• Jocelyn Jeloudev is a teacher at a secondary school in the Torres Strait. When she's not teaching, she's training on the oval. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
She lives 2000 km from the country’s top coaches and facilities, but Australian softballer Jocelyn Jeloudev believes she’s throwing the best pitches of her career.
By
Kate Symons

Source:
Zela
11 Jul 2016 - 7:25 PM  UPDATED 11 Jul 2016 - 7:30 PM

They don’t play softball on Thursday Island, but they could do soon if the recent interest is anything to go by.

Australian pitcher Jocelyn Jeloudev’s move to the remote Torres Strait island 18 months ago has piqued local curiosity, especially among the students she teaches at Tagai State College.

No longer does rubbish get thrown in the bin; rather it is pitched. And science class now includes a few specialised lessons such as how to make a softball spin.

No longer does rubbish get thrown in the bin; rather it is pitched. And science class now includes a few specialised lessons such as how to make a softball spin.

Jeloudev’s achievements as a national representative inspire her students, and the 32-year-old insists the feeling is mutual. In fact, she credits her new home for the revival of her international softball career.

“It is a privilege to be part of this community,” she said. “I have an amazing opportunity to share this with these kids and they motivate me and inspire me every single day.”

This daily motivation has been significant for Jeloudev (nee McCallum) who is currently gearing up for this month’s World Softball Championships in Surrey, Canada. She was selected for the Aussie Spirit following standout performances for Australia against Japan earlier this year.

She never imagined making the cut, having only recently returned from a break from international competition, and attributes her success to the absence of expectation.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting I would be playing in the World Championships ... I had just come back at the start of this year [and was] just playing for the love of the game; for the fun of it."

“I certainly wasn’t expecting I would be playing in the World Championships,” she said. “I had just come back at the start of this year (and was) just playing for the love of the game; for the fun of it.

“I was living in the moment and loving the opportunity because I think you appreciate things a whole lot more living here (on Thursday Island).”

This attitude led to a pitcher-of-the-tournament performance, an accolade selectors couldn’t ignore.

Pitching practice takes place on the nearby primary school oval and always draws a crowd of excited young locals. Jeloudev’s catcher is her husband, Adrian, who sets up on a milk crate, and has understandably added a box to the usual ensemble of protective gear.

Since then, her preparations for the world titles have been unusual, such is the life of a softballer who lives more than 2000 km away from the first-class coaching and facilities of Brisbane.

Pitching practice takes place on the nearby primary school oval and always draws a crowd of excited young locals. Jeloudev’s catcher is her husband, Adrian, who sets up on a milk crate, and has understandably added a box to the usual ensemble of protective gear. For spin drills, Adrian is replaced by the fishing net that lives under their house.

But Jeloudev, who narrowly missed selection for both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games teams as well as the 2012 World Championships, has no complaints. Previously based on Mornington Island, Jeloudev prepared for the 2014 World Championships in similar circumstances and believes the unique environment has given her a greater sense of balance.

“Now that I’m a little bit older I don’t get so caught up mentally in things and I have a lot more balance in my life these days,” she said. 

“When I look at 2004 and 2008, there’s no way I ever would have said ‘yeah, you can live 2000 km from mainland Australia and do this’, but when you’re in a great spot in your life, no matter where you are, you can do well.”

“When (softball was) in the Olympic program and I was a lot younger… I probably put a bit too much pressure on myself.

“When I look at 2004 and 2008, there’s no way I ever would have said ‘yeah, you can live 2000 km from mainland Australia and do this’, but when you’re in a great spot in your life, no matter where you are, you can do well.”

Jeloudev will be one of four pitchers to front Australia’s World Championship campaign, starting in Surrey in British Columbia on July 15. Japan head into the tournament ranked No.1 in the world while the Aussies are third behind the United States.

Australia won bronze at the 2014 titles.

Jeloudev points to a “culture shift” within the Australian playing group as key to the team’s tilt for gold this year. She said every player adamantly believes the team has a realistic shot at the crown, and they all have each other’s back.

For Jeloudev, there’s also the backing of about 2,500 Thursday Islanders.

“I feel like I am doing it for every kid I stand in front of each day, I feel like I am doing it for everyone in the community,” she said.

“Even though I am not originally from Thursday Island, you feel like you’re a part of something. Living here is bigger than anything I’ve ever felt.”

 


 

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