Basketball has literally been in Daisy Gardner’s life since birth, according to her mother Gaylene, longtime Brunswick High School basketball coach.
“When she was born, she was on the sidelines in a baby carrier with me,” Gaylene says, “Basketball has been there since the beginning.”
So, it was understandably a little surprising when Daisy came into her own as an athlete — playing softball.
“My dad has always played softball and one day he asked if I wanted to try it,” Daisy says. “I had a really good experience. My coach was awesome, we had a ton of fun and it made me fall in love with the sport.”
That was when she was 6-years-old, but it was around 8th or 9th grade that Daisy became really serious about softball as her main sport (though she inevitably found herself doing some dribbling on the basketball court as well).
Initially starting at catcher when she was little, Daisy came equipped with some natural gifts that lead her to the pitcher’s mound.
“She’s always very accurate,” Gaylene says. “She always was the kid they relied to not walk people and give up unjustified base runners.”
Part of that success as a pitcher stemmed from Daisy’s inherent arm strength, a talent that helped her at the plate as well.
“I was always a good hitter,” Daisy says. “It wasn’t till I got older that I was a real power hitter, but I always had more power than the little girls growing up.”
But as Daisy got more serious as a softball player, joining a competitive travel team and playing in high school, she realized she had some areas of her athleticism she wanted to improve upon.
“I needed more speed and could be more agile, moving side to side. I’ve never been very quick,” she says. “And my mobility was pretty terrible.”
The lack of speed is one reason Daisy played first base when not pitching, but the lack of mobility, she realized, was a limitation in fielding throws from the corner.
Gaylene and Daisy had both heard good things about Players Fitness and Performance, in Frederick, a training facility that a few other Brunswick girls’ athletes had been attending and the pair went to check it out. To say it went well would be an understatement.
“I will never forget the first time I ever went to PFP. I was having a terrible day. I was like mom, can we do this another day. And She was like, let’s just go,” Daisy says. “But everybody knew my name when I walked in. As soon as me and my mom walked out, I was like, I love it, and my whole day was turned around. That’s how it is every day when you walk in there.”
The trainers at PFP got to work with Daisy, limbering her up through mobility training and enhancing her strength. She saw dramatic gains quickly, and after more than a year, continues to grow in the gym.
“I see the results every day,” Daisy says. “On day one I could barely do one push up. I did a fitness test the other day and I did 23.”
Not all the training at PFP is physical - the trainers work holistically, training mental grit and leadership skills as well. It was about six months ago, before beginning her senior year, that Daisy realized that was the area she needed to train to come up to the next level.
“Going into her senior year, she decided to transform her game completely,” says PFP trainer Travis Bewley. “One thing she struggled with was getting out of her head after mistakes.”
Travis began to push Daisy in the gym, setting her up to get a little frustrated in order to learn how to reset her focus and power through.
“It was an intentional effort to put her in a position where she might get frustrated, so I could have a coaching moment with her,” Travis says. “From there, her confidence started growing because as she made progress, she saw she could work through those challenges.”
“Mentally I have seen a huge change in myself. I can pick other people up and I can pick myself up. I don’t let myself get down, and I don’t let my teammates get down,” Daisy adds. “They are teaching me that if it’s not hard, I am not getting better. It’s always going to be hard and I am always going to get better.”
That’s a new level of mental toughness and dexterity that has flowed over into all aspects of Daisy’s life, according to Gaylene.
“She takes a dual enrollment English class twice a week, she continued her summer job into work study, she’s working out a PFP four times a week and now she’s playing basketball too,” Gaylene says. “It was a little stressful the first couple of weeks, she is able to schedule her time, to get her schoolwork down, get her hours in for her job and then also practice basketball.”
And the physical changes aren’t too shabby either.
“In softball, she’s so much faster around the bases. Now there is a threat she might try to steal,” Gaylene says. “And in terms of flexibility, I see it on the basketball court. Her defense is better than it’s ever been.”
Those achievements haven’t gone unnoticed at PFP either, where the training team named Daisy the Athlete of the Month for December.
“I was really shocked about it actually,” she says of the award. “It made me feel special and that my hard work had paid off and that people were seeing me succeed.”
The broader softball community has taken notice too: Daisy has now committed to play softball at Mount Saint Mary’s College when she starts there next fall.
“I am going to major in business and minor in sports management,” she says. “I kind of want to be a softball coach in the future, at a university.”
But first things first, Daisy says, there’s a spring high school softball season, and she can’t wait to take the field.
“I want to do everything in my power for my team to succeed in the high school season,” she says. “I want to get as good as I can physically and mentally, as strong as I can, as powerful as I can, to lead my team.”
That’s Daisy Gardner’s why. What’s your why?