One-on-One with Kathy Dzienkowski '16
This week I sat down with softball catcher, Kathy Dzienkowski ’16. The 2014 Ivy League Champions open the 2015 season this weekend in Tampa, Florida at the University of South Florida Wilson-DeMarini Tournament taking on Auburn University, Marshall University and USF.
As a team, how are you preparing for your first game against Auburn this Friday?
KD: In January, we focused primarily on strength and conditioning, as well as mental toughness. That’s a big part of softball, so it’s really helping us in our team practices as we get closer to the real season. Last Saturday, we scrimmaged Southern New Hampshire University in Leverone [Field House]. As a team, we focused on making routine plays and controlling the “controllables” throughout the whole game. This was also the first time to see live pitchers, other than our own pitching. It was also a good experience for the younger players to see live action and get some of their initial the nerves out.
How are you as an individual player preparing for the season? What specifically are you working on?
KD: I’ve been focusing a lot on my hitting this year and improving my skills in order to be more successful at the plate. Specifically, I am working on “hands to the ball” and other technical skills to clean up my stroke. I am hoping that this will contribute more to the team’s offensive success.
Have you noticed a transition in your leadership role, both on and off the field, now that you are an upperclassman on the team?
KD: I’ve definitely noticed a change both on and off the field. It’s a really rewarding experience having the freshmen look up to you for advice during practice and around campus. It’s especially nice because I remember how helpful the ’13s and ’14s were to my class when we were younger, so I feel great about giving back to the program now. They are a very talented young bunch, and I now they will have many bright years ahead of them.
What advice would you give to the freshmen and sophomores on your team that you wish you had done differently at those ages?
KD: Don’t take no for an answer. If you want something badly enough, go for it and work for it. Success will follow.
What has it been like having a new coach this season?
KD: It’s really nice to have someone come in with a new perspective, who sees the game slightly differently and can work with the team to help point out some of our strengths and weaknesses. It is common to get into patterns and routines once you have been playing for multiple seasons. So having a fresh pair of eyes can bring versatility and strength in areas we might have fallen short in before.
Who do you see as your stiffest competition this season?
KD: Harvard [University] is definitely our toughest competitor in our division. We play them last so it’s always a battle with who is going to win. In the past few years we have had similar records, so when we face them there is an added sense of pressure because whoever wins the series goes on to the Ivy League Championship.
How long have you been playing softball?
KD: I’ve been playing since I was six years old. I started tee-ball and never played any other sport because I loved softball so much. It’s hard to articulate the feeling of stepping out onto the field before a game, you and all your teammates. There is a sense of excitement and competitiveness in the air that drives me to do my best day in and out.
What has been your favorite part about playing for Dartmouth for the past three years?
KD: My favorite part has to be the fans. Freshman year, not many students came to our game, but due to our team’s increasing success, a lot of students have started coming to our games. Last season especially, a lot of students came to our games dressed in flair and roaring with enthusiasm. Looking into the stands last year during the Ivy League Championship and seeing the crowd so full and enthusiastic was such an exciting feeling. I cannot wait to get back out there this coming season!
Aside from softball, how else do you like to spend your time on campus?
KD: I really enjoy attending other sporting events. I try to go to as many as I can because I also appreciate it when people come to my games. Dartmouth is a great size because it is big enough to have competitive sports but small enough that you feel like you know the players when you go to various games. I also really enjoy being outdoors and hiking. This past fall, I went on “the Stretch,” an earth science [foreign study program], where we traveled across country studying geology and looking at our country’s national parks.
This interview has been edited and condensed.