For Ashley Waco of Penn softball, finding her role on the team is what has made her Penn experience meaningful.
Hailing from Los Angeles, Waco is a junior infielder studying at the Wharton School, concentrating in finance and legal studies and majoring in economics.
Waco started off with tee-ball, but didn't stick with it for long because the uniforms weren’t her favorite. Waco's start in softball came when she was 10 years old, influenced by her father's knack for baseball.
“After tee-ball, I was reintroduced later to softball where my dad kind of got me into it and was always my coach,” Waco said. “My dad was a baseball player, so he played all the way up to Triple-A. I was the first child and I was a girl, so he put me in softball, and then I kind of took to it after that.”
Not only was her father her coach and softball inspiration, but he was also instilled valuable life lessons through the sport.
“I would say my dad is my biggest inspiration [because] he just kind of taught me to do [my] best [in] everything [I] do,” Waco said. “[He] always said [if] it's worthwhile doing, it's worthwhile doing right, so that's kind of a lot of what I try to live by: doing everything to the best of [my] ability.”
As an athlete, Waco knows the demands of being a student and being involved in sports. However, she has learned many skills as she's been forced to balance these two difficult schedules for the past three years.
“I think I’ve always kind of learned good time management, even through high school,” Waco said. “I think, even then, we were always driving hours to practice on weekdays so that's when I first kind of learned how to balance. And then, I think it's really helpful having teammates around to push me and then also people to help [me] with time management. When you do work and scheduling, it's helpful to have a couple of people in the same major or older girls that have gone through all of it to help out.”
The skills that Waco has learned over the years have contributed to her positive experience on the softball team and have allowed her to grow in the sport.
“I've definitely learned scheduling lessons. Another huge one is kind of how to fail and bounce back,” Waco said. “Another huge part, especially in softball and baseball, is failing at-bats, so that's huge in resilience. I think we talked a lot about that on the team. I’d say those are the biggest things and [they’ve] definitely made me, I think, stronger, [in] a lot of ways, mentally."
Waco was also grateful to have her team there to support her over the transition from high school to college softball.
“I think it's been great coming in. It was an adjustment for me, especially in terms of not playing as much as I’d been used to,” Waco said. “But again, I could not be more grateful for [my junior class teammates]. We were very close, and we all came in and were really able to change a lot of the team dynamics in terms of energy and just closeness. I think that's been awesome and has definitely been shown in the stats and just the overall morale of the team.”
Having played softball on the Penn team for three years, Waco has had the opportunity to see and experience a lot, giving her the ability to offer aspiring softball players, especially Penn freshmen, some advice on the best way to excel on the field.
“For any aspiring softball players, I'd say don't be afraid to be loud and be yourself on the field,” Waco said. “Create a personality and identity for yourself on the field. Like our coach always says, ‘find your role, even if you're not playing’ because everything helps for the team. [Once you find your role], you can capitalize [off of it] and make your experience the best.”