Ashlynn Routzahn was athletic early. Ballet at five, soccer at six. Thing was, nothing she tried would really stick.
“I was looking or something else,” she says. “They didn’t really make me feel happy, I didn’t enjoy it that much.”
Her parents insisted she do something, however.
“You have to do cheerleading, or you have to do dance, you have to pick something,” Ashlynn’s mother Amy recalls telling her. “My husband played softball and he said, ‘why don’t you try softball?’ And she said, OK, and then ever since she has never given it up.”
Not just never given it up, but hungrily pursued: Ashlynn started out playing rec league softball, looking forward to the fall and spring seasons, but soon looked to a bigger challenge playing travel softball with the Heartbreakers organizations, steadily moving up in the age brackets. This past summer, as a rising ninth grader headed to Middletown High School, she began playing up on the 18U team. She plays first base, when called on, but Ashlynn has preferred to take the pitcher’s mound since she started playing at 8-years-old.
“I like to control the game and play it at my own pace,” Ashlynn says of her preference for pitching. “I throw three pitches and I am pretty confident about it. I throw a changeup that comes in a lot slower than the fast ball I throw, and the drop curve comes in as a meatball and then curves out and drops to make them swing at it.”
But while her ball skills carried her far, Ashlynn, who is tall for her age, knew she needed to improve her speed and agility as she progressed in softball.
“I need to be more agile because since the girls are hitting the balls a lot harder, I need to react,” she says. “Being able to move my feet and my body can really makes a difference in the play.”
Ashlynn had never had a trainer outside of softball before, but she had heard other players in the softball community were getting good results at Players Fitness and Performance, in Frederick, so she decided to try it out in August 2017.
“I was thinking, if they were getting results, maybe I could get good results,” she says, and it was an immediate fit. “I really enjoyed it because they were all really welcoming. I knew it was a place I would really love and stay with for a long time.”
Ashlynn took to training at PFP with the same intensity she brought to softball, making a strong first impression on PFP coach Erik Roberts with her focus, positive attitude and growing strength.
“For her age especially, she is one of the strongest athletes in the gym,” he says. “She’s been doing a lot of heavier compound movements like squats deadlifts and stuff and her numbers on that exceed that of many of the guys in here, to be honest.”
And Ashlynn kept it up despite an knee injury that kept her out of a tournament, a result Roberts attributes to her positive attitude, and which Amy and Ashlynn attribute to PFP’s focus on mental training alongside the physical.
“The mental training really contributed to the mental capacity of getting back in the game and not letting that injury kind of affect her aggressiveness at the plate,” Amy says. “She didn’t really skip a beat.”
Ashlynn didn’t just recover, she thrived, with noticeable gains on the softball field.
“She went from being maybe the number six hitter, the number seven hitter, to the number three or number four power hitter on the team,” Amy says.
“I’ve built a lot of core strength and hip strength, and that really puts the ball over the fence far,” Ashlynn adds. “It’s changed a lot for me.”
In recognition of her accomplishments, and her putting in the steady work at PFP, Ashlynn has now been named November’s Athlete of the Month.
“I was really excited and happy and proud of myself,” she says.
“It was kind of like a no brainer for me,” Roberts says of selecting Ashlynn of the Athlete of the Month honor. “She goes to school and crushes it every day, treating it just like she treats softball. She comes to the gym without complaint when we give her rehabilitation or prehab exercises that aren’t necessarily the most flashy, most fun, and she grinds through them dominates them just like she does everything else.”
Already, Ashlynn’s mind is turning to the future. She hopes to play softball in college, though she’s not sure just where yet, and is interested in studying to be a teacher or veterinarian.
“She is very possible bound for a Division I school to play softball, Roberts says. “She is a definitely leader, a definite role model for a lot of the younger softball girls and even the softball girls her age.”
But before that comes the first high school softball season this spring.
“I haven’t tried out for the high school team yet, but yeah, I am hoping I make the team,” she says.
Ashlynn’s got four more years to grow and get better, and she plans to make the most of it.
“I go to PFP is get stronger, be more agile and be a better person. To think about things more,” she says. “I am really really proud of my results, mentally and on the field.”
That’s Ashlynn Routzahn’s why. What’s your why?