Numbers define sports. They tell us how fast we run. Or how fast we swim. They tell us the score. And they can tell us how much time’s left in a game. They tell us who is first and who’s last. We need numbers to frame our sports because they separate things for us. We study them. We compare them. But most of all they give us a reference.
For our story let’s start with these numbers.
14 No Hitters. 3 Perfect Games. 3-time Collegiate All American. 4-time All Atlantic. 25 school records. 1,343 career strikeouts. 105 consecutive scoreless innings. 2000 Olympics Gold Medal Winner.
For four years, Danielle Henderson wore that number for the UMASS Women’s Softball Team. From her pitcher’s mound she dominated opposing batters and delivered each 43-foot pitch with a singular purpose. Her numbers speak to that. Her dominance throughout her UMASS career earned her induction into the New England Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and in her senior year, she was awarded the Honda Player of the Year, given annually to the nation’s top collegiate softball player. And her number 44? It was the first jersey number ever to be retired in UMASS softball history!
Danielle grew up in Commack, NY and in third grade she started playing softball. She played soccer and basketball too but softball was her game, it would always be softball. She first learned to pitch at 15 and became such an accomplished pitcher that she finished her four-year college career with a 108-35 win-loss record, 72 shutouts, 135 compete games and a downright, nasty ERA of 0.70.
Talent. Motivation. Attitude.
Lou Holtz, the legendary football coach once said, “Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”
For most of us, sometimes it’s enough to have talent. For others it’s enough to have motivation. And for some of us we get by with attitude. But the elite athlete needs all of it and Danielle Henderson has it all.
Unlike sports, numbers don’t define Danielle. She has the talent; she’s always had the talent and her numbers prove that. And like all athletes at her level, she sees every day as an opportunity. She’s told us that it’s an opportunity to push, to accomplish, to stay positive and to reach beyond her limits. It’s this perspective that’s motivated her every day. And it’s Danielle’s strong willed attitude that she believes is her true gift. It’s a commitment to practicing hard and a commitment to playing hard.
After the 2000 Olympics Games in Sydney, Danielle played professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch League. For the three years following, she was an assistant coach at Ohio State; went on to Stanford as an assistant coach and then returned to her alma mater, UMASS Amherst, to become the associate head coach. And today, Danielle is the Head Coach for UMASS Lowell River Hawks.
This is the number that matters most to Danielle today. It’s a number that she watches over every day. A number she helps train and one she helps teach. It’s the number of players on her roster. For her, coaching is about giving back and her love for the game. She’s grateful to all the wonderful coaches who worked with her and thankful to the great sport of softball for everything it’s given to her.