Youth Sports: Lost Talent in Small Towns

Youth Sports: Lost Talent in Small Towns
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Let me start things off by saying, I am from a small town called Anderson, it is near Redding, California. We are surrounded by a number of small towns all within a 30 minute drive. To name a few: Red Bluff, Cottonwood, Palo Cedro, Mount Shasta, and West Valley. I know many of the people who read this blog are not from Anderson, however I know there are small towns like ours all over the U.S. and I am sure they experience some of the same issues that we do with youth sports. If you are from a small town, please read this blog and use our town as an example for you. If your from a big city, maybe you could be our third party perspective in comments!

The population of Anderson is 9,964 (2011 U.S Census Bureau)

Median resident age:  34.1 years

Males: 4,639  (46.7%)
Females: 5,297  (53.3%)

Estimated Median Household of Anderson:$33,248

Why do these stats matter for Sports?

I want to shed some light on a subject that I believe needs a little more attention in our community and nationally in small towns all over the U.S. What is the issue? We have a number of athletes who play in our small community and never go anywhere. Lately we have heard more names trickle out to larger Universities, however the majority of athletes never play again after High School or at a Junior College. Some coaches are trying to step up and take players to the next level, but it is an impossible job without community support, some cash, and investment from families. Until we see the long term benefits of playing sports competitively our town will not change and our athletes will fall to the way side.

How Athletes Impact Our Community

When our town sends our athletes to college and gives them the support they need, they will return to Redding and the surrounding areas and contribute to society and our economy. While this is hard to see because it is a long process, it really can make a difference. Most parents want more for their child but are unable to pay for college. A sports scholarship is a gateway to education. Once athletes complete their education they often return to their home towns to work and raise a family. These athletes often return and coach their own team, offer lessons, and act as a living example for youth athletes in our community. Do you see the cycle?

  1. Athlete plays youth sports
  2. Athlete Get Scholarship 
  3. Athlete Gets College Education
  4. Athlete returns to Redding and gives back to the community
  5. Youth athletes are inspired and set goals for sports
  6. Repeat


Athletes from Northern Ca Who Have Taken Their Family Next Level

Recently we have seen a few athletes excel in sports and really get noticed. I personally know some of these athletes and have grown up with them. Their dedication, hard work, and commitment to make it to another level is truly inspiring. I hope youth athletes in the Northern California area use them as an example of success in sports, and see that they can achieve the same goals.


Cheridan Hawkins and Youth Sports

Cheridan Hawkins

I have to admit I am a little bit biased on this athlete as she is my younger sister, that’s probably why she is listed first. I have watched Cheridan grow up from an awkward long and lanky young girl, to a Pac 12 dominating Pitcher. What most of you don’t know is that Cheridan wasn’t always good. She often was told she would never make it in on a Pac-12 team. She grew extremely fast, and never fully grew into her body until High School. This is not uncommon in sports, just because your not a star on your 12U team doesn’t mean you’re not going to be a stud later in life. Don’t give up. Cheridan didn’t. She took every negative comment, and doubt and used it as fuel. She pitched every day, and it was not uncommon for her to throw at least 500 pitches a night. Cheridan played on traveling softball teams every fall, and summer. Never missing a practice or tournament and fully dedicating herself to traveling weekly for pitching and hitting lessons. Cheridan is now pitching for the Oregon Ducks Softball team, and has already claimed 3 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week Awards.

At Anderson High In the spring of 2012, she was one of four pitchers tabbed to the NFCA High School All-America First Team and one of 13 repeat honorees among the three squads’ 48 selections. During the spring slate, she repeated as the Northern Section and Northern Athletic League MVP after she posted a 28-5 record and 0.69 ERA in her 203 innings in the circle. She led the state in strikeouts for the second straight year with her 400 K’s (and ranked fourth nationally), and helped her squad to its second straight Division IV title. At the plate, she set a section season record for doubles (20), hit .551 and four home runs, and knocked in 46 RBI. As a junior, the Under Armour All-American logged a section record 510 strikeouts, 0.79 ERA, 19 shutouts and 35 complete games in her 221 innings. At the plate, she hit .471, thanks to her 10 doubles, six triples and homer. As a junior, she was tabbed the Northern Athletic League MVP and Northern Section CIF Pitcher of the Year after she led the state and ranked second nationally in strikeouts. Among other notable 2011 honors, the Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-America First-Team Pitcher also received ESPN Rise honors for the California medium-sized school division and national underclassman first team, and was the MaxPreps Small Schools Player of the Year. Her squad went 31-4 in 2011 and won league and section titles. She was also a Northern Athletic All-League choice as a freshman and sophomore in 2009 and ’10. In club action, her Strike Zone Elite club placed fifth in the 2011 Premier National Fastpitch Tournament in Huntington Beach, Calif.


Girls softball redding caKacie McCarthy

Kacie McCarthy, is a great example of a great athlete who persevered and worked her way to the top. McCarthy went to Chico State before moving on up to D-I Colorado State and winning the Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Year award in 2012.

In 2012 McCarthy started in 21 games and appeared in 29 games during her junior season, earning Mountain West Pitcher of the Year and NFCA All-Region honors, and earning All-Mountain West honors…Had an ERA of 2.86 and a fielding percentage of .952…Led the team by placing 3rd in the Mountain West Conference in opposing batting average (.247)…Led the team in every major pitching statistical category, and ranked among the best in the Mountain West in a number of categories: Ranked 1st in the Mountain West Conference in number of batters struck out looking (49); ranked 2nd in the conference in wins (17); ranked 3rd in the Mountain West in complete games (16) and opponent batting average (.247); ranked 5th in the Mountain West in innings pitched (151.2), strikeouts (105) and shutouts (3) and ranked 6th in the conference in games started (21)…McCarthy also led the team in number of appearances (29) and games finished (8), and in conference games posted an ERA of 2.61 with a team-leading opponent batting average of .218, a team-leading 5 wins and an ERA of .234 with runners on base…Had an ERA of .358 against the leadoff batter…Had an ERA of .253 with two outs…Pitched an average of 5.23 per inning appearance…Had an average of 4.85 with number of strikeouts per game…Named an All-Academic Award recipient with a GPA of 3.23.


Redding SoftballSamantha Camuso

Foothill High’s Samantha Camuso won a national championship with UCLA. I consider Sam and her family part of my own family. Her dad Ken Camuso pushed me, my sisters, Sam, Mandy, and many other athletes to reach their full potential. It is no wonder Sam was so successful with all the hard work and talent she put into the game. Sam is a not a flashy, or loud player, she is an example of someone who is silent, skilled, and smart. If your daughter plays softball and is a lefty then this is the girl to research. She hit with power from the left side and could read any ball hurled at her.

In 2008 she was one of three Bruins to start all 60 games, making 58 starts in right field and two in left … led the team with a .366 batting average, tied for third with four home runs and was fourth with 36 runs batted in … was also second in slugging percentage (.549), tied for second with 16 doubles and a .434 on base percentage, third in total bases (96) and tied for first in triples (2) … named second-team All-Pacific Region and All-Pac-10, and honored on the All-Pac-10 Freshman first team … ranked fourth among All-Pac-10 players in batting average, tied for fifth in doubles and tied for 10th in hits … set a UCLA single-game record with five runs scored against Santa Clara on Feb. 9 … also went 4-for-4 with seven RBI and a home run against the Broncos … collected her first collegiate RBI in the season opener against Nevada (Feb. 8) and belted her first career homer, a two-run shot, later that day against Oklahoma, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored … went 5-for-10 (.500) with three runs and three RBI during the Regionals (May 16-18), hitting two home runs against Nevada (May 17 and 18) … hit the go-ahead bomb in the sixth inning of the Regional-clinching game to lift the Bruins to a 4-3 victory … went 2-for-3 with a run, a walk and a double in Game 1 of the Super Regionals against Georgia (May 24) … earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors on April 8 after going 6-for-13 (.462) with two RBI in wins over Washington, Stanford and California (twice) … had 18 multiple-hit contests, which was third on the squad … posted three-hit games against Cal State Bakersfield (Feb. 27), San Diego (Feb. 29) and Stanford (April 27), as well as 14 two-hit contests … registered eight multiple-RBI games … had an RBI in every game of the San Diego Classic (Feb. 29-March 2), finishing the weekend with seven runs batted in and a .533 average (8-for-15) … recorded six game-winning RBI … drove in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth against San Diego State on March 1 and had a walk-off game winner on an RBI double against nationally-ranked Long Beach State on March 9 … was a Top 25 finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year award.

Girls Softball-redding ca-mandy camusoMandy Camuso

Mandy Camuso followed in her sisters foot steps and became an amazing athlete. She went to a very prestigious college and played softball at St. Mary’s college in Moraga. The education she received by playing sports in unparalleled. She played in 174 of 193 games in her career with 161 starts … finished her career hitting .201 with 11 doubles, a triple, 4 home runs, 25 RBI and 51 runs scored … hit by a SMC and PCSC record 49 pitches in her career … had a .948 career fielding percentage. Mandy was always right next to Sam and her father and is one of the hardest workers I know.

Her Senior Year (2012): One of four players to start all 49 games … finished the season hitting a career-best .246 with seven doubles, a home run, 10 RBI and 21 runs scored … was hit by 24 pitches in 2012 which is both a SMC and PCSC record … was tied for second on the team with a .444 on base percentage … hit .250 in PCSC play with two doubles, four RBI and a conference-high 12 hit by pitches … was 1-for-2 with a two-RBI double on April 14 against CSU Bakersfield … had a 2-for-2 day with a walk against Sacramento State on April 1 … went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk on March 18 against Iowa State … against Colorado State on March 3, she went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs scored …went 2-for-3 against Portland State on February 26 … went 1-for-2 with a home run, two RBI, one run scored and two walks on February 10 against UTEP.

Molly RubidouxMolly Rubidoux

Rubidoux has pitched in 10 games for the NCAA D-III Athenas, and is 0-3 as a starter, but with a serviceable 4.00 ERA. She helped lead Shasta High to an Eastern Athletic League North title, and into a section championship game with Red Bluff last spring.





Dalton Kelly & Brandon Erickson

Dalton Kelly, our co-R-S.V.P. for prep baseball last year along with Foothill teammate Brandon Erickson, is playing baseball for the D-I UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, and is hitting .321 with two triples and eight RBIs in 28 at-bats.

Community Support or Envy?

I know many people in the Anderson Community were skeptical of some of these athletes, which I personally don’t understand. In such a small community, why do we doubt so many of our athletes? Are we that blinded by jealousy and envy that we can’t see how much having athletes like Cheridan, Sam, and Mandy represent our town can do for other athletes? Every athlete who is recruited for a higher leve, brings more recruiting attention to our small community. Which means, other players get seen by college recruits more. I would like to ask our small community of athletes, parents, teachers, and coaches to encourage and commend athletes who are successful. Instead of gossiping and doubting their abilities, support them and talk about them as if it were your child.

For those of you who show unwavering support for our Northern California athletes I would like to say thank you. Thank you for not falling into a jealous rut, you are the people who will make a difference, and your support is valued by every athlete who comes from Northern California. We see the social media shares, likes, pins, and tweets. We are reading, and we love when we see the pride and support from our home town.


What If?

Our small towns are broken up into multiple High Schools, Anderson Union High School, Enterprise High, Shasta High, West Valley, and more. This makes  High School sports competitive, however this makes being competitive in traveling sports much harder. Instead of having one traveling team with multiple competitive and advanced players, we are broken into three or four mediocre teams. Our elite players are sprinkled from team to team making it extremely hard for coaches to win.

What if we put rivalries and egos aside and had one elite team in Northern California? This team would have high performing players from Anderson, Redding, Red Bluff, Cottonwood, West Valley, Shasta, and other surrounding areas. Coaches would be able to compete at a higher level, and actually win! More winning = More recruiting and more athletes going to college. Our teams were like this once, and we saw the success, is it time to go back to this old model?

The Ultimate Goal for Athletes in Northern California

In a perfect world every athlete would receive a scholarship to play their sport in college. They would get a free education, experience college life, and be given all the tools for a successful life. We all want our children to be successful, and in today’s society success in terms of security and income is hard to come by, especially with the economic trouble we have experienced in past years. One of the key ways your son or daughter can have a better shot at being successful is by attending college.

Median 2003 Income by Educational Level


Many athletes grow up thinking a that a sports scholarship is way out of their reach. They picture a super star, dominant player, but what they don’t know is that there are multiple levels of schools and multiple scholarships available. Even if you’re not the breakout star in High School or Traveling sports you can still accomplish your goal of going to college and playing sports. You might not make it to the Pac 12 or Division 1 but there is still money available in Division 2 Schools. The ultimate goal is to get a college education, playing sports is a bonus. Having a goal of playing pro-sports is great, but in reality very few athletes make it to the pro level.

In 2008, about 16,500 held jobs as professional athletes and sports competitors.

Competition is intense for the relatively few professional athlete jobs. This is because many young men and women dream of entering this occupation. Some sports, like baseball, basketball, hockey, and even football have “minor” leagues. Jobs in the minors are a little easier to get, but you still must compete with many other people for these jobs. Also, this profession doesn’t offer much job security; an athlete can lose his or her job because of an injury, or can be replaced by a “better” player at any time.

Your ultimate goal for your athlete is to get them to college. Whether that is with a full scholarship, partial scholarship, division 2 scholarship, or with financial Aid as a walk on it doesn’t matter. To achieve this goal you need to dedicate time, be envolved,  and encourage them to focus on their goals.

By focusing on the ultimate goal, showing support, and working hard we can change our towns wealth. Not just in the median income, but our community wealth and knowledge. By building athletes who value education, and hard work we will build a town legacy that will spread success for years to come!


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A little more about Natasha Hawkins...

Experience: Division 1 Fastpitch Softball player at San Jose State. Degree: B.S in Marketing and Advertising Certifications: Certified Level 1 CrossFit Trainer Interests: She loves the way the brain works and how personalities and attitude can create a warrior of an athlete that will always persevere and make success for themselves. While she is not a certified nutritionist she studies and practices the Paleo diet and Zone eating. Quirk: I am an avid archer and hunter. Yup, it's true. I have shot archery since I could walk, and hunted with my Dad since I was born. I also have a sister (Cheridan Hawkins) who is a stud pitcher for the Oregon Ducks Softball Team and is on the Junior Olympic Team. My youngest sister Charli Hawkins trains with me at CrossFit and is also a catcher on the 12U California Grapettes. Follow Natasha on Twitter: @NatashaBHawkins

  • KC Fallon


    You did a great job! I really think you hit the nail on the head. Great job.

    Much love,

    KC Fulton-Fallon

    • Natasha Hawkins

      Thank you so much KC! Really appreciate the feedback and support!

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