Finding Peace and Freedom Through Tragedy and Emotional Pain


Dayton Flyer Softball Player and 2019 Lebanon, Ohio Alumni Grace Gressly shares how she has found freedom and growth through the tragedies and hardships she has faced.

LEBANON, OH -- I have been lucky enough to share parts of my story these last few years on social media and have been surrounded with support. I’d like to share more of it today.

A year ago, I was in a completely different head space. To say it bluntly, I was broken.

I had transferred to Dayton after my previous school (Wright State) cut their softball program due to Covid. And a week before the season, my dad unexpectedly passed away.

It’s painful for me to reflect back on that time. I didn’t care about anything, and I’d be asleep more hours of the day than awake. The only thing I did care about was softball, and if anything, I cared too much about it.

There were a million things going through my head when it came time to play. I had to perform because I had a successful freshman year. I had to perform because I was a transfer and had to prove myself. I had to perform for may dad in his memory. I had to perform because I couldn’t let all this loss be an excuse.

I put my entire self-worth on whether I hit a softball... and the first time I got benched, it was like a sucker punch. Every time I got an opportunity, I tried harder and harder to make something happen ...harder and harder to be the person and player I was before.

To be honest I gave up on the season, at that point it was the only thing I could do to keep going. I was relieved when we were done playing. I couldn’t take a second more of it. I hated myself for my performance.

I remember talking to my mom when the season was over. I told her that no matter what, I was going to see my softball career through… no matter if I ever played in another game again.

Last summer, I took a step back from softball. I finally found things outside of it that made me happy. I got a few tattoos. I drove across the country to visit my brother. I got an internship this fall where I taught girls the fundamentals of softball, and it made me fall in love with the sport all over again.

I had completely shifted my mindset when I came back to school. I started to accept the good and the bad. I became my biggest cheerleader and cheered myself on as if I was my own teammate. I would verbalize to myself, “great hit.”

I started positive self-talk and walked on the field grateful to be there.

Suddenly, I wasn’t playing for anyone or their expectations. I was playing for myself, and this might be the first time in my career that I can say that.

I lost the people who held me back and started seeing an amazing therapist who specializes in grief and trauma. I’ve finally been able to let go of all this guilt I have held on to for too long.

It has been a long journey, and I have tasted both success and failure in my career… and I have survived both. I know that whatever happens in the future I will be okay, and I will be strong because of it.

I don’t care what that number is at the end of the year. I care about how I feel about myself and my self worth.

To all the athletes out there… that number DOES NOT define you. You are so much more... and you are enough.

We all have a story to share, and I think it is important that we do. Thank you for letting me share mine.

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