Shuta makes the adjustments
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
Photos: Buffalo State Athletics
The game of softball is all about adjustments. It’s adjustments by the pitcher to the hitter, and the hitter to the pitcher. There is always a cat and mouse game going on every single at bat. It’s the player that makes the biggest, and sometimes quickest adjustments, that will come out on top.
Last year, Buffalo State softball player Sydney Shuta struggled during her freshman year. It seemed everything she tried at the plate just wasn’t going right. It’s not like she wasn’t trying to make the adjustments throughout the season, it just seems the pitchers were always one step ahead.
Shuta, like most high school athletes, was the best at her position. Thing came easy for the Newburgh, NY native at that level. College was a different animal. Shuta realized quickly to be successful on the field, she needed to put in the extra work that was needed to take her game to the next level.
“As my first season went along, I noticed just how hard you have to work to be on the same playing field as the competition,” stated Shuta. “I’ve definitely learned that two hours of practice each day is not enough, and you must put in the work on your own time - whether that be on the field, in the weight room and even in the kitchen. I got to see just how different this level of softball is compared to what I have been used to and learned my strengths as well as weaknesses to better myself this season.”
For Shuta this was also her first time being away from home. Her entire softball career took place in Newburgh, a six hour drive from Western New York, just located outside of West Point, the home of the United States Military Academy.
A lot of people might take it for grant it, playing in front of friends and family for most of the season. For Shuta is was a real eye-opening experience. One that she was learning on the fly as the season, and school year, went on.
“The biggest adjustment I had to make last year was figuring out how to live alone with my family being six hours away,” stated Shuta. “This was especially tough as an athlete because there is rarely time to go home to visit, so from time to time it got tough having my parents so far away.”
Her struggles at the plate seemed to start as soon as the season started down in Florida last year. There was never a comfort zone at the dish for Shuta. If I player isn’t comfortable at the plate it could be a long season - and that’s exactly what happened with Shuta.
She was frustrated at times with herself, because she knew she could play at this level. The coaches knew she could play at this level, or they wouldn’t have recruited her to be part of a very talented Bengals’ team.
If anything, last season was a learning experience for Shuta. She learned about herself during her struggles, and how to work throughout it mentally.
“Getting into a slump is always very frustrating, especially during your first season playing college softball. It’s super tough not letting failure effect you mentally. I learned a lot about myself last year, and figured out how to bounce back from failure without giving up,” stated Shuta. “At the end of the day, the only competition you truly have is with yourself, and once you get out of your own way the sky is the limit. There were tons of drills and extra work I did last year to try and get out of the slump, but putting tons of pressure on myself wasn’t what I needed. Toward the end of the season, I retired all of the pressure and stress and went up to the plate with a clear head just trying to do what I know I am capable of.”
Shuta is ready for year two. She has put last year in the review mirror. The cold winter weather has turned into spring, and a new lease on softball life. Shuta has set some goals for herself this season.
The sophomore is ready to prove to people that she belongs at the Division III level. That she can compete with some of the best players in the country. Shuta isn’t putting pressure on herself. Instead, she is coming into the year worth a clear mind, and goals ahead.
“This year is super important to me, and I have a ton of goals set for myself. It!s all about fixing one thing at a time while in preseason,” stated Shuta. “Obviously, I have a lot of goals when getting back to the plate, but I also am looking to get stronger and faster, be a person my teammates can lean on, and work on building our team chemistry more and more each day.”
While everything seemed to go wrong at the plate, Shuta never let her struggles affect her in the field. She played a strong outsized for the Bengals last season, separating the two. It showed what kind of person Shuta is.
A lot of athletes may have had a hard time not brining their struggles to outfield. Pictures of former New York Yankees outfield Paul O’Neil practicing his swing in outfield when he was in a slump comes to mind.
Shuta, however, knew that she could still help out her team by making plays in the field if she wasn’t able to do it at the plate.
“While no one ever wants to let issues at the plate affect your performance on the field, sometimes it gets tough. I like to rely on my teammates during this, because it happens to each and every one of us,” stated Shuta. “We win as a team and lose as a team, and no singular at bat really loses a game. I love all my teammates and I think we do a really good job at picking each other up during these times.”
Shuta, and her Bengals’ teammates, haven’t been able to get outside much with the cold temps here in Western New York, but they are looking forward to their annual spring trip in March.
It gives them a chance to get ready for the league season by playing some great competition down in Florida for a week. While there is a lot of fun and sun to be had, it’s still a business trip for the girls as they look to make noise in the league this season.
“Florida is super important for us because it!s the first time we get to step on a field all together and showcase what we have been working on these 6 weeks of preseason. It!s also a chance to see what we need to fine tune before getting into conference games. That first week gets us into the swing of regular season games and we know we have to take advantage of being able to play so many games and see different levels of talent,” stated Shuta. “Florida is 110 percent a business trip despite the warm weather and beaches around the corner. While me and my teammates have tons of fun being together in a house in Florida, the second we step on to the field we know we have to take care of business. Like I said before, we use Florida as a learning experience just as much as a showcase so we have to work super hard and give It our all during these games so that it can benefit us in regular season play.”
With everything that has gone down on the field, Shuta has been killing in the classroom. It isn’t being a student-athlete with everything that goes on between practice, lifting and games, but Shuta makes sure her academics come first.
Softball hasn’t given her a chance to get a great education at a very good school, and she is making the most off it.
“Academics have always been extremely important to me, and I hold myself to super high standards in the classroom. I am majoring in speech-language pathology which requires a very high GPA for graduate school. I’ve always really enjoyed learning and understand how important my grades are in college so I like to push myself in the classroom as much as I can. I love the program so far and hope to continue keeping up with my academics throughout the rest of my career,” stated Shuta. “Being a college athlete comes with a ton of responsibilities. From practice, to lift, to classes, meetings, homework, etc. it can get stressful at times. My first year has taught me tons of time management skills as well as organizational skills so I can stay on top of my academics as well as athletic responsibilities.”