Writing HERstory: Grizzard finds home and happiness at Tech

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You are more than just a player. 
It's a lesson that Cassie Grizzard has taken to heart during her first year at Tech, and it's helped reignite her love for the game. 
A left-handed pitcher from Midlothian, Virginia, Grizzard picked up softball around the age of 6. At the time, her sister was playing.
"It's actually a funny story," Grizzard laughed. "I initially hated going to watch her and instead chose to play on my mom's Blackberry phone. Then, when I actually started watching her, I thought maybe I should try it. I've never looked back."
Grizzard gave up other sports in middle school, deciding she wanted to get serious about softball. She started playing on the Midlo high school team in eighth grade, later joining the Hanover Hornets travel team, as well.
Her parents played a large role in her positive development. Grizzard's mom ensured that she balanced a social life with her busy softball schedule, while her dad coached the travel team. 
"Having my dad be my coach was a great dynamic," Grizzard said. "We bounced ideas off of each other, and he made sure I had a life outside of softball. He could be hard on me, but we had a great time together and our relationship grew a lot because of it."
Grizzard showcased exceptional talent during high school. Her senior year, she racked up 194 strikeouts in 110 innings of work. She was named First Team All-Region and Regional Player of the Year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Grizzard's college recruitment process looked different. She wasn't allowed to meet the coaches or the players in person, relying on Zoom conversations instead. 
"Not meeting the team in person was difficult, but when I stepped foot on Louisville's campus, I thought it was so gorgeous," Grizzard said. "The athletic facilities were brand new, and that was a huge reason why I chose to play there."
During Grizzard's freshman campaign as a Cardinal, she made 15 appearances across 27 innings, pitching to a 1-1 record and 5.19 ERA. She struck out 29 batters and held opponents to a .222 batting average. 
But despite her contributions, Grizzard found herself constantly burdened by the pressure of competing as a Division I softball player. Performance was everything, making it difficult to keep what happened on the field in perspective and enjoy the sport.
"It's not what I expected my freshman year to be," Grizzard admitted. "I really struggled, and the year wasn't going how I wanted it too."
Lacking support in her community in Louisville, coupled with her parents living nine hours away and not seeing them as often due to distance, Grizzard decided to start talking to a sport-specific therapist. 
The weekly check-ins between the two were instrumental in Grizzard's completion of the season.
"We became very close," Grizzard said. "We talked about life, how to have fun in my sport and take advantage of every opportunity. I learned how to separate who I was as a softball player with who I was outside of softball."
Grizzard entered the transfer portal after her season ended. She grew up a Virginia Tech fan, so after talking with head coach Pete D'Amour and assistant coach Josh Johnson, her decision was made easy. 
Transferring to Blacksburg felt like coming home.
"This team is the best group of girls I've ever met," Grizzard said. "We can be ourselves and have fun. Our coaches have fun, too, and encourage us to be the best that we can be in a positive way."

During her first game at Tech, her nerves hampered her pitching. Grizzard expected her coaches and teammates to be upset afterword, so when Coach D'Amour kindly just told her, "We'll work on it." She cried tears of relief.
"I met with Dr. B [Gary Bennett], the sports psychologist, and he got me to write down five reasons I'm a great softball player," Grizzard remembered. "It helped remind me that it's a game, I can control what I can control and my team will have my back no matter what."
Another memorable experience for Grizzard was a team bonding retreat deep in the woods, without phones, which allowed the girls to forge deeper connections. Grizzard vividly remembers the hilarity of screaming over a game of UNO, sharing a tiny bed in a bunk room and spent the evening chatting. 
She realized that the relationships with her teammates and coaches mattered more than any given performance.
Early in the year, Grizzard lost a friend to suicide. It happened completely out of the blue, rattling all who knew the young man.
The tragedy shifted Grizzard's entire perspective on life.
"We had no idea he was struggling," she said. "Because of that, I've been trying to be this positive influence on others, especially my teammates, because you never know what someone is going through."
Grizzard has made her and her peers' mental health a priority. She makes it a point to send uplifting messages on Instagram to her friends and spread encouragement on the field. Her impactful contributions both on and off the field have been instrumental in driving the Hokies' recent success.
"Cassie has been a great addition to the staff," Johnson said. "She brings a lot of diversity in her pitch mix and has worked very hard to gain 6 or 7 mph since arriving on campus. She's taken a huge leap forward as a player and can neutralize opposing hitters with her incredible stuff. Even more important, Cassie is an incredible person and teammate. She integrated immediately into the team culture. She's been a huge part of the team's early success."
During Tech's 8-0 win against Radford on Feb. 23, Grizzard tossed a three-hit shutout and struck out seven Highlanders. The Hokies (15-3-1) boast a top-tier lineup and ample pitching choices, signaling a bright 2024 season ahead.
Grizzard firmly believes that her team can play in the Women's College World Series.
"We're good, but we also know how to play with each other and trust each other," she said. "We have each other's back. That's what sets us apart."
Writing HERstory Campaign

Tech Athletics launched a multi-platform brand campaign celebrating the incredible achievements of its female student-athletes, both past and present, while inspiring the next generation of women who aspire to achieve their dreams through athletics. In partnership with Truist, Tech will share stories of its past and current female student-athletes over the course of the calendar year. Ranging from podcast interviews to feature stories and more, the incredible moments and achievements by women over the years in Virginia Tech Athletics will be celebrated. To make an impact on female sports at Tech or to sign up for the monthly Writing HERstory newsletter.