Myatt’s Journey Comes Full Circle

Myatt’s Journey Comes Full Circle

Robyn Clarke, Staff Writer

Softball has always been a part of Carleigh Myatt’s life. She first began playing at the age of four and continued through college, where she pitched for Reinhardt University. Even now, she spends time on the softball field as an assistant coach for her alma mater, Northgate High School.

Her father was her role model growing up, and it was he who first put her on a field. “[He] played every sport known to man, and so we started off with tee ball. I was the only girl on my team,” she says. She vividly remembers the time she hit the ball into the outfield, and the boys fought over who would field it. When that happened, her dad decided it was time to play something else, so she starting playing at Whitlock. It was there that she fell in love with the game of softball, and she hasn’t looked back since.

Myatt played at Whitlock until the age of ten, when she began playing travel ball with the Sharpsburg Chill. There, Larry Lieb coached her for eight years, but their bond went beyond the field. “He’s like a father figure to me,” she says. “Everything I know about softball was him.” During the seven years she played with the Chill, the team travelled around the country, won the state title twice, and were crowned national champions.

The national championship game is something else she’ll never forget. They were playing a team from Louisiana, one they had already beaten. She pitched in every inning except one, and when they had scored seven runs to Louisiana’s zero, she and her teammates knew victory was theirs. “The championship game was so intense that we had team warnings from the umpires to keep the game flowing smoothly… As the batter made the last out, we had become national champions. We had won the national championship on the seventh day of the week, July 17th, 7-0 during the seventh inning, at 7:00 p.m. Ironic,” she says.

As an eighth grader, Myatt began playing for Northgate. She came in the year after the Vikings had claimed a state championship, and winning was an expectation. However, her biggest take away from that season wasn’t softball skills, but the friends she made. Though several years have passed, their bond remains deep. “We’re still a family,” she explains. “All five of the eighth graders that came in with me, we’re still in contact. We still talk and we still keep up with every person that was on the team, whether we talked or not.”

Northgate coaches Lisa Skelton and David Jenkins were also role models for her. “[Coach Jenkins] taught me everything about pitching and then he actually ended up being my college coach. …That was super cool,” she says. “He got to see me from age ten all the way up to twenty, and so he’s still super important too.”

What she loves about Coach Skelton is her dedication to her players. One game, after one of Northgate’s player had gotten hit by more than one pitch, Skelton stepped out of the dug out and raised the bat to the other team. “…I think a lot of people that were watching that game were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this lady is crazy’,” says Myatt, “but in the end… she fights for her players. [She] makes sure you’re getting what you deserve and nobody’s going to short you or make fun of you or anything. I think that speaks a lot for her.”

Upon graduating from high school, she attended Reinhardt University on a softball scholarship. In Myatt’s mind, one major difference between high school and college ball was the intensity. Reinhardt won the Appalachian Athletic Conference each year she was there, meaning the team played for about half of the year. With the benefit of hindsight, would she change her decision to play? Absolutely not. “Honestly, if I could go back, I would do it again,” she says.

Another challenge she faced was the speed of the game. “… The speed is a lot faster,” she explains. “It took me probably two years to realize how fast it was.” A coaching change after her sophomore year helped to rebuild her confidence. “She was the best thing that could have happened to me as a player.”

Now, she’s back at Northgate, teaching and coaching the game that has given her so much. “It’s super cool,” she says of coaching at her alma mater. “I’d say… when my last year in college was up and I knew I was never [going to] play again at that level, it was the biggest rude awakening ever. But [coaching here] ended up being better than playing… because you’ve got twenty girls who are counting on you to win this game. It’s kind of like you’re getting a front row seat to… teach them anything they need to know about softball. And when they actually… do it in a game you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah. That’s it.’ It’s so much more rewarding than playing, I think.”

Myatt wants to bring Northgate softball back to being the powerhouse it was when she played. But more than that, she wants the players to see that softball is more than a game. “What I want them to know is that it is okay to continue playing,” she says. “It is okay to have confidence that you’re good. It’s another gateway besides just another sport.”