University of Montevallo.
Bringing in sports psychologists was important to Brock, who believes an athlete’s mental health can make or break her game.
“The mental game is half the sport… If you don’t have what it takes mentally, you can’t go forward,” Brock said.
The emphasis on mental health comes from Brock’s own positive experiences with sports psychology, which she said improved her playing and her life as an athlete.
“I wanted to make sure that those kids got what I got,” said Brock, who is a softball instructor at the Northeast Elite Training Facility in Rainbow City
Another area of focus during the day was being well-rounded as a student athlete.
“It takes a student and it also takes an athlete,” Brock said. “Not only did they learn about defensive skills an offensive skills [at Sunday’s clinic], but they learned about the mental game. Grades matter.”
This point was especially evident to the players’ parents, who spoke to recruiters from Jacksonville State, UAB, Pensacola State and several other schools.
A major goal for Brock’s program was to help players use their skills to further their education, but its more immediate goals were to give players access to better resources closer to home.
“Normally, our local athletes had to go off to a major city like Birmingham or Atlanta to receive this type of clinic,” Brock said, noting that she did not want any athlete to miss out on an opportunity just because of where they lived. “I wanted to create something in their backyard, where every athlete could go, as well as create economic impact for our community.”
A member of the Florida State Athletic Hall of Fame, Brock holds the NCAA Division I record of single-season stolen bases with 73 and is No. 1 on the FSU career batting average at .366. She was a first-team All-American in her senior year of 1999 and is the only player in the history of the FSU softball program to be invited to the U.S. Softball National Team tryouts.
After graduating from FSU in 1999, Brock played four years in the Women’s Pro Softball League, where she was an all-star every season. Brock played with the Columbus (Ga.) Pride and the Akron (Ohio) Racers.
In 2003, Brock was selected to play for the National Fast Pitch All-Star team, which toured with the U.S. National Team and played exhibition games around the country.
State Rep. Craig Ford spoke at the end of the camp about the importance of sports programs such as Brock’s camp and of how students’ athletic experiences can shape them into capable adults.
“I’ve traveled all around the southeast with my son playing travel sports, and I got tired of seeing the facilities not safe, not up to standard and not trying to service the kids that are out here today,” Ford said. “I can’t say enough about our city’s parks and rec [department]. They’ve done an outstanding job of preparing what we have today to build a system.”
On the subject of how sports affect students after school, Ford said, “I believe sports are a major [factor] in building character.’
“Every person out here playing this sport is on a team… You’ve got to have all types of players to make up a team,” Ford said, referring to the varied skills any group needs to achieve its goals.
Along with Brock, camp instructors included former University of Alabama softball standout Haylie McCleney and former Auburn University softball standout Emily Carosone. Camp sponsors were the City of Gadsden, Northeast Sports Orthopedics, Advocare, Mindset and The Messenger.
Camp participants had a full day of instruction, beginning at 9 a.m. and ended the day with a barbecue dinner.