When I began thinking over who to center my first main article of this series, one name stuck out from her play this past season and the new honor of becoming the 2019-20 Women’s MVP: Kathryn Mays. She quickly developed her skills through hard work and dedication, proving that she’s among the top tier of players on Ohio State’s roster. Most people may know her for her incredible catching abilities, but fail to realize that she’s frequently called on as a thrower for the Buckeyes. In three short years, she has climbed to the top of the women’s rankings. With her impressive resume in mind, there seems to be no better choice to kick off this series about strong women in the league than Kathryn.
How did you find Ohio State Dodgeball and get involved?
Prior to arriving at Ohio State, I was a camp counselor for three summers; we played lots of throwback gym games like dodgeball (and many variations of it…). When I found OSU’s dodgeball team at the Involvement Fair my first year, I was totally shocked and excited to join the team to play competitively.
What made you decide to stick with and work at dodgeball? How did your first headshot make you feel?
I’m a very competitive person. Seeing very skilled players on my team pushed me to put in hard work at practice – I wanted to be seen as a worthy teammate. I also really liked how welcoming the sport felt; anyone could walk in and play with any level of experience. I’m 90% sure I got my first headshot at the first practice I attended. Honestly, I’ve received so many headshots I can’t even distinguish when they happened (besides the one that gave me a concussion at my first Nationals.)
What was the general process like of ‘earning’ your roster spot? How has it changed?
My first year was spent observing strategies on the court and learning how to grip throw. My second year (only spring semester) was spent as a more supportive teammate bringing a presence to the throw lines and going for catches. This past year I feel like I’ve finally earned my spot on the roster, and I had some invaluable moments at tournaments. It was definitely challenging to work my way up on the roster. I felt like I had an innate disadvantage in regards to playing ability and strength. At times I still feel like I have to prove my spot on the roster more so than some of my other teammates.
Do you have anyone on your team that you looked up to or helped you more than others?
There are SO many people on my team that have helped me get to where I am. The first person that stands out is Alex Jacobs. During my first few weeks, Alex would text me practice reminders and walk with me to practice (which was a good 20 minute walk to south campus). He encouraged me to stick with dodgeball and made me feel like a member of the team. During my first spring semester, Maddie Talbert was back from her co-op. Having another female player to play with made me feel more comfortable, and with her guidance, we worked together to get on the Women’s All-American list that year. I could go on and on about other valuable teammates, but I want to finally shoutout my coaches Jeff Starr and Felix Perrone. They’ve both pushed me to get more involved with the sport within the league and with the community.
Are there any misconceptions about you from competitors?
I think as a female player, the biggest misconception from new competitors is that I am just a supporting teammate / I can’t make plays by myself. When I’ve been the last teammate in, my fellow captains have pulled me aside before resuming and said, “they think this is an easy point, prove them wrong.”
What is it like, to you, being the only female on the court at times?
I get mixed feelings when I think about being the only female on the court. At times it feels like I’ve really earned the spot, and I’m a valuable part of my team’s success. Sometimes though, OSU struggles to bring the minimum 12 to a tournament, and I feel like I’m put in by default so we have enough players. Either way, all the playing time in tournaments has given me so much extra practice, court awareness, and confidence as a player.
What is your defining and/or favorite moment on the court?
My defining and favorite moments were actually two separate tournaments. The league started turning heads with my performance at the Ladies’ Match at last year’s Nationals. Players from other teams started to take note of skills, and I think this led to my defining moment when I won a point by myself against CSU at Akron. My favorite moment occurred at Ohio’s Bobcat Bonanza against OU. I was again the last one in… I hit a couple of people out, caught in my teammate Ryan, and we won the point together. I think the team had already accepted the loss, so making the comeback felt really incredible.
How does it feel being voted the 2020 Women’s MVP? Do you have any other future goals?
Being recognized for your hard work and commitment is a really incredible feeling. My first year being on the Women’s AA felt special as a rookie. The next year was even more hype as I climbed the list. But this year being selected as the MVP was simply bliss. That being said, I think it was more exciting for me to see all the other women. I am so grateful to be surrounded by women with similar interests, goals, and dodgeball skills. It not only pushes me to work harder, it drives me to bring other women with me. Goal setting is certainly tough given our limited play-time this semester, but I do have some goals for myself and for the team. Personally, I want to improve my endurance and recruit more women. For the team, I want to engage in more social events (virtually until safe) and earn a spot in the National Championship game.
Is there anything you feel that you’ve done that sets you apart from the rest?
I do not like to brag, but if I had to identify a few characteristics about myself that *may* have set me apart, it would be my drive, capacity, and mindset. Since my first few practices, I have been so determined to improve my skills. I have pushed myself to go to every available tournament and have argued my spot on the roster. This sport is largely about commitment; the more physical activity you can do and footage you can watch, the more you improve. Being able to balance school, work, and extracurriculars can be tough, but I worked hard to absorb every opportunity I had to prove myself as a player. The 2019-2020 season was a summit. I let myself go hard at tournaments, always keeping in mind that I was chosen to play for a reason.
Is there anything you would change about women’s involvement in the league or any words for upcoming female players?
I would like to see more women players on the court. I don’t think this is something that needs to become a mandatory requirement, but if teams started giving women players more opportunities to play in tournaments, then they too would become more confident, gain experience playing different teams, learn valuable communication strategies with their teammates, and be viewed as opponents. Practice can only go so far; growth comes from tournaments and difficult matches. My advice for women in the league is to push yourself and fight for your spot on the roster. Get to know women from other teams and speak up when things seem unfair. Know your worth. You are not just a warm body on the court. You are a player, a teammate, and a competitor. See you on the courts.