Natasha Watley is on a mission. She wants to get more South Los Angeles young ladies interested in softball.
Watley is the official Youth Softball Ambassador of Major League Baseball. She’s a two-time Pan American Gold Medalist, three-time World Champion, and a four-time World Cup Champion. She believes that by introducing girls to she sport, they can improve their self esteem, confidence and social skills.
Since leaving UCLA in 2003, where she led the Bruins to three straight Women’s College World Series and NCAA Division 1 titles, Watley and the American team would go on to win the gold medal at the 2004 Greece Olympics. She followed that by bringing home a silver medal in the 2008 Olympic games in China. Watley continued as a professional by joining USSA Pride and Team Toyota in Japan. To date, Watley remains a worldwide offensive leader in National Pro Fastpitch Softball.
Now, she wants to pass on her expertise in softball, as well as in team building and leadership, to the next generation of girls.
“The biggest thing I want to impart to young girls being introduced to softball is that you can achieve anything you want in this life,” Watley said. “Through learning softball, you learn about hard work, dedication, commitment, discipline and teamwork.”
Watley was inspired to start a softball league while delivering a motivational speech at a South Los Angeles high school in 2003. The Natasha Watley Softball League (NWSL) provides no-fee softball at parks throughout Los Angeles for girls 8 to 15 years, the majority of which are Latino (60 percent) and African American (40 percent). Last year, the league comprised 1,350 players across 90 teams at 16 locations. It began its first international division this year and they expect to expand into charter schools this fall.
In softball, Watley is considered an expert in “slap hitting” (a batting strategy used to attack a certain weak spot in the infield) and teaches an online course on the method. She continues to coach in Japan and is looking forward to a the return of softball in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“Softball has taught me about just taking action even on days you may feel doubtful,” Watley said. “By taking action and ‘doing you,’ you receive clarity.”
This year, standout pitcher Janell Brown became the first NSWL player to receive a full scholarship in softball. She’ll be attending Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C. this fall. Before she begins her collegiate career, Brown hopes to lead her View Park High School team to its fourth consecutive CIF softball championship. Watley said Brown’s scholarship is quite accomplishment, considering that only 1 percent of women’s softball players receive a full scholarship.
“It is so important and gratifying to witness young people like Janell Brown realize their dreams,” Watley explained. “It is important to reach South L.A. girls to let them know that they are important, capable and have what it takes to set a goal, reach that goal and succeed in any endeavor they choose in life. Softball helps girls with trying to reach a common goal. It teaches leadership skills and if each player is ‘tuned in,’ you know that the team is headed in the right direction.”