Traveling to a nearby community for sports is quite common as many parents and athletes don’t mind driving from one municipality to another in pursuit of their athletic goals.
Crossing a border and going more than 1,600 miles? That is not so common.
But that is the path Langley’s Sydni Kemper has taken and it is paying off.
Shanna Biggan received a call from a former teammate, Kim Beatty-Brooks, about one of her players looking for some more exposure.
“Her pitching coach (Kim) spoke really highly of her — good kid, good work ethic, very positive,” explained Biggan.
Biggan runs the Arizona Impact Gold, a Tucson-based travel girls softball team.
So last November, Kemper joined the Gold for a couple of showcase events.
The showcase events serve as a way for players to display their skills for assembled college and university coaches in hopes of landing a scholarship offer.
It was also a chance for Kemper to challenge herself.
“Sydni was looking to expand her horizons a little bit and give herself a little different experience,” Biggan added.
And it was mission accomplished as the Langley teen verbally accepted a scholarship offer to Phoenix’s Grand Canyon University.
This is all despite the fact the 16-year-old still has two years of high school remaining as she enters Grade 11 at Walnut Grove Secondary in September.
Kemper did her homework, too, looking into potential schools even before she went to the Arizona showcases.
The Grand Canyon University was one of three verbal offers Kemper received.
“(My parents and I) were researching schools that best fit (what I wanted) and after going down on my trip to Arizona, we toured a few,” she explained.
“We just felt (Grand Canyon University) was the best living conditions and they had the best for me education-wise and ball-wise.”
Kemper plans to major in athletic training and exercise science and minor in business.
The fact the school’s softball team already has a high grade point average was one of the selling points.
“We thought that would be a good backbone for me, with the standard already set in place,” she said.
Softball long been sport of choice
And playing softball has long been the goal.
She started in the sport when she was 10 and quickly fell in love with it.
Prior to softball, she had played a year of ringette, as well competing in synchronized swimming.
Both sports help her in her current one — swimming for her fitness level and ringette for her leg drive and power when she is on the mound.
And pitching is her preference.
“I like the intensity of it. being in control out there,” she said.
“Being able to control the situation and having the knowledge that if I really want to do big things for my team, I have the ability to do that.”
She likes the challenge of the position as well.
“Being a pitcher, you have to be mentally different, and that is just what I like.”
At Grand Canyon University, Kemper will play for one of Biggan’s former coaches, Ann Pierson.
Pierson is a former U.S. national team player.
“So she knows her softball backwards and inside out and she saw a lot of potential (in Sydni),” Biggan said.
Student of the game
Kemper is very effective throwing both the drop-ball and off-speed pitches, Biggan said, and more importantly is a student of the game.
One of the assistant coaches calls her a sponge.
“She will just sit, even when she is not pitching, sit on the bucket beside him and just ask him questions,” Biggan said.
The questions will range from what pitch to throw in a certain situation to what to do against a specific defence.
“She is constantly trying to learn and improve herself.
Kemper is bouncing back and forth between her two teams this season, as in addition to playing for the Impact, she is a member of the Ridge Meadows Pride (where she is coached by Beatty-Brooks).
Last month, she helped the Pride win gold in the silver bracket in Oregon.
Spending the summer with Impact
But she has now shifted her focus to helping the Impact for the rest of the summer.
The Arizona team was in Colorado for a tournament last week and the Impact next plays closer to home for Kemper, at the Canadian Open Fastpitch International at Surrey’s Softball City.
It runs from July 15 to 23 with the Impact competing in the Showcase Gold competition.
Following that event, Kemper will stay with the Impact and help the team compete at the U.S.nationals in Huntington Beach, California from July 31 to Aug. 7.
Kemper is also hoping to play for Canada on one day.
Last month, she attended a tryout camp for the Canadian junior (18U) team in Cloverdale and will find out in September if she made the cut to the next phase.
“My two goals for softball were to make Team Canada and get a full ride to a Div. 1 university,” Kemper said.
Having accomplished one, she now sets her sights on the other.