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Love Of Softball Takes WG Girl To Czech Republic


Ivy Clark played for Great Britain in U-16 European tournament


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Ivy Clark of Webster Groves leaves first base in an attempt to steal second in a game in the U-16 Women's European Championship Tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic. She was playing for the Great Britain U-16 team. Great Britain placed fifth in the tournament. photo courtesy Martin Clark.

July 28, 2017
 
Martin Clark often logs onto the Great Britain athletic website. That should come as no surprise. A Webster Groves resident, Clark was a member of Great Britain's national track team, running a sub-four-minute-mile during his teenage years and into his early 20s. He enjoys checking up on his country's teams.

 
But last fall, when Martin Clark logged onto the website, he was searching for something else. News that softball was returning to the Summer Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, had broken and he was looking on behalf of his youngest daughter, Ivy.

 
"We were thinking about how old I would be (in 2020)," Ivy Clark, 13, said. "My chances of getting on Team USA are not that great because they're a wonderful team, but softball is a newer sport in England. So my chances of getting on the Great Britain team would be higher."

 
Because her dad is British and mom, Ellen Clark, is from the states, Ivy has dual citizenship and she has the opportunity to play for either Team USA or Great Britain.

 
"It had a notice for anyone considering being on the national team to send in an application," Martin Clark said of the website. "So, on a whim, I sent in an application."

 
But Ivy and her mom were unaware. It wasn't until Ivy needed to have a British passport that they started taking note of what he was doing.

 
"We had no idea," Ivy said. "We were talking about how cool it would be to be on that team, but we didn't know dad had actually sent it."

 
Martin Clark took video of his daughter hitting and throwing at All-Star Performance Baseball and Softball Training Center in Crestwood and included it with the application.

 
"They asked for hitting speed and throwing speed, so we recorded that with a radar gun," he said. "That was basically the audition."

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Ivy Clark played primarily catcher and third base in the U-16 Women's European Championship Tournament. photo courtesy Martin Clark.

 
The Great Britain U-16 national team liked what they saw. During the first week of May, the Clark family received the news that Ivy had made the roster for the U-16 Women's European Championship Tournament hosted in Ostrava, Czech Republic, from July 10-15.

 
Martin and Ellen Clark brought home ice cream to celebrate. Ivy thought they were joking.

 
"She thought we were bringing it home because she didn't make it," Ellen Clark said. "It was a big deal."

Playing Overseas

 
Fourteen girls made the Great Britain U-16 team for the tournament. Along with Ivy, the roster was made up of girls from London, Dubai, Kuwait, Arizona, California and Michigan. As long as they had dual citizenship, they were allowed on the team. Most of the girls on the roster were 15 and 16-years-old. Ivy was the youngest.

 
"I was expecting it to be like I took the place of somebody who would've been older and maybe more experienced," she said. "But they didn't treat me like that at all. They were very welcoming."

 
And Ivy played like she belonged. She started all eight games throughout the 12-team tournament, primarily playing third base and catcher. She hit in the heart of the order, batting fourth or fifth, depending on the game. And she was one of five players throughout the entire tournament to hit more than two doubles.

 
"Not just our team all 12 countries," she said.

 
Great Britain finished fifth in the tournament, with an overall record of 3-5. Netherlands won the championship over Czech Republic. Belgium, Germany, Italy, Serbia, France, Ukraine, Russia, Poland and Slovakia also participated.

 
"I'm so lucky to meet people from all over the world who share the same love of softball that I do," Ivy said.

 
For The Love Of The Game

 
Ivy started playing softball seven years ago for the Webster Groves Baseball and Softball Recreational League and still plays recreationally.

 
Only in the last couple of years has she started playing in select leagues. Ivy also plays for the Webster Groves High School feeder team and select ball for the St. Louis Extreme organization. She will enter the 2017-18 school year as an eighth grader at Hixson Middle School.

 
"I think, in this day in age, a lot of parents push their kids into high level sports too early and they lose the love of the sport," Martin Clark said. "I think recreational leagues are really, really important because if the girls don't have that love for the sport and that enjoyment of the sport, they'll fall by the wayside; they won't carry on from year-to-year."

 
Ivy has stuck with it. And that love for softball has given her the opportunity of a lifetime.

 
"It was just an amazing experience," she said.

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