Los Angeles Times – May 27, 2006 – Martin Henderson – You watch them play softball, they smile the whole time. They run the bases 110%. They love the game, they love their teammates, they love the sport. ‘You can see the glow in their faces.
Whenever she sprinted past the finish line at the end of the 200 meters, her specialty event, Elia Reid almost always felt unbridled joy. Then again, she almost always won.
But every day wasn’t race day, and on those days when she wasn’t showing up the competition, Elia and her twin sister, Jamia, really wanted to be playing softball.
They competed in track and field only at the insistence of their parents. Their freshman seasons, the daughters helped La Palma Kennedy’s 400 relay team finish fifth in the state.
This spring, with their parents’ blessing, the sophomores traded their batons for bats, and turned the Fighting Irish (29-3) into an outstanding softball team.
Kennedy, before being upset Thursday by Rancho Cucamonga, 1-0, in a Southern Section Division II quarterfinal, was ranked second in the Southland by The Times, second in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and ninth in the nation by Student Sports Magazine.
One of the major reasons was the Reids’ speed.
Left fielder Jamia batted leadoff, stole 35 bases in 36 attempts and was caught only because she slid past the third-base bag.
Right fielder Elia, who batted fifth, had 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
The sisters scored or drove in 82 of Kennedy’s 114 runs, but their batting averages were relatively modest. Jamia hit .333 with a .393 on-base average, and Elia hit .300 with a .370 OBA. They struck out 19 and 29 times.
But one or the other scored or had a run batted in in all but five games, which Coach Jami Shannon said was maximizing her outfielders’ production.
‘With a pitcher of Brooke Turner’s caliber, I could play for one run,’ Shannon said.
Turner was 24-2 with a 0.22 earned-run average. Opponents scored 19 runs all season, and on only four occasions did they score more than one in a game.
Given the Reids’ quickness, today’s prototypical player would have learned to bat left-handed and become an adept bunter and slap-hitter. But the Reids aren’t typical. Each bats right-handed and swings for the fences. They had 13 home runs between them, seven by Jamia.
Their journey with the softball team through the playoffs included being snubbed by their former track teammates, who stopped talking to them, at least briefly.
‘It was like, choosing between the sport we enjoy or our friends,’ Jamia said. ‘We were like, ‘What’s your problem? We’re doing something we actually enjoy. We thought you’d be happy for us.’ Obviously, they weren’t.’
Track Coach Brian Bivens said he couldn’t bring himself to watch the twins play softball, but there were two home run balls – the first ones of the season hit by each girl – sitting on his desk with sentiments of thanks inscribed within their seams.
‘It’s like having a Ferrari in your garage and you can’t drive it,’ Bivens said of the Reids’ absence. ‘I had a great time with them. I sure hope they get softball scholarships, because they’re phenomenal in track.’
Jamia and Elia ran the first two legs on Kennedy’s 2005 Southern Section Division II champion 400 and 1,600 relay teams, the former at 46.87 seconds, 0.23 off the Division II section record set by Hawthorne in 1982.
Jamia steered clear of individual events the second half of her freshman season because of knee problems, but Elia excelled in them. She ran the 200 in 24.68 to finish seventh in the Masters Meet, one spot shy of qualifying for the state meet. She ran the 100 in 11.98, making her one of the fastest freshmen in California. This season, that would be the state’s 11th-fastest time.
They each also leaped in the 16- to 17-foot range in the long jump, but Bivens, confined as all coaches are by the four-event rule, was limited in their use. But their potential, he said, was unlimited.
It was that potential that their parents, trying to help their five children get through college, were banking on for a possible scholarship.
‘They ran track last year and we wanted them to run track again this year,’ said their mother, Eleanor, who ran the 100, 200 and relays for a year in college. ‘They said they would run, but they weren’t going to be happy about it.’
Their father, Semmie, said he had to play the role of bad guy.
‘We can get them through junior college, we can take them to regular school if I have to take them there,’ said Reid, a plumber at Disneyland. ‘Track would have been an opportunity for them to live on campus.
‘I pushed a little harder than I probably should have. ‘Please, let’s just do it this time and if you don’t like it, let’s move on to something else.’ ‘
Jamia and Elia didn’t like it, especially the grueling workouts. Finally, last July, Semmie relented.
Good thing, too, according to John Murray, a Florida-based sports psychologist.
‘In a case like this, where the kids don’t enjoy it, there’s going to be a rebound effect later on,’ Murray said. ‘To sustain proper motivation, you have to have some level of passion for it. Even in successful stories, you see people who want to drop the sport because they’ve burned out.
‘That’s a huge issue in sports today. Parents have all the good intentions, but it begs for acknowledgment of kids doing what they love.’
Their father has become excited about his daughters’ contribution to a team that has been regarded as one of the best around.
‘I don’t think their hearts were put 100% into track,’ Semmie said. ‘You watch them play softball, they smile the whole time. They run the bases 110%. They love the game, they love their teammates, they love the sport.
‘You can see the glow in their faces.’
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.