MADISON, Wis. - Like many UW first year students, Wisconsin's softball catcher Maggie Strange is adjusting to the large college town atmosphere from life in a small farming town. Unlike many first year students, however, the first year catcher is an experienced farmer who has been raising sheep since the age of seven. It all started when the Gallatin, Mo., native, known to her teammates as `farmer Mag,' joined 4-H, a youth program which fosters hands on education in agriculture.
Beyond her involvement in 4-H, it's no surprise Maggie became a farmer; working with animals has been a family trade for a few generations. Her grandfather and uncle are retired veterinarians and her father was an advisor for the Future Farmers of America (FFA). The FFA aims to educate its members in agricultural sciences.
Maggie became a member of FAA in Fall 2005 and her main talent has been raising sheep and showing them at shows in local and state fairs. Preparation for the competitions includes techniques like halter breaking and slick shearing. To break an animal is to train it in order for adjustment to the service or convenience of humans. Slick shearing, Maggie explains, can be compared to a really short haircut done in order for judges to assess the sheep's physique.
Since Maggie is accustomed to these competitions, which she says can be "intense", she has been able to transfer the skills she has learned through farming to her preparation for her first collegiate softball season.
"[Farming] takes a lot of hard work, which is the same with softball," she said.
"You can't win every [competition]", Strange says, "...and [knowing that] helps me stay positive with softball." Growing up as a farmer and softball player, Maggie admits she learned more than how to keep an optimistic attitude. She admits that, "with both going on you have to have time management" and feels that the experience has helped her adjust to her schedule as a UW athlete.
Even though Maggie seems to be one step ahead of many freshmen, having learned early to manage her time and work hard, she confesses that she sometimes finds the campus overwhelming. "My high school graduating class was 56 students," Maggie says, "and I'm used to seeing the same people all the time."
To cope, Maggie confides in her teammates who are also new to Wisconsin. Despite feeling out of place from time to time, Strange realizes that her discomfort is part of the adversity that comes with being a student-athlete. Her strategy? She simply says, "to take it one step at a time."
Story by softball player Valyncia Raphael