by Mya Clark, Staff Writer

Tori Perkins has played softball for almost 17 years. Now that her senior year of playing collegiate softball is slowly coming to an end, Perkins is looking forward to taking her passion for softball to the next level, as a coach.

Before beginning her softball career as an Argo, Perkins, a Pensacola native, played softball at J.M. Tate High School and would later play at the University of Alabama-Birmingham for two years before transferring to the University of West Florida. 

For Perkins, softball has been a stress reliever and an opportunity to continue to grow and learn more about herself and her love for the game.

“I play softball because I love the opportunity to get to compete against the best of the best with my team,” Perkins said. “It’s also a stress reliever, and I know that if I have a bad day, it all just goes away once I step onto the field.”

Perkins’ passion for the game is more than words; it is something that fans, teammates and coaches get to see every time she plays. Her passion and leadership have helped to continue motivating all those around her.

“I just love watching her on the mound, the energy she gives, the emotion she gives, she’s just a fun player to watch overall,” said Ashliegh McLean, UWF’s softball coach. “I think she added leadership and energy. Her energy day in and day out, she comes ready to work, and she pushes the pitching staff, and she pushes the other kids in the lineup.”

Initially Perkins did not have plans of becoming a coach after graduation and was instead focused on pursuing a career in the communication field. It wasn’t until Perkins started coaching younger teams that she decided she wanted to turn her passion into a career.

“I didn’t really know I wanted to coach softball until I really sat down and realized that I couldn’t imagine not coaching and giving back to the game that gave me so much,” Perkins said. “I really enjoy getting to be a role model and look forward to shaping kids, just like I was, into better people on and off the field.”

With Perkins preparing to begin her coaching career, it gave her the opportunity to reflect on her years of playing and all the lessons she has learned. Moving forward, she said she wants to help the next generation of softball players to learn as they continue to grow in their own softball journeys.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that at the end of the day, softball is just a game,” Perkins said. “It doesn’t define who I am, and it’s not who I am. It’s something I love doing, and that’s something I think will help me through life in the future.”

Perkins, always ready for obstacles to hurdle, says that while you can’t control everything, you can always have a positive attitude.

“Control what you can control,” Perkins said. “You can always control having a good attitude, being a good teammate, working hard, and that’s also something that can be taken away from sports and into life in general.”

Looking back over the past 17 years playing softball, Perkins would tell her younger self to just have fun and enjoy the ride.    

“It seems cliché, but I would tell her that if you mess up, who cares?” Perkins said. “Work harder next time. If you lose, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just enjoy the moments you have with your team and coaches playing the game you love.”

Perkins added that the sacrifices athletes make in pursuit of greatness is all worth it in the end. 

“I would tell the next generation that everything that they are sacrificing now, like skipping school dances, or hanging with friends on weekends for practices and games and skipping parties for a good night’s sleep because you have weights and practice the next day is absolutely worth it at the end of the day,” Perkins said. “If I never sacrificed those things, I would never be playing collegiate ball or be in the position I am today to succeed.”

McLean has a bit of advice for Perkins, too.

“The advice I would give to her is to just keep loving the game that she fell in love with while playing,” McLean said. “If you love the game just as much as you do while coaching, you’ll be very successful.”

After graduating from UWF in May with a degree in communications, Perkins is planning on attending graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in physical education and human performance as a graduate assistant.

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