Traveling to new cities, making new lifelong friendships, and taking on some of the best talent in the nation. The life of a traveling athlete can be a grind for some, but very beneficial at the same time. This type of atmosphere is nothing new to Quitman sophomore Kassie Rhodes, who has spent countless hours on the road testing and honing her skills while enjoying her summer break with family, friends and teammates in the process.
“I grew up watching my sister play, so I started playing softball at the early age of three,” said Rhodes. “As I got older, I realized to play on the college level like my sister did, I would need to play a higher level of softball. I love the sport so much that I want to have an extra four years that not everyone else gets the opportunity to have.”
Having softball in her DNA for most of her life, Rhodes has used the lessons she has learned on the traveling circuit in her daily commute, even passing on those experiences on to younger girls chasing down the same dreams of reaching success like she has. “My personal travel ball experience has been amazing. It has taught me so many life lessons. Because of travel softball, I am a better person, I know how to work well with others, and I know how to persevere through hard times towards my final goal. I absolutely love the experience that I have had so far, and I hope I can have several more years of it.”
This summer alone, Rhodes has taken the field for the Texas Glory in cities such as Dallas, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kansas City, Kansas, and Boulder, Colorado. “I still have to play in Kansas City for the World Fastpitch Championship and Huntington Beach, California for the Premier Girls Fastpitch World Championship.”
Of the many places Rhodes has checked off on her travel list, she stated the Sunshine State as her all-time favorite. “My favorite place to play is definitely Florida. I have been going there for softball since I was eleven. I have always loved the ocean, and have wanted to live in Florida for so long. I really love it when I get to stay down there for two weeks at a time playing my favorite sport.”
A big change came for the six-foot lefty this year, who suited up in the black and yellow and stepped into the pitching circle for her first year of high school softball at Quitman, learning to appreciate the many every day events that some athletes take for granted. “Having played several years of travel ball, there was definitely a noticeable difference once I transitioned to high school ball, but the transition wasn’t hard or bad in any way. It was different from travel ball because I was able to practice with my team every day, I got to ride on the bus with them to games, and so on. I really think those are the things that build championship teams. I enjoyed the transition and the high school season, and I can’t wait for the next one.”
Just two months ago, Rhodes’ freshman season concluded with a victory over Poyen in the Class 2A State Finals at Benton High School, Quitman’s first crown in the sport. Rhodes was selected as the tournament’s most valuable player, with three full seasons left to play and a team full of youth to back her up. “I feel very honored to have had the opportunity at a state title. I think it gives me more confidence than I have ever had knowing that my team and I are a part of an elite group of players that have won a state championship. Winning a state title helps my confidence tremendously when I am out of state playing against elite players from across the country.”