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  Playing For New Zealand 33-Year-Old Jen Feret Chasing Olympic Dreams  
  ‘Fire Back In My Belly’:   August 2, 2018 Edition  
Jen Feret
     33-year-old Jen Feret, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Feret, of Boardman, is still chasing her dream---to compete at the highest levels in women’s world softball
      Beginning this week, she will compete as a member of the New Zealand White Sox national team at the 2018 World Women’s Softball Championships in Chiba, Japan. The winner of the tournament gets an automatic bid to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a dream of Feret’s since she began playing organized baseball.
      Feret is back on the diamond after a year off due to two, ACL injuries that culminated in surgery in May, 2017. Feret, who has lived in Aukland, New Zealand for a decade, didn’t let the injuries prevent her from pursuing her dreams.
      “The road to recovery was nothing more than a blessing in disguise. I knew I had the choice to feel sorry for myself and retire or take the time to rebuild myself both physically and mentally. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I like a challenge. I accepted this one for what it was and it helped put the fire back in my belly.”
      Feret is a 2003 graduate of Boardman High School where she was a member of the Lady Spartans Division I state championship team in 2001.
      Following high school, she accepted a scholarship to Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. where she was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2016. Feret ended her collegiate career as a four time, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference all-star, and where she holds all-time career records for most innings pitched, strikeouts (499), complete games (50), and single season strikeouts (175). When she wasn’t pitching, she played on the infield and earned quite a reputation as a hitter, belting 25 career home runs, second-best in school history; and where she also ranks fourth in all-time total bases, 217.
      Coming back from the ACL injuries, Feret was with the White Sox last week, competing in the Canada Cup where New Zealand picked up the bronze medal, and Feret got a mound win in a 3-0 shutout at the tourney, where she also clouted five home runs.
      Now its on to Japan and a chance at an Olympic berth.
      “Chasing this dream has earned me a university degree; experiences living, playing and coaching around the world; friends from around the globe; a very supportive, handsome, kiwi husband, and some unforgettable memories.
      “However, It hasn’t always been rainbows and sunshine. In chasing my dream to the other side of the world I’ve had to make many sacrifices and overcome countless challenges. Through the support of my softball community I have been able to a create a life for myself in my adopted country and ultimately obtain New Zealand citizenship. This allowed me the honor of joining the White Sox in the 2014 Softball World Championships in Haarlem, Netherlands and again in 2016 in Surrey, Canada,” Feret says.
      Feret will have a busy role in Japan as a pitcher who also hits. She is likely to be in the batting lineup as DP when not on the mound.
      She said she has been both pitching and hitting for so long, “that it’s nothing new”.
      “I feel my best when I’m hitting and pitching. I’m fully involved in the game and can help my team in multiple facets.”
      Feret On Feret:
      In Her Own Words
      “My dream was to play softball at the highest level. This aspiration lead to me places I thought I’d only visit in my dreams; however, this goal has also come at a cost. As any amateur athlete would know, these experiences come with sacrifice. Holidays are spent training, special events are missed, earnings go towards gym and doctors fees, new gear, tournament entries, travel costs, etc. As Dame Valeria Adams explains, this isn’t a sacrifice, but a choice. We know what we are signing up for; and in my case, I had something to prove... to myself!
      “My journey has, no doubt, been a roller coaster ride. In a game of failure I’ve always seemed to find extra challenges along the way. From the very beginning I was challenged by a high school coach that never gave me an opportunity to show my stuff as a pitcher/shortstop. But I didn’t quit, I stuck it out and played all four years at first base. Not many players can say they were a four year varsity player, and even fewer can say they were part of an Ohio State Championship team.
      “The challenges didn’t stop there. I pitched and played shortstop in summer-ball coached by our dads. My parents didn’t have the ability to fork out lots of dollars to get me on some hotshot travel ball team with all the best coaches that could share their knowledge and help get me recruited into top level universities. But playing at the highest level was still my dream and was hoping my athleticism, passion, eagerness to learn, and competitive drive would get me there.
      At a D-I [college] trial not far from home, I received a massive slap in the face. The coach asked me (what seems now) a simple question. “What are your contact points when batting?” My WHAT? I was a small town kid on a small town team coached by dads. (Thinking back to that, I couldn’t be more grateful because they did a dang good job!!!) But in that moment, the girls working with me turned to one another and chuckled. The coach, trying not to laugh, told the girls to let me continue hitting as she walked away to recruit “more knowledgeable” players. OUCH!
      “I ended up going to an Mercyhurst University, a D-II school. I can’t express enough love for this school and the people there, especially my coaches! Coach Moats taught me the absolute essentials of pitching while Head Coach Sara Headley put the ball in my hand as a freshman. This would change my softball destiny.
      “Again, I had my challenges ahead of me. As a freshman pitcher, I was only allowed to do just that. No batting for me. But deep down I knew I could perform and help my team. After over a year of begging, and working hard with Coach Headley on my batting, the opportunity finally presented itself.
      “In a spring training game in Florida our team wasn’t performing so I guess coach had nothing to lose. I was given the chance to step in for a pinch hit. The result---I hit the ball over the fence. Home run! The next game, in nearly an identical scenario I got another pinch hit. Result---Another home run. I never left the lineup after that point.
      “My senior year at Mercyhurst, I spent most of the season ranked second in the nation in home runs but was surpassed after our team didn’t make it past our conference games.
      “As a pitcher, we only had Coach Moats for two seasons, then we were on our own the last two years. Even with these challenges, I went on to set new school records as a pitcher and a batter and was inducted into the Mercyhurst University Athletics Hall of Fame.
      “After a successful stint at Mercyhurst, I was told to ‘hang up my cleats.’ It was time to become an adult. I was absolutely heart-broken. I still hadn’t reached the ‘‘top’ level.
      “Then an opportunity arose that I didn’t even knew existed. I was contacted to play and coach in Europe!!!! However, I had to finish my student teaching so was unable to go. Absolutely devastated, I went on to coach two years as a grad assistant. After obtaining my second diploma and still having the craving to play overseas, I reached out to a European softball recruiter. The next thing you know I was on a plane across the Atlantic.
      “The next three years were a whirlwind between Switzerland, America, back to Switzerland, off to New Zealand, back to Germany, returning to set my roots in New Zealand with another trip to Italy with a Czech team (just for fun).
      “Through my international experience I have been lucky enough to claim four national titles: Switzerland, Germany, two with New Zealand, and yet I still crave to play with the best, against the best!!!
      “I’ve spent the past nine years making a new life for myself in New Zealand. I busted my butt to obtain residency and citizenship. I married my softball obsessed husband, Jamie Brear. We, of course, had a subtle(ish) softball-themed wedding. And I have had the absolute honour of representing my adopted country at the international level. I first took the field with the White Sox in January, 2011 in a Test Series against Australia. I officially received my citizenship in 2014 allowing me to participate in the 2014 Softball World Champs in Haarlem, Netherlands and again in 2016 in Surrey, Canada.
      “What most people don’t know is that I was injured just before both of those tournament. Thus, feeling that I could not play to the best of my ability. The hard work and sacrifices have all been worth the journey. And with this tour’s seemingly required injury out of the way, I am ready to hit the 2018 world championships with everything I’ve got. Again, striving to play against the very best, alongside the very best!”
      The Olympic Dream
      So, while the world championships were Feret-Brear’s first focus after her 2017 injury-riddled year, the Olympics are also a major career goal.
      “What high performance athlete hasn’t dreamt of going to the Olympics? I’ve given my life to this sport and there is no higher level than the Olympics.
      “Every time I watch the opening ceremony I imagine what it would be like to walk in knowing you are among the finest athletes in the world. Then I proceed to cry like a baby.”
      New Zealand enters the world championship this week ranked as the #11 team in the world. Defending champs, the United States, are #1 ranked.
 
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