By Michael William Fridfinnson, August 5 2021—
This is Michael William Fridfinnson and I’m passionate about women’s sports. I believe that they deserve the same level of recognition and respect as men because they work as hard — sometimes harder — than men do.
So when I had the opportunity to interview Haley Acton, the captain of the University of Calgary’s Women’s Softball team, I was excited. Haley is doing her practicum at the Developmental Disabilities Resource Centre of Calgary and that is how I met her. She is in her fifth and final year and is studying Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies with a minor in Sociology.
Acton has been playing softball for 18 years.
“There were seven rookies in my rookie year and I’m the last one. I’m the only one that made it to year five,” said Acton.
Acton attends training camp during the summer and can practice up to five or six hours a day. During the regular season — from September to Thanksgiving — she has two or three practices a week, for five to six hours a day.
“We do an on-field defensive practice, which is two hours and then we go to the batting cages for another two hours on a separate night to focus on hitting and conditioning as well. Then, pitchers sometimes throw extra during the week, if we need,” Acton explained.
The winter practices vary because the team is not playing games. Acton says they just try to maintain their skills and stay in shape, so the team practices for only a couple of hours every week. Pitchers — like Acton — and catchers also practice on Saturdays. Other team members can drop in as well.
She called herself a “strike-out pitcher,” saying she is most effective when throwing hard. However, everything stopped when the pandemic started and athletes had to be more creative to stay in course. They were able to do exhibition games while following pandemic restrictions according to the Alberta guidelines, but Acton was disappointed not to have a full season.
When they do practice, Acton and her team’s main practice field is an outdoor location called the Industrial Diamond in Northeast Calgary. The team also practices at Shouldice Park in the Northwest and near the university at McMahon Stadium where there is a dome with a turf and full cages.
Acton wasn’t always interested in playing softball. She played many other sports in the past, but she felt awkward, especially because she was often compared to her twin sister who was naturally more athletic. Acton tried softball and she found it more enjoyable than other sports. But, she felt at times she needed more of a challenge. Her dad suggested she train as a pitcher so that she’d be involved in every single game and she liked it. That is still true today.
“I feel really important while I’m in the circle […]. I’ve never been scared of the pressure […] in the last minute, when it’s do or die,” she said. “I always want to be the person to have to make the play or get the strike out, or get the big hit at the end to win.”
Acton liked other sports growing up, including hockey which she played for 11 years. They were fun for her and she could play with her friends, but she “just really loved [softball].”
Once she began playing softball at the U of C, she started enjoying it more and more because she could meet people and learn new perspectives every time.
“It was a great way for me to make friends and kind of get out there,” said Acton, who came from Saskatchewan to play ball. She found this opportunity was a nice way to meet new people that she otherwise wouldn’t have met.
As well, another favorite thing of Acton’s about being part of the team is the coaches.
“My coaches have all been really great […]. And winning — winning is fun!”
In the future, Acton plans to become a coach and would like to travel when not playing. In her free time, she does DIY home improvement projects, such as refinishing a dresser and painting her house.
Acton is a true inspiration to many people, including young women who would like to pursue different sports as a career. She believes that staying fast and strong, as well as more practice and willingness are key to succeeding in sports.
It was fantastic to meet Haley!