Madison Sundling, Staff Writer

Summer is often associated with warm weather, lazy days at the pool, and maybe a vacation. However, for Lauren Lappin, assistant softball coach at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, her summers are filled with softball.

Ever since childhood, her love for the game has only grown stronger.

“When I was young, I would run home from school and record on the VCR to watch televised national championships.”

In December 2017, Bandits’ head coach Stacey Deniz reached out to Lappin to see if her previous Olympic teammate would be interested in assistant coaching. The rest is history.  After the Tritons’ spring season was over, Lappin found herself quickly on her way to Chicago as assistant coach to the Bandits.

The Bandits are five-year members of the National Pro Fastpitch Softball League, based out of Rosemont, Chicago. Their winning reputation and rich program history precede them. Lappin noted while coaching the Bandits the biggest challenge was taking this history and revolutionizing it for the rookies, or newcomers to their roster.

The team was left questioning what identities they wanted to continue.

During their identity crisis, the Bandits came together for a successful season, collecting 37 wins, the second most recorded wins within the 14-year franchise.

Lappin is all too familiar with the world of professional softball, playing professionally throughout her career and even winning a silver medal at the 2008 Softball Olympics.

Yet, despite whether she is coaching or playing, at the end of the day “The game is the game, “according to Lappin

Instead, the real difference is emotional maturity.

“These women come from all different backgrounds, but they can all adjust to the level of emotional maturity,” said Lappin.

This attribute allows this level of competition to grow and lets athletes play beyond their college careers. For young girls playing softball, organizations promote women, who are now role models, showing what it takes to be a successful athlete.

For Lappin, this accessibility and transparency with fans are important. It is a matter of meeting fans, signing autographs, showing up to local tournaments and getting involved with the young softball community that allows the league to survive and thrive.

Lappin did not have access to the large corporation softball is today. When she was young she had to rush home to catch a game on TV. Professional softball is much more televised today, allowing young athletes to see the opportunity professional softball presents them.

Even the Tritons’ spring Great Lakes Valley Conference games are live streamed so anyone can tune in online to watch. Or even better, come out to watch the Tritons in person at their first fall home games against Southwestern Illinois College Sunday, Sept. 16 at 12 p.m. However, if you want to get a taste of professional softball, the Chicago Bandits play in the summers at their Parkway Bank Sports Complex built exclusively for softball.

People that perform at these levels are not only just playing and coaching, but they are becoming ambassadors of the sport, passing on passion and skill to the next generation.