My name is Imane Alou Issa and I am 23 years old. My passion for softball started as soon as I was born since I lived across from a softball field. However, my mother was a great gymnast when she was younger and therefore wanted me to try gymnastics first. After my first practice, it became clear that the passion for gymnastics would not be passed on to me due to the fact that the only thing I loved about the gymnastics training was the game at the end which involved throwing a ball. My mother soon after realized that I was not going to be her little ballerina but a ballplayer. From that moment on, my parents supported me with everything that involved softball. From driving to practices, sitting through two games in the rain, and buying all my gear. If it was not for them encouraging me and telling me what I did wrong after every single game, I would not be anywhere. We only had one agreement, school always had to come first.
When I was sixteen I came to the conclusion that it was time for a new challenge so I convinced my parents to let me play in the Netherlands. I still believe it was the best decision I have ever made. I was very lucky to play under Daisy de Peinder, former Twins-Dutch-Olympic player, for most of my time at twins and I cannot thank her enough for helping me become the athlete and person I am today. At the age of 19, I had the opportunity to fulfill my softball dream; play softball in the states. Everyone who has ever made the switch from playing softball in Europe to playing softball in the States would agree on the fact that it is ten times more intense but definitely worth it. After three years full of experiences and new friends, two degrees, and one back surgery later it was time for me to come home and fully join the Twins family again.
As a student-athlete it is not always easy to find free time which makes it hard to have a very active social life. When you practice three times a week, have games two or three times a week, and go to class almost every day it is hard to keep in touch with all your friends and family. Therefore, whenever I find twenty minutes of spare time I try to go see my grandma, spend time withy family, or go see one of my close friends. To me, that is one of the hardest sacrifices to make every day since I am a person that loves being around friends and family.
My national team experience started when I was fifteen and I have not missed a tournament, where Belgium participated, ever since then. I either went on U16, U19, or Women’s European Championships. To me, European Championships are the best tournaments out of all of them. It is a combination of high level softball, great athletes, and an indescribable atmosphere. The Belgian national team is currently implementing a change regarding the age gap between Belgian softball players. Therefore, the team that will participate in the Women’s European Championship in Bollate will be a mix of young athletes with great potential alongside more experienced players that have participated in many championships. Apart from everyone practicing at their own club teams on Tuesday and Thursday, we have games every Wednesday night against a division one team in Belgium and we also practice as a team every Friday. Thus, everyone is basically doing something related to softball almost every day. I believe this is a great way of preparing for Europeans since we get to practice and play with each other before the tournament as a national team but also get to work hard with our own club teams in order to get to the championship within our own leagues. We start off the championship against Great Britain which will already be one of our tougher opponents in our group but we are more than ready to take on this challenge. The team and coaching staff believe we have great potential to win a decent amount of games so we are all very excited to get on the plane, put our cleats on, and play ball.