The Hope College softball team travelled to Australia for ten days in August. Coach Karla Wolters and members of the team wrote a journal and took photos to highlight the program's first international trip.
What began as a dream nearly two years ago is now a memory for the Hope College Softball Team. After returning from the Olympics in Sydney in September of 2000, Coach Wolters invited the team to dream of one day returning Down Under with her. In August of 2002, a party of 39 representing Hope College, took off for the adventure of a lifetime. The group included players, coaches, support staff and a few families of the players and coaches -- a diverse group that was eager for adventure and to begin learning before the 2002-2003 school year at Hope began five days after their return.
It is difficult to put into the words the emotions we had both leaving and returning to the United States. Very few of our group had been across an ocean and for most of us, this was the longest trip we had ever experienced. Coach Wolters had prepared the team for the extended flying time by having the group do leg exercises at practice, extolling the virtues of drinking water to eliminate jet lag, and encouraging the entourage to take a book or work along or be prepared to watch a lot of movies.
We arrived in Sydney with great eagerness (or was it joy that we were no longer in the air?). Sydney seemed very much like a great American metropolitan city, although we did not see the melting pot of races as one would expect in a big city. We enjoyed many of Sydney's beautiful tourist attractions and oohed and ahhed at the beauty of the native fishes at the Aquarium.
Interestingly, most of us probably enjoyed what we did outside of Sydney even more than what we did as activities in the city. All of our softball games on this part of our trip took place in the Olympic Stadium. What a thrill to play where the 2000 Olympians played! Later we found out that we were quite fortunate to play even one game in the stadium as the Australian teams only play here once every two or three years. Our last game here gave us lasting memories as the teams were announced over the PA, both national anthems were played prior to the start, game was very close and exciting and we joined together with our opponents for a very large team picture after the game.
Our other exciting activity outside of Sydney took place on Manly Beach, on the Pacific Ocean and just two blocks from where we stayed. Almost the entire team took advantage of learning how to surf in waves from 4-8 feet. While the coaches prayed on the beach for safety, the team demonstrated their athleticism by mounting the board often and catching a wave.
The second half of the trip was based in Cairns, a town of about 100,000 people in North Queensland. What a contrast to the big city!! Many of us felt like we were back in Holland as the town caters to tourists who flock to the water's edge. We had quite a view flying into Cairns of mountains spilling down to the sea, a georgous teal water below us and tiny beaches compared to those of the Pacific. Perhaps the two biggest contrasts were the much warmer weather in Cairns as it is much closer to the equator, and the diverse population of inhabitants. Cairns' proximity to Asia accounted for a large Oriental representation and most of the group saw numerous aboriginies for the first time.
Some of our finest sightseeing memories occured in and around Cairns including a fantastic day at the Great Barrier Reef and taking an antique train to a small rainforest village called Kuranda and a skyrail back to Cairns. In Cairns we also enjoyed our community service day, especially working with the at risk children of the town participating in various sports. And who will ever forget playing in the rain, two games at the same time, on a huge rugby field with home plate painted on the all grass field?
All too soon it was time to start home. Memories abounded on our four-flight return trip. As we touched down on the runway in Grand Rapids, 33.5 hours after we began our trek back to the states the team spontaneously broke into loud cheers of joy and relief that we were finally HOME! We were greeted by a crowd of over 50 parents and friends who shared our happiness of a trip to a very beautiful and unique corner of the world...
What follows are daily journals written throughout the trip.
Wednesday, August 21
WHOA WHAT A DAY! The Dutch woke up this morning nice and early once again, but this time a little more sluggish than the previous days. Our day got started with a long but beautiful train ride up into the Rain forest. We arrived at a little town called Kuranda, tucked nicely away in the mountains. Once there we shopped SOME MORE!! (I can't take any more shopping!) And then got a bite to eat. After this we took an awesome trip on the Sky Rail which took us on a 40 minute trip over the top of the Rain forest back down to Cairnes. This was truly one of the more unique experiences we've had on the trip.
After this we made our way to Wild World Tours. Here we were able to hold Koalas, pet Kangaroos, watch a Crocodile show, and an exotic bird show.
Once this concluded we all packed back on to our bus and headed to our dinner and games. I believe most of us fell asleep on the way to dinner. We've been taking naps basically whenever the option presentes itself. :)
GAME TIME--WOW, I've never had so much fun at a game. It was raining so hard that it seemed like we were back at the Barrier Reef except this time without snorkels. The team was a little on the goofy side due to our lack of sleep which made it all the more fun. We came out of the day with two victories under our belt in a most unique way as we played two games simultaneously on a rugby field in a driving tropicla rain storm. The natives were most grateful for the rain as they are in a drought here too. All in all today was a great day to end our trip.
We are all so thankful for time that we have had here and we look forward to our safe return.
Jessica Robinson, Sophomore
Tuesday, August 20
Our Australian adventure took another huge leap today as we ventured out to the Great Barrier Reef. Our morning began by boarding a Catamaran and taking a 90 minute cruise out to the Reef. The surroundings were amazing, with mountains and the bluest water all around us. When we reached Upala Cuay, we anchored our boat and had the opportunity to explore the Reef.
An optional SCUBA dive lesson was given as well as the chance to snorkel and hang out on a sandy island. At noon, a buffet lunch was served on the boat, complete with tropical fruit and fresh shrimp.
Many of us chose to try the SCUBA dive, which was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. There are no words to describe the many colored coral and fish that are in the Reef. I've seen pictures on TV and in magazines, but you can't capture the true beauty until you've been there yourself. In addition to diving, we were able to snorkel out by the sandy island. Snorkling doesn' allow you to go down as far as SCUBA diving, but the sights were just as beautiful. Many of us had underwater cameras to take pictures of the underwater life. None of us wanted to leave the Reef, but after a full afternoon, it was time to head back. We once again boarded the Catamaran for the long journey back to Cairns. We had time to relax on the deck, catch a kip (a short nap) and enjoy music played by one of the crew members.
Kelly Kraft's 21st birthday was today, so we were able to sing Happy Birthday to her with music in the background, while she helped out with the tamborine (Yeah Kel!!)
Today was without a doubt my favorite day of the trip. I've always wanted to SCUBA dive and swim right along with tropical fish. It was amazing to see God's beauty in a whole new way.
Andrea Adams, senior pitcher
Monday, August 19
Today we spent most of the day doing community service in Cairns. In the morning, the team split up into four different groups to do odd jobs at Life Line stores. Life Line is a chain of Goodwill-type stores on the East Coast of Australia. In the afternoon the whole team traveled to Cairns Police Corps Youth Club (PCYC) to lead activities with Australian at-risk children. We played tee ball, soccer, and did gymnastics with 50 Australian youth ranging from 7-14 years old. The children were very eager to ask about the States and loved all of the activities they participated in. After a full day of service we gathered together at our hostel for dinner and to celebrate the birthdays of two players, Kelly Kraft and Kristen Barncord as well as Mr. John Boersma (afther of Jen Boersma). Before enjoying a traditional Australian Birthday cake (Pavlova) the three participated in a Hope Softball traditional "spanking machine".
After the celebration we all headed downtown Cairns for some shopping at the night Market before calling it a day. G'night!
Angie Bunker, senior catcherSaturday, August 17
This morning we woke up bright and early for another great breakfast while you all were probably finishing dinner! We had the day off because our game was cancelled so it was decided by the majority of the group that we were going to try and catch a wave.
Half of the team went out to the beach at 9 in the morning and began their lessons while the other half walked around Manly shopping. They had a little market set up outside our hostel. It is alot like a craft show.
I was in the afternoon group that decided to be defeated by the waves. We met our surfing instructors at the beach where they provided wet suits and surfboards. We did a little stretching and then proceeded to learn how to paddle out to the waves and stand up on the board. After the mini lesson we started toward the water and began practicing. The waves were tossing us around! We managed to stand up on the board and ride the wave. Some lasted a minute while others a second. It was a blast!
We then met for dinner and are now packing for our trip to Cairns! This was definitely a great last day in Manly and Sydney!!
Kristi Ridge, Senior Centerfielder
Friday, August 16
Whew! What a day for the Flying Dutch Softball Team on Friday! The day was spent sightseeing in Sydney, including a Sydney Harbor Cruise, a visit to the Sydney Aquarium, a high view of Sydney way up in the Centerpoint Tower and shopping at the famous Paddy's Market.
After all of these wonderful activities the bus taking the Flying Dutch to their Friday game got caught in weekend rush hour traffic and the Dutch arrived at the Olympic Stadium just 45 minutes before the game. Little did they know that the best part of the day was yet to come.
The game tonight was announced over the PA system and included formal introductions, both national anthems and the exchange of gifts (the Dutch received stuffed koalas and a jar of vegemite)'
The Dutch coaches played all 19 players in this last game in Sydney and saw everyone contribute in the most exciting game so far.
After spotting the Campbeltown team to 2-0 lead and being held hitless for the first four innings, the Dutch got on the board on Jen Boersma's safety squeeze with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. The Oracles answered with a single run in the top of the sixth. The Dutch mounted a mighty comeback in their half of the frame as Megan Sheehan led off the inning with an inside the park home run, touching home first on a bang, bang play. Later in the inning Erin Riley and Jess Robinson came through with two-out RBI triples as the Dutch took the lead for the first time 5-3. While the Dutch were having fireworks of their own, a brillant display of fireworks exploded over the right field fence.
Campbeltown refused to die in the seventh scoring a run and had a runner on second with no outs when Dutch catcher Lauren Vande Kopple took over. She threw out a would-be base stealer at third, made an acrobatic catch of a wind-blown foul pop up for the second out and caught yet another foul pop up to end the game -- a 5-4 Hope victory!
After the game in a wonderful show of international comraderie, the teams met in the middle of the diamond for a large team picture and extended conversation.
After a long day, the Dutch will take a well deserved Saturday off for final fun activities in Sydney before heading on to Cairns on Sunday.
Heading to bed,
Coach Karla Wolters
Thursday, August 15
Greetings from frozen Down Under
Well, the day started bright and early at 6:30 in the morning with a hearty breakfast of eggs, toast, cereal, sausage, and juice. Did you know that they call ketchup - tomato sauce. Yeah, I found that out, too.
After breakfast, a bunch of us went to Sydney for the morning, to see the Opera House, the Botanical Gardens, and St. Mary's Cathedral. All were wonderful, and extremely beautiful.
Then came lunch, and after we headed for our first game. We started with Westfields, which was a high school team that earned scholarships to play at their tough academic high school. For their ages, their skills were extremely well developed. We won the game 9-0, with some great pitching from Andrea Adams, and some great hits. Megan Sheehan came up with an important triple.
The second came was against Cumberland, and they were a traveling team of college-age players, put together to play us. They were quite talented and came prepared to play. They fulfilled all of our expectations. We lost to Cumberland 6-2, but another exciting game. Ashley Vanmeter pitched well, but they were hitting her in the gaps. Its hard to get the balls in the gaps, at least defensively. All in all, 50-50, isn't bad.
The weather was extremely cold, the mid day around 60 dropping to about 38 at our last game. Pretty cold, and a little different than the 90 we were used to just a few days ago. Well, take care and have a great day!
Marty Jordan, Videographer
Tuesday, August 13
The Hope College Softball Team has arrived safely in Australia!! We had three flights that were relatively uneventful, the last being a 13.5 hour flight from LA to Sydney. The flight had only one 20 minute thunderstorm at 40, 000 feet and the rest of the trip was very smooth. We ate Australian on the plane and enjoyed the accents of the Australian stewards and stewardesses! After all of those flights only one piece of luggage did not arrive for 39 people and that landed an hour after we arrived.
At this time, high noon we have checked into our hostel, the Boardrider Backpacker, in Manly Beach and some of us have ocean views of crashing waves of georgous teal blue waves! It is very cool 54 degrees and a 15-20 mph wind, making it feel like softball season in Michigan in March or April.
Most of us have walked the corso and grabbed a bite to prior to our 2pm practice. We are encouraged to stay awake as long as possible today so that we can turn our internal clocks all the way around. We are 14 hours ahead of you.
Tonight we eat at one of the local eateries as our last event of the day. After traveling 28 hours by plane and 2 hours of sightseeing by bus this morning, we will be ready for bed and to stop moving for a few hours. We thank all of you for your prayers for our safety! The Lord has surely been with us all the way. Hello to all of our families, friends and fans!
Coach Karla Wolters
Softball Team Heads to Australia for Games
The Hope College softball team has taken some long road trips for games during its history, but none matches the upcoming odyssey of coach Karla Wolters' Flying Dutch who will leave Monday (Aug. 12) for a 10-day tour of Australia.
By air, it is 9,385 miles from Holland, Mich. to Sydney, Australia. The final leg from Los Angeles to Sydney takes 14 hours.
This is the first international trip for the Hope softball program which annually takes spring ventures to Florida for a series of pre-season games.
Other Hope teams that have travelled overseas in the past have included men's and women's basketball, football and men's soccer.
Coach Wolters, who has guided Hope's softball fortunes since 1988, is no stranger to Australia. She travelled there for the 2000 Olympic games and witnessed the softball competition.
The team has three scheduled games in Sydney and a doubleheader in Cairns, Australia which will require yet another flight. In addition to the games, there will be plenty of sightseeing and the opportunity for a community service project in Cairns.
The teams returns to the United States on August 22. Classes for the fall semester at Hope begin on August 27.
Players participating in the trip include senior Andrea Adams of Fairgrove, Mich., sophomore Kristin Barncord of Granger, Ind., senior Jen Boersma of Dorr, Mich., senior Angie Bunker of Muskegon, Mich., sophomore Lisa Burgess of Dorr, Mich., sophomore Cristi DeGraff of South Holland, Ill., sophomore Jill English of Grandville, Mich., sophomore Candace Graham of Hudsonville, Mich., junior Kelly Kraft of Brown City, Mich., sophomore Kristen Lodden of Rockford, Mich., junior Allison Miller of Hopkins, Mich., sophomore Alex Reed of Lansing, Mich., senior Kristi Ridge of Elk Rapids, Mich., junior Erin Riley of Homer Glen, Ill., sophomore Jessica Robinson of Grand Haven, Mich., sophomore Megan Sheehan of Hudsonville, Mich., sophomore Sammie Smith of Hudsonville, Mich., sophomore Lauren Vande Kopple of Rockford, Mich. and sophomore Ashley VanMeter of Dansville, Mich.