Paul Valencia: Skyview athletes goes back to softball, in lieu of basketball

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

A lot has changed since we last checked in with Skyview’s Maddy Van Liew.

The headaches are less frequent, and she understands how to handle them, to shut things down at the first sign of discomfort.

She has been cleared to compete in sports again.

Even her name is a little different. It’s Maddy with a “y” now, not Maddie with an “ie.” Just to keep things interesting, she said.

Oh, and she is on the softball field, not the basketball court.

One thing that has not changed: She is still very much a skilled athlete.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons she returned to competition in this, her final year of high school.

Perhaps she got tired of hearing about how good she used to be, what an amazing talent she was, prior to the concussions.

Maddy is back, picking up a sport that she had not played since she was a freshman, and she is an integral part of one of the best teams in the state.

“I just wanted to finish out my senior year playing a sport,” Van Liew said. “I thought softball would be an awesome sport to come back to and get a last season in.”

The last time this column featured Van Liew, it was January of 2011 and the athlete who was an All-Region basketball player for the Storm as a sophomore was done with sports indefinitely. Too many concussions. Too many setbacks. And way too many tears.

So when she was cleared to resume sports earlier this school year, she knew she wanted to give it a shot.

Not ready to take on basketball again -- the sport in which she suffered three concussions in a span of 17 months -- Van Liew decided to pick up a bat again.

“The first day of tryouts was the first time I picked up a softball since my freshman year,” Van Liew said. “I was hoping things would click again. I guess it did.”

Yep. She is batting in the heart of the order for the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League champions and playing center field.

The biggest obstacle was just getting out there, risking another incident.

“I was a little hesitant,” she said. “There’s always the possibility of getting hit. But you can’t be scared. Everything has been great so far.”

She still gets the occasional headache associated with the concussions. But the intensity is nothing compared to what she felt her junior year.

At one point, she found herself crying, unsure of where she was.

A lot of doctors, a lot of therapy, a lot of rest has led her back to competition.

“They come and go,” she said of the headaches. “I just know how to deal with them now. It’s something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life.”

Frank and Vonda Van Liew are happy for their daughter and supportive. They also are pleased she did not come back too soon.

Maddy actually was cleared in time to play basketball. She could have tried out for the team that ended up winning the Class 4A state championship this winter.

“None of us really felt it was time for her to come back,” Frank Van Liew said, relieved that even Maddy felt the same way. “We think she made the right decision. She made the decision on her own.”

So Maddy took a few more months to make sure, to listen to her body, to figure out if she could find a way to compete for the Storm one last time.

“For us, it’s awesome to watch her finish out her senior year playing a sport,” Frank said. “Her whole life was built around athletics, and all that was taken away.”

Now that Maddy is back, Frank has noticed a change in the way he enjoys the games.

“Balls and strikes, hits and runs, they aren’t really as important as they once were,” he said.

The results still matter a bit, though. Maddy said it was bittersweet watching the basketball team win a state title without her. She is so proud of those players, so happy for them. But it still hurt not being able to share the experience with them.

Now, she has a chance for glory with another Skyview team. The softball team reached the state semifinals last year and has high expectations again.

“I’m really happy to be a part of this,” Van Liew said. “If we just focus and work hard, we definitely can make it to the championship. That would be awesome to bring it back to the school, add it to the basketball trophy they won.”

State trophy or not, Maddy Van Liew has returned to the sporting life, to the sports page in the local newspaper.

That’s worthy of a celebration.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valenciacolumbian.com.