Some might say I was born into a bit of a softball dynasty.
My dad, Mike McDowell, was a provincial player and coach. My mum, Jaye Bailey, is Olympian no. 762 representing the NZ White Sox at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Even my older sister Nerissa went to Hawaii with the Junior White Sox.
I am fortunate to have represented the NZ U15’s, Emerging White Sox, and have recently been selected in the Junior White Sox for the World Series in California in August this year. My younger sister McKenzie has just been named in the NZ Developing Sox. I do have another younger sister Bobbi-Jean, who absolutely hates softball but inherited all of the arts genes. So, as you can see, we live and breathe softball.
I never felt any pressure to play softball. In fact, I had to beg my parents to let me play. They kept telling me to wait until I was old enough. I finally started at 11, and it was a natural progression from there as, ultimately, I have been surrounded by softball my whole life.
My family are all extremely talented and I do feel pressure to succeed and reach elite levels, because I don’t want to let them down. Growing up I was known as Jaye Bailey’s daughter, or that’s Mike McDowell’s girl, or she’s Nerissa McDowell’s sister. I appreciate how much I have learned from my family, but I really want to be known for being me. I think as I have gotten older and matured, I am more confident in myself and my skills.
My dad was one of my first coaches and still coaches me now in the Kaiapoi Premier team. Being coached by your parents has its ups and downs. We have bonded over something we are very passionate about. But I think parent coaches are often harder on their children because they want them to succeed. We might have had the odd argument at training, but I have loved having my dad coach me, and he has contributed so much to my success.
There is definitely competition between me and my sisters.
We are extremely competitive and always want to be better than one another. Now that McKenzie is representing too, we often hear that she will be the better McDowell. This pushes us to be our very best, but of course we still want to see each other succeed too.
Softball discussions are commonplace in the Bailey-McDowell household. It’s such a large part of our lives, and we love to talk about each other’s training, games, tournaments, and upcoming events. We all play different positions, so we have some intense conversations about how we each played. These can be quite harsh and brutally honest!
My club, Kaiapoi, is like an extended family and very supportive. I have always played at Kaiapoi, and my dad regularly instilled in us that loyalty is an important value for great athletes. We might be a small club, but we are growing. And we are growing as a region too. Usually the underdogs to the big regions, Canterbury is becoming more of a threat. I have considered whether moving cities to progress my softball is necessary, but it wouldn’t fit with my schooling, especially this year, as I am proud to be Head Girl at Kaiapoi High School. I also don’t believe depleting one region and stacking another helps to develop competition at a National level. A college scholarship to play in the US, where softball is next level, is an option. It would be hard to move away from my support crew, but I love new experiences and meeting new people. Playing ball overseas has always been a dream.
For now, I’m looking forward to travelling to California with the Junior White Sox.
Despite this selection being one of my major goals for some time, and I’ve been working really hard towards it, hearing my name announced was still a shock, but a very proud and exciting moment. My family were there and super excited too. I am so grateful for their support, and the money they invest in me so that I can play softball. I will be playing to make them proud and add new achievements to the Bailey-McDowell name. The training, preparation, and fundraising begins now.