The Australian women’s softball team calls it “channelling mongrels” and according to the team’s 13th and newest captain, Clare Warwick, it’s pivotal to the side’s culture.
“We play a lot against teams ranked higher than us, and we believe you can give too much away by not believing in yourself and projecting confidence,” the Canberra softballer says.
“It means relentlessly striving forward with everything we’ve got, whether we’re down by 10 runs or up by 10.”
Channelling mongrels comes from the set of “player-driven” values the team devised, the heart of which is professionalism.
“While we’re not professional sportspeople in the technical sense – we all have jobs outside softball. But we decided we wanted to encompass what being professionals meant,” Clare says.
“We might not be paid money to play, but we want to set a good example for our teammates and people looking in on the program. This means, for example, looking after ourselves and presenting well.
“We’re lucky we got to workshop these values and we can pass that down as a foundation to future generations. They can edit as they see fit, but we’re pretty happy with our values and I feel we all understand them.”
Clare sees fortifying the culture and team goals as central to her new role as captain.
“A big part of it is making sure team members are accountable for their performance, reinforcing our goals to ensure we uphold that culture we all agreed on and are following through on the key messages. And, importantly, ensuring all team members have a good experience,” she says.
“We’re lucky our coach Laing Harrow prefers to have performance reviews and things like that player driven. Part of my role is to lead those performance reviews and I enjoy that.”
Clare says the start of her sporting career is typical to most, playing “whatever friends were playing and trying a few things” on local teams – but nothing stuck quite like softball.
“Softball is a sport where you do fail a lot. And while it’s a team sport, you do have a lot of individual failures. To put it into context, your success rate as a hitter means succeeding maybe three times out of 10,” she says.
“You develop a lot of camaraderie around those failures and how hard the sport is. You have such conversations around that, trying to figure out why it’s happening.
“It’s a challenging sport, and the way in which you deal with that requires resilience – especially as a leader. You have to be good at not expressing your disappointment so much while on the field.”
At age nine Clare began playing at the Boomerangs Softball Club. Her journey took her to state level and eventually in 2005 to the Australian team where she has now played 238 games.
Part of that journey is to steer the sport back to the Olympics. The team played a match as part of an exhibition at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. It fosters hope the sport will be reinstated for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
The team is also looking at the world championships in a few years – but Clare says the side will play a long game in the meantime.
“We’re paring things back and starting with refining the basics so we can build skills with longevity. By the time we reach 2028, we’ll be Olympics calibre, should softball be included,” she says.
Clare says she is stoked to have been awarded the team captaincy.
“The captain we had before – Stacey Porter – is a legend of the game. To take over her role means a lot, not only to represent my country but the whole player group,” she says.
“It’s a privilege and I’m honoured.”