Since we've formed our business, we have had many people ask us, "Why 360U?" Let me fill you in a little bit on us and what we do.
In December, I graduated from UW Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and was forced to hang up my cleats and helmet after 10+ years of playing competitive softball. I was searching for some guidance on how to align my talents, needs, and desires to find out what was next for me. I was looking for a fresh start. Luckily, timing worked in my favor as my sister Laura and her husband Scott were at a great point in their lives to take on a new adventure as well. They had been discussing starting a softball business for a few years and were ready to take action.
Softball runs deep in our blood as everyone in my family has played or coached at some point in their lives. Laura and I, being so closely removed from playing, are familiar with the new strategies of the game that are critical to keeping up with the quickly evolving sport. We have faced and overcome the challenges of being student-athletes and have first-hand experience in balancing all that comes with playing a sport at the collegiate level, which is much more than meets the eye. Scott, Head Softball Coach at UW Oshkosh, knows the game of softball as well as anyone. He has coached and played fastpitch which gives him a unique, dual-perspective approach to the game. All of our strengths, skill sets, and passions aligned. We seemed to have all of the bases covered - no pun intended. With the help of a business-minded, entrepreneurial spirited family we decided to give it a shot and start our own business.
After identifying the need for softball instruction in the area, we noticed the need for more than just x’s and o’s skills training. Don’t get me wrong - the mechanics, techniques, and fundamentals are an absolute necessity to grow into a competitive, successful softball player. However, there is a world of additional skills, many of them intangible, that are needed to truly thrive in your sport. Those skills often go unnoticed and aren't given near the attention and training they deserve – mental resilience, confidence building, situational savviness, approach to the game, response to failure, the list goes on and on.
Imagine this. You step up to bat in the 3rd inning with a runner on first base and no outs in a tight game. Your coach gives you the bunt sign. You know the pitcher loves to throw her rise ball that starts on zone and curves up and out when it breaks. “Great,” you think to yourself, definitely not the best pitch to try to bunt. You step into the box with this thought in mind and cautiously watch the first pitch go by for a strike – a straight, belt-high fastball outside. “Shoot,” you think to yourself. Now I lost a strike and need to get the bunt down and move the runner before I get to 2 strikes and lose the sacrifice option. Next pitch. Sure enough, the rise ball. You chase it in fear of letting another strike go by and pop up the bunt to the 3rd basemen, doubling off your teammate at first base. I personally know this feeling all too well…believe me, you and your coach are equally upset. You trot off to centerfield where you carry your frustration. A gap shot is hit your way and your tension and blurred focus causes you to overthrow your cut off target allowing a run to score which extends the inning. The game goes by and you get up to bat again in the bottom of the 7th inning, down by one, with a runner in scoring position…lucky you. What happens next? It all depends on how you deal with the intangibles that ultimately make or break all student-athletes in their respective sports. Mechanics seem a lot less important now, don’t they?
That’s where 360U was derived from. Not 90° “you” or 180° “you”….but the comprehensive, all-encompassing 360° “you”. We want to give athletes the tools to be prepared to deal with those situations, which will ultimately translate to how they deal with adversity and obstacles in their lives outside of athletics. Through instructing, mentoring, and developing softball players into prepared and confident young women, we hope to help them discover the best-version-of-themselves on the field and beyond.
Maria Van Abel