Please introduce yourself.
My name is Ola Zielińska, I’m from Wroclaw, Poland and I’ll be 22 this year. I’ve been playing softball since eight years. Since my original club UKS Softball Wroclaw stopped existing two years ago, I’ve been playing for Hrabiny Softball Wroclaw. The club started only three years ago but in 2017 we won both the league and the Polish Cup. It’s a very young team but we have a great potential and willingness to achieve something. Also, last season I played with Mlade Buky in the Czech Extra League, but unfortunately we placed last so we won’t play the Extra League next year. I started playing for the senior national team in 2013 and U22 and U19 in 2015. I play outfield and my favorite position is center field. I have been trying to learn how to pitch but with no great results. I also played softball in Sardis High school in my senior year and then unfortunately I had a 2 year break from softball while studying at Jacksonville State University. The team played in Division 1 and did not let me try out. But I still practiced by myself in their batting cages when there were playing away games. (Sorry)

What made you want to play softball?
I was hanging out with my friends in my neighborhood in 7th grade when I saw a group of girls and a coach with baseball (or at least what I thought at that time) bats on a soccer field. I went over and asked what sport that is. They told me what it was and invited me for a practice. And that is how I started. Three years later I hit my first home run and played in the Little League final game.

Can you tell me something about softball in your country?
Softball is definitely not famous in Poland. 99% of the time if you say you play softball, people won’t know what you’re talking about. Sometimes they will have some knowledge about baseball but not much. And as you probably think we do not get much money from our country to develop it. Let’s hope that with softball back at Olympics it will change at least a little bit.

How often do you practice with your national team and what do they look like?
Unfortunately we do not have any practices or meetings with our national teams during off season. We only have one tryout around April/May and maybe two other camps before the European Championships. Until next April we do not meet again (except league games- which are very few as well since we have four teams in our league).

What's your best experience with the national team so far?
Probably the European Championship in 2017 in Bollate, Italy. We placed 12th, which is the best in Polish Softball history, and we missed out on being in top eight by losing two close games with Sweden and Austria in our group (5:6 and 2:3). For the first time we didn’t feel like the team everyone expects to beat 10:0 and we felt like we were playing real softball as a team. We fell short but we can only hope for better results in the future. We also had a great coach- Ben Ten Pas, (for two years in a row) who has been teaching us not only about softball but also about what’s happening in our heads. He believes in us and makes us want to play harder.

Was it difficult to get into the national team and what is the process?
I don’t want to sound too cocky but it’s very easy in Poland. Since we only have four active teams in the whole country, and part of those teams are new or retired national team players, there is usually around 25 people trying out or sometimes even less with U22. And for U16 and U19 there isn’t even any tryouts because there are barely enough players. Maybe that is our problem. Anyone that has been playing for some time and has any skills and knowledge basically has a spot on the National Team. So barely anyone is giving their 100% until it’s too late. Every year, somewhere around the European Championships or European Cups, we (or at least me) regret not practicing enough, not running more, not working harder during off season and many, many more. Maybe having more competition between us or having to fight for the spots on the team we could be so much better. Maybe one day we will. We just have to keep moving forward and stay focused.

What is the best advice someone ever gave you?
The advice I like is “The 5x5 Rule to Happiness: If anything that upsets you isn’t going to be relevant or worth your attention in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes upset about it.” Maybe it isn’t exactly a softball advice but after every error, fly out, or a lost game I like to think that tomorrow, next week or maybe next year I’ll be back here and this game or play won’t even matter. Also, someone once told me to be grateful that I get to play the sport that I love and I should give my best because some people don’t get to do it no more or never did.

What is your goal for the 2018 season?
I want to be a less selfish and a better team player than I’ve been- stop being upset at my teammates during the games especially when I have to sit on the bench. I want to stop worrying about statistics because at the end of the day they aren’t the ones that win the games. And regarding National Team I want to have fun, play hard and of course win as many games as possible since it will be my last U22. I hope we will become a great team that enjoys playing softball together.

Is it hard for your national team to participate in European tournaments?
Since I’ve been on the National Team (five years) we went to all European Championships for free. Usually we have to pay for parts of our uniforms, equipment or food and drinks between meals but we have been fortunate enough to get around 2/3 camps a year and the tournament for free.

Who's your role model and why?
My role model is my mom. She’s always been the strongest woman I have ever known. Maybe I don’t tell her that enough but she inspires me everyday and one day I hope to be as good, genuine and selfless as her. She’s not only my mom but also my best friend, psychiatrist, advisor and many many more. She’s always there to comfort and help me and everyone else.

What do you think is the key to a successful team?
Being a good and successful team is probably way more complex than everyone thinks. The most important factors are probably trust, encouragement, support and communication. A team can only achieve success if everyone works together, because everyone has a role in a team. Sometimes it’s being the best hitter or pitcher but sometimes it’s being positive, supportive or motivational. A team is not a whole if someone is excluded or not appreciated.

- Romy Marinus -