Local teen shines in sport she almost never played
May 29, 2015
Describing it as an "awful" idea from the outset, Amanda Riely, 14, recalled being "forced" into playing softball by her mom at the young age of eight.
Now, after having much success and being selected to compete at the USA Elite Select All American Games in Orlando, she has a whole new perspective.
"Now I think it was a great idea," she said. "I have never thought about quitting since I started. It’s an awesome game."
Amanda plays shortstop and third base at Treasure Mountain Junior High School and was recently selected as a top performer during her tryout for the Far West region which will allow her to compete at the USA Elite Select All American Games. She also plays competitive travel softball with the 14U Salt Lake Pegasus and has traveled to Oregon, Colorado and California.
She is the oldest of three children and was born in Georgia where the family lived for 13 years before moving to Utah. On her first day in their new home, Amanda had a softball tryout.
"She’s done some special things with softball," Jeff Riely, Amanda’s father and former coach said. "My wife and I are really proud of her."
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Amanda was involved in piano and ballet at a young age but her mom wanted her to play a more team-oriented sport. Jeff Riely was her first coach in Georgia and was impressed with how athletic and strong his daughter was, in addition to her work ethic.
"We kind of had to separate that ‘daddy-daughter’ relationship because I didn’t want to show favoritism," Jeff Riely said. "But I’ll never forget being able to coach her and her friends. It was a great experience."
Having her dad as her coach was very positive in terms of improving her game and building her confidence, Amanda said.
"I loved having him be my coach," she said. "Having him knowing what I was struggling with and working with me on it at practice was great."
Amanda Riely also recognizes the positive influence playing softball has had on her personal life. She said softball has allowed her to meet new people and better deal with diverse personalities, a sentiment echoed by her father.
"It’s given her a group of friends and made her realize that it’s not all about her, it’s about the team," Jeff Riely said. "It has also helped her dealing with different personalities and getting along with people at school and people that she encounters on the field. Being a teammate is kind of a metaphor for life."
The camaraderie is something Amanda enjoys about the game, as well as seeing her own progress through the years.
"It’s great to be out with all my teammates and it’s awesome to know that I’m getting better," she said. "I’ve progressed a lot, especially in hitting. In the beginning you can’t really hit the ball at all, but now I’m getting used to the pitching. It gets harder and harder from every age group."
She said that hitting is now one her best skills and she has turned to focus to improving her fielding. She also said that travelling, in addition to allowing her to experience the California and Florida beaches, is beneficial because she can use other players and teams as benchmarks to assess and improve her own game.
Despite Amanda’s commitment to her craft, she has maintained a positive balance in her life. She is a 4.0 student and said that softball hasn’t interfered with her schoolwork. She plans to pursue softball in high school and college and hopes to play professionally one day.
Amanda said it was a "huge honor" to be selected to represent the Far West Region, consisting of Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii, and compete at the USA Elite Select All American Games.
"There have been so many proud moments," Jeff Riely said. "She is continuously doing things that make me proud and I am proud of the way she plays the game and how she approaches it. She loves to play and it shows."
In the end, maybe moms really do know best. Merilee Riely, Amanda’s mother, can only sit back and smile as she watches the success her daughter is having in a sport she would not have played on her own volition.
"I take her full credit for forcing her to play," she said.
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