Grateful For The Opportunity

By Jeremy McDonad

jeremymcdonald73@gmail.com

DALLAS, Ore.–  Saturday was supposed to be Northwest University’s doubleheader against Western Washington University, but thanks to five inches of snow already on the ground the twin-bill of games was postponed.

“It definitely hurt getting that message, for sure. We have had some injuries going around the team so not playing this weekend was a blessing in disguise,” Dallas-grad Jordan Dippel said.  “It’s felt that all we have done is practice, since basically March of 2020, so not having a chance to put it all together was a bummer, but we got to roll with the punches and take advantage of the time we have to work on our game.”

It was supposed to be the first-game of Dippel’s Junior season and it was supposed to be the Eagles first game back after their season was canceled prior to their March 10 doubleheader against the University of British Columbia in Vancouver due to the Coronavirus Pandemic that struck in Early March.

Since the shutdown of the season, the Pandemic had taken away the one safe space that kept her sane and had kept her happy.  Physically it was great, but it was that mental aspect of the game that had gotten to her during the 11 months since her last game as they are slowly getting back to the field of play.

“Not being able to play, physically, was wonderful, I’ve been pushing my body so hard for so long and this time has been the longest time if had off from the sport,” starts Dippel. “Mentally, it was rough. This past year I’ve been at my lowest, and I’m just starting to climb out of that hole now that softball has started to come back into the mix.

“It was rough just in the sense that I don’t really know who I am and what I do outside of the sports I play. I’ve always had a season or a practice or scrimmage to get to, add school on top of that, so I’ve never had to just sit with myself and find out what I like to do. I had an amazing opportunity this last summer to coach a club team with my dad. That was an amazing experience.”

Dippel (5) blowing into her hand during a mound visit her senior season year against Philomath on March 15, 2018. Dippel is now in her third-year at Northwest University, playing in 54 games, starting 43 of them for the Eagles (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

It was those moments, in between work and the pandemic, coaching had slowly had reset and recentered Dippel. Releasing those good endorphins and giving her a possible route after her playing days are over sometime in the future.

“I also learned that coaching is something that hat makes me very happy. Because of Covid and working through the summer I wasn’t given a huge opportunity to coach a lot, but when I was able to be there, it was a level of happiness that I want to continuously chase,” Dippel said. “I feel that I am mentally stronger this year than any time before.

“My mental game is something that I have struggled with my entire career and something that I’ve had to work on a ton to get to where I am today. The experience of the last 11 months to a year have been such a learning experience than no amount of game or practice time could have given me. It’s been a blessing in disguise.”

The appreciation for the game, her safe space, the ‘go-to’ place that Dippel has relied on has become unreal entering her Junior season at Northwest University.  But even then, there were some struggles in terms of adjusting to the college game coming out of the one of Oregon’s strongest softball programs.

Dippel’s freshman year was a wake-up call, the now-Eagle Junior pointed towards going from playing a lot of innings on team’s she’s been on to sitting on the bench and adjusting to the classroom demands served as a reality check that Dippel admits.

“My first year up here (at Northwest) was a wakeup call beyond belief. I went from playing most innings on the teams I was a part of to sitting the bench because I couldn’t hit,” said Dippel, who hit .167 in 31 games.  “I needed that reality check. College is more than just raw talent, it asks for you to be consistent, which I was not.

“I was in a new state, with a new coach, a new team and a new set of circumstances I had to adjust to. It was a mental overload, I struggled a lot my first year, academically and athletically. As the weeks and months went by, I started to understand that the situation I put myself in was all my own doing and I had to make it work. My confidence grew the more I practiced and played and it helped a ton.”

Dippel (11) was a two-sport athlete her senior year at Dallas, playing basketball (pictured here against South Eugene on December 7, 2017) and softball for the Dragons (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

Once she got comfortable, things started coming back to her.  She knew what to expect with Fall Ball, practice, adjusting the school workload with college sports, etc.  The little things.  Mix in one last season of club ball before her sophomore year and here came a rhythm for Dippel

“I played some of the best softball of my life that season and I wanted to take that with me into my next season with NU,” Dippel said, who’s majoring in Marketing with a focus in Digital Media.

Through the 23-game short-season in 2020, Dippel played and started in all 23 for Northwest in the outfield.  Hitting two home runs with 6RBI’s and four doubles on a .311 batting average.  Now Dippel, in her third year in college, hopes to build from that foundation she had laid moving into her third season at the collegiate level.

With the uncertainty of the future with the on-going pandemic, her goal is simple:  Staying positive through it all.  She knows she is fortunate to be in this spot that she is in currently.

“My goal this year is to be positive. Positive despite not having the ability to play a fall season. Positive despite the fact we haven’t had a consistent schedule with practice because of changing guideline and the weather. Positive despite not knowing what is in store for us all, my team and all the others going into these spring seasons,” Dippel starts.

“There has been so much that hasn’t been able to happen for us all. Graduation for the class of 2020, fall and spring sports for 2020, the fact my sister and her classmates haven’t stepped in the high school since March of last year. The fact I get to step onto a field, regardless of all the regulations and limitations we have placed upon us, is something that I won’t take for granted ever again. My foundation this year is thankfulness I get another go, because I know so many that would love to have the very same chance.”

Dippel was vocal about how much the time-off has effected her, but is extremely grateful that she is able to continue to play under the circumstances present due to the pandemic (Picture by Jeremy McDonald)

Dippel’s younger sister Morgan, is a Senior at Dallas this year and currently has a six-week season scheduled mid-Spring.  It breaks the elder Dippel’s heart knowing how tough it might be with her sister and other seniors might be feeling right now waiting to see if she’ll have a season or not this year.

“I cannot imagine how the high school seniors are feeling right now. Talking to my sister who is a senior, about all that is going on just breaks my heart for her and her teammates and classmates,” Dippel starts.  “Sports are a refuge for so many people. Practices are a way to get out anger from a bad test score or a failed presentation. Games are a chance to play with your friends and put everything you have worked on behind the scenes on show for everyone.

“My senior year was a magical experience. Being able to wrap up my high school career of softball and basketball with people I’ve been playing with since I was a kid was a emotional experience that I am grateful I had every day. Thinking there are going to be high schoolers that could not give that same opportunity is heartbreaking to think of. Those are the people I lace my cleats up for.”

She points to a special moment she had with Morgan following her final game in the Dallas Dragon uniform.  Jordan recalls walking off the field with Morgan, who was a freshman that year, following the tough 2-1 defeat to Crater in the 5A postseason, knowing that these moments in sharing with her sister were few-and-far between growing up. 

She’s proud of the player Morgan has become with her bat and arm to go with her funny and quirky personality Jordan said of her sister as she got to watch from a distance as the older Dippel chased after her collegiate dreams.

But all-and-all looking at that situation Jordan Dippel is grateful for the opportunity that she has today, being able to prepare for a season.  Grateful to be playing the sport that she loves at the highest level that she is able to play.

“Grateful beyond words. I never thought I’d be in a position like this in my life,” Dippel.  “If you would have told me when I was a freshman in high school that (a) I’d be on a college roster playing the sport I love (b) have my sophomore spring season (cut) short because of a world-wide pandemic (c) not play a game of softball for 11 months I would have thought you were crazy. I’m thankful that my conference has bred a program for our teams to play safely.”

Photos By Jeremy McDonald

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