SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo Softball Coach John Conway travelled to the Netherlands this past summer in a softball showcase which featured some of the game's most elite players. Below is an account of his travels.
This past summer was filled with travels and experiences for Saint Leo University Softball Coach John Conway as he made his third trip with USA Athlete's International. His ten day trip to Europe featured a roster of 14 softball players from all over the country including the northeast, south, southeast, and midwest ranging from division I, II, and III programs.
Conway met his players for the first time upon his arrival at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as the team departed the US for London. From there, Conway and his players travelled to Amsterdam, where they stayed for the trip where they competed in five games in two days.
"We had the opportunity to play five games against some of the clubs and national teams from the different cities and surrounding countries," says Conway, before explaining that some of the opposing teams featured athletes from the United States that travelled there for the summer to play softball. After the games, Conway's team met with the opposing team in their clubhouse to talk about softball and socialize about their foreign programs and customs.
The team went 4-1 for the week as they travelled throughout the Netherlands as well as Belgium and Germany, but "softball was only a small part of the experience," Conway explains. "We took many tours and excursions throughout the ten days." In fact, the players participated in many outings that featured European history, including a trip to the Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam. The site was the home of Anne Frank and her family during World War II as they hid for three years from the Nazi Army. "The home was preserved as if it could still be lived in today," Conway says.
Another adventure that the trip featured was a canal cruise through the intricate canal system of Amsterdam. "Much of Amsterdam's population lives along the canal routes or on house boats docked on the side of the canal," says Conway. "[But] the city is very active and alive and reminded me very much like New York City."
The team's final game was played in Belgium, just after they visited a concentration camp from World War II. The camp was called "Breendonk," and it was used as a 'waiting' camp that received political prisoners and Jewish people before they were transferred to Germany. Built completely from concrete and still totally intact, the camp housed over 3000 prisoners during its prime.
The last major excursion was to Bad Bentheim, Germany, where the team visited a castle that was built in the year 1020. Sitting high above the surrounding community and farmland, the castle is surrounded by gardens and remains undamaged, despite its amazing age.
When the team wasn't busy playing softball or travelling to famous historical sites, they spent their free time perusing through the city of Amsterdam, which Conway describes as "an interesting city." In addition to its museums and canals, Amsterdam features a handful of things that make it a culture shock to American citizens. "Some things that are illegal in the US are legal in Amsterdam," Conway explains. "[But] it's part of their culture and makes for interesting walks around the city."
Although the weather featured rain nearly every day and temperatures below 70 degrees on most days, Conway describes his trip as "a great experience and one I would do again." Next summer, Conway plans to travel to Austria and the Czech Republic in his efforts to add to his international softball experiences.
For the latest news, information, and updates on the softball team, visit SaintLeoLions.com.
Story written by softball junior Katie Gwinn.