Staying in state to play softball for the University of Utah was never the plan for sophomore Ryley Ball. Now, Ball has found a home in the program at the U, and can’t picture herself anywhere else.
Ball, a native of Hooper, Utah, grew up as an athlete playing both basketball and softball, and she even danced. When she got to high school, Ball chose one sport to play; softball. Ball turned away from basketball when she no longer enjoyed playing the game influenced by a tough coach in her junior high league.
During her sophomore year, Ball gave basketball a second shot. Excelling at tryouts, Ball was given the opportunity to play with the varsity team. Although she was skilled at the sport, Ball no longer had the love of basketball that she did for softball.
After giving basketball up her junior year, Ball returned to the sport once again to see if she could find her past adoration for it one last time. After getting cut from the team, Ball realized that it was finally time to focus all of her time and energy onto the sport that she loved most: softball.
“I think playing two sports at the varsity level pushed me to try my hardest and go all out,” Ball said. “I had to get good grades and practice to stay on varsity. I think that the experience showed me that hard work can pay off and that it is worth it.”
Growing up, Ball was always involved in athletics. Aside from softball and basketball, she also danced with her two older sisters. When she stopped dancing, her sisters continued, but their bond stayed strong.
The three girls are very close with each other, and they make a point to see each other weekly and have “sister nights” since they all still live in Utah. Her sisters are a big part of Ball’s life, and she consistently looks to them for advice.
“When I was growing up, I had no one to practice softball or basketball with, but they would still go out and stand under the basketball hoop so that I could dribble around them,” Ball said. “They never wanted to, but they still were there supporting me.”
It was never Ball’s intent to remain in Utah for college. In fact, she originally wanted to travel out of state to get away from where she had always lived. She craved independence and the adventure of going somewhere new.
However, after attending some camps at the U and meeting the coaches, Ball fell in love. She enjoyed the campus and was welcomed with open arms by the coaches. She likes everything about Utah and is happy to be a part of this growing program.
With a family that lives locally, they make every effort to come to as many games as possible. This support system is important for young players as they enter college and start moving forward in life.
“While she was exploring college options, we looked out of state, but when it came down to it, she decided Utah,” said Ryley’s dad, Tracy Ball. “It is good for us because we can watch more of her games.”
Tracy helped turn Ryley into the athlete that she is by acting as a coach and mentor to her through her childhood. Ryley was still always an independent player and spent many afternoons hitting off of the tee or playing catch with herself against the side of the house after school.
Now entering her sophomore year, Ryley has already changed her major from nutrition to kinesiology. She is hoping to attend school to become a physical trainer’s assistant after graduation.
“When I was in high school, I volunteered with the Special Olympics as a physical trainer assistant and it was an amazing experience,” Ryley said. “I love working with people and athletes, and that is what I want to do with my future.”