When the 2016 Aussie Spirit World Championship team was chosen, Ellen Roberts’ name was not on the list.
Disappointed but not disillusioned, Roberts did not complain about her non-selection, did not throw a tantrum and did not make excuses. Instead, she asked her coaches what she needed to do to improve. And she did what they suggested.
That resilience and determination, plus a ton of hard work, has paid off. Roberts will pitch for the Aussie Spirit at the XVI Women’s Softball World Championship in Chiba, Japan, from August 2-12.
“Not being selected in 2016 was a blessing in disguise,” Roberts says. “It definitely motivated me even more.
“I’ve always been motivated to train hard, but after that something ignited inside of me and I just trained by butt off.”
After finding out from her coaches what she had to do to improve, Roberts set about doing exactly that. “I needed to have more variety in my pitches, to be able to throw up and down in the zone more so than across the plate, making sure my pitches were more effective. I worked every day for six months straight.”
Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow is impressed by the way Roberts has gone about getting back into the team.
“Ellen’s had a very consistent last 12 months for the Aussie Spirit,” Barlow says. “When she missed selection in 2016 she requested feedback on what she needed to work on to get back in the team and has gone away and worked extremely hard on those areas and worked her way back in.
“Ellen is an important piece of our pitching staff and will be required to improve even more on what she’s shown in the last 12-18 months.”
For Roberts, the World Championship tournament will cap off an exciting year that began with her playing a key role in the New South Wales Firestars winning the Gilley’s Shield in January.
Roberts, 25, has tasted the highs and lows of top-level sport since first walking on to the Thornleigh Softball Club field in suburban Sydney when she was five years old. The 176cm right-hander made her Aussie Spirit debut at the 2014 World Championship in the Netherlands, but didn’t make the team again for another three years.
Softball has taken her all over the world. After a successful college career at the University of Memphis, Roberts has played in professional leagues in Italy, the Netherlands and the US.
In 2017 she was busier than ever, playing professionally in Holland, then joining six other Aussie Spirit players for a season with the Chicago Bandits, playing in the Softball World Cup, Canada Cup and Japan Cup, before returning to the Netherlands to finish the season.
This year she will play professionally with Ogaki Minamo in Japan, in the same league Stacey Porter and Kaia Parnaby, before heading to the US to join her Aussie Spirit teammates in the National Pro Fastpitch league. Then it will be back across the Pacific to Japan for the World Championship, which is potentially also a qualifying event for the 2020 Olympic Games.
It’s a huge commitment and a lot of travel, but Roberts wouldn’t want it any other way. “I play softball all year round, ever since I finished high school and did four years at college in the US,” she says.
“I’m used to playing softball all the time, but it’s even more exciting that I get to do it with the national team this year.”