By Savanah Bandy
Olivia Emery is 14 years old, but she has an internal drive and motivation that would put most adults to shame.
The young softball player commands the mound as a master right-handed pitcher. She works on pitching every single day, and if she’s not throwing, she’s working on strength training and conditioning.
Her mother, Jamie Emery, noticed her determination at a very young age.
“Olivia started asking to pitch as soon as she was introduced to travel softball at eight years old,” she said. “I told her she had to pitch every day for six months before I would pay for lessons for her. I didn’t think she would do it – but she did!”
Olivia started taking pitching lessons once a week in Galena, Kansas. Her mom offered her her next challenge.
“I told her she had to throw 60% accuracy strikes before she could pitch in a game,” Jamie recalled. “She did that, too.”
Olivia said she was able to have patience, grow as an athlete and keep going despite setbacks thanks to a key piece of advice from her mom.
“My mom always taught me, ‘Pitching is not a sprint. It is a journey,’” Olivia said. “She has always reminded me that one moment in time does not reflect who I am as an athlete or who I will be. I will have bad games, and I will win championships. There will be ups and downs and that is okay.”
Today, Olivia plays on the Vision Gold 2026-Barham team, an elite 14A travel softball team out of Joplin. The team is coached by Cody Barham, the Missouri Southern State University assistant softball coach.
The team was ranked in the top 50 travel club teams in the United States by Extra Inning Softball, a website dedicated to softball news.
“I love playing softball on the Vision Gold team,” Olivia said. “I like working hard toward a goal. I like pushing myself and putting everything I have into being the best I can be. I love the feeling I get when I am on the mound.”
Olivia’s hard work has paid off. She has earned All State nomination for softball in 2022, 2021 and 2020 and has been named MVP in a grand total of 10 tournaments.
Olivia’s athletic accomplishments extend beyond the softball diamond. She has been involved in track and field for the past year and she’s been playing basketball for four years. In seventh grade, she was named MVP defensive player for her basketball team.
Sports have always been a big part of her life, though her mother recalled it didn’t start out that way.
“Olivia first started playing tee ball at the age of three, and I coached her team,” Jamie said. “She showed very little interest. You could often find her sitting on the grass in the outfield!”
Jamie got her into dance and gymnastics as well as softball. At the age of eight, Olivia had the option to join the Neosho Little League All-Star Team or her gymnastics competition team.
“After the All-Star games, Olivia said, ‘I want to play softball.’ That was it. That is what we have been doing ever since.”
Olivia’s sister Audrey has also grown up in softball and is a very talented catcher.
“Audrey has spent hours catching me,” Olivia said. “It is great to have a catcher as a sister. I know how lucky I am.”
Going into high school, Olivia looks forward to a whole new journey ahead. She plans to keep working hard and improving her skills and hopes to one day win state with her high school softball team.