Ryan Robinson of Pleasant Grove had seen his daughter, Denver Robinson, go through a lot during her high school athletic career.
“She suffered an ACL tear right before basketball tryouts her sophomore year,” Ryan Robinson said in a phone interview Tuesday. “She rehabbed the entire year, missing basketball and softball her sophomore year. She came back and made the basketball team as a junior. But a couple of games in, we realized she was having complications with her ACL repair. The doctor advised us to have her stop. She ended up being out for two full high school seasons.”
After all of those injuries, Denver Robinson elected to manage the Viking basketball team in 2019-20 so she could save herself for her senior year of softball.
But then a worldwide pandemic arrived and forced the cancellation of the season.
“The news of COVID-19 really struck harder with her because she had been two years without playing any high school sports,” Ryan Robinson said. “She was looking forward to wearing the Pleasant Grove jersey one more time.”
As the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus began to ease in May, hopes started surfacing that something might be able to be worked out to have a small softball event.
Ryan Robinson talked with Pleasant Grove softball coach Leslie Young about what might be possible.
“We wanted to give these kids some closure,” Ryan Robinson said. “Young reached out to some coaches to see if we might be able to play. We kept running into hurdles and were having a tough time pulling it together.”
Westlake softball coach Chad Carpenter was running into the same issues as he started working to get his Thunder squad a few more games, but neither he nor the other coaches and parents gave up.
Since schools are still closed, the games couldn’t be official school events — meaning the facility access was limited. To address that issue, the softball teams are renting out the facilities as separate entities.
There is also the need to get proper insurance in place, an issue Ryan Robinson is still finalizing.
“We have to meet the insurance requirements because it is not during the high school season,” Ryan Robinson said. “I reached out to USA Softball because I had coached my oldest daughter, so I’m very familiar with that process for the competitive teams.”
The end result is that the teams that will compete are being registered as USA Softball teams and they will play “friendlies” against each other to accommodate getting the girls back on the field.
“I’m working to have umpires assigned through USA Softball and then make sure we have the proper insurance in place,” Ryan Robertson said.
There was also a small window when it made sense to play the games, since having the current restrictions allow for teams sports also means club softball teams will shortly get underway.
If everything works out, the five Region 4 softball teams in Utah Valley — American Fork, Lone Peak, Skyridge, Westlake and Pleasant Grove — are scheduled to play at least three games each from June 1-4 (see info box).
“It’s something positive that we can remember this year by,” Carpenter said. “The girls are all excited for it.”
Ryan Robinson said it has been a lot of work to try to get all the pieces in place but he can’t wait to see the girls get to play.
“It absolutely warms my heart,” Ryan Robinson said. “I’ve been a part of softball for years with my two daughters and so I’ve gotten to know a lot of the girls who played on these teams. I’ve announced the names when we’ve played at Pleasant Grove. Everything about this is about having these girls have one last opportunity to represent their school.”
Ryan Robinson said his daughter Denver Robinson knows something could still go wrong but she’s just thrilled to have this opportunity.
“She is absolutely pumped,” Ryan Robinson said. “The potential of games being played and having a make-shift senior night really became very exciting for her.”