Utah softball player Ally Dickman helped organize a memorial vigil, stage a holiday dinner, arrange a mental health awareness event and coordinate the athletic department’s awards night.
She immersed herself in all those activities, trying to maximize her senior year. Dickman succeeded, and here’s the unexpected payoff: She has raised her batting average by 159 points this season, boosted by a 5-for-5 game Wednesday in an 11-2 win at BYU.
“In sports, performance is always up and down,” she said. “You could put in 100-percent effort every single day and still go 0 for 10. That’s just how softball is; we sign up for a game of failure. But for me, being able to put my effort into things like Crimson Council and and great service events and also academics has been super rewarding, consistently.”
Somehow, worrying more about other stuff improved her softball, or maybe she’s being validated for looking beyond herself and what happens on the diamond. There could be no better snapshot of Dickman’s Ute career than her Friday schedule of walking in a graduation ceremony in the afternoon as a Pac-12 All-Academic athlete and playing a softball game that night – unless maybe she mixed in another project in the morning, completing her work as co-president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Utah coach Amy Hogue will find another right fielder and No. 2 batter in the order, but all that Dickman has brought to the athletic department is “a whole lot to replace,” Hogue said.
The softball component alone would make a good story, as a family era is celebrated with Sunday’s Senior Day vs. Oregon (the Utes’ season ends with a series at Oregon State next week). Two sisters from southern California have played for the Utes for eight straight seasons. Kate Dickman finished her career in 2015 as one of the best hitters in school history. Yet to say the pressure of following her sister wouldn’t explain why Ally batted .298 as a freshman, before tailing off the next two years.
She hit only .204 as a junior, when her production in practice served only to make the results in games more frustrating to her and everyone else. “You can't even believe it,” Hogue said, remembering how Dickman's line drives made her dangerous to Utah's pitchers in live scrimmages.
Whether the solution was getting more involved in the SAAC or just relaxing at the plate, Dickman's improvement as a senior has been remarkable. She's batting .363 and leads the team with eight home runs.
UTAH VS. OREGON
At Dumke Family Softball Stadium
Friday, 6 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Her outlook is healthy, as should be expected of the winner of the Wellness Advocate Award, presented during the recent Crimson Carpets Awards honoring Ute student-athletes in 2018-19.
“My career as a whole has been super up and down, I think a lot of that is attributed to to paying too much attention to outside factors and things I can't control,” she said, sitting in the dugout of Dumke Family Softball Stadium. “At the end of last year, I just said all I can focus on is picking good pitches and being in the right mental state, and the outcome will take care of itself.”
So she's thriving this season, while Utah (16-32, 4-14 Pac-12) is tied for seventh place in the nine-team conference. After playing for teams that reached the NCAA Super Regionals in her freshman and sophomore seasons, Dickman has been involved in games that only softball (or baseball) could produce, with its individual and team phases. Imagine collecting four hits and five RBIs in a game at Arizona State, but trudging from the outfield to the dugout after her team allowed nine runs in the seventh inning of an 18-17 defeat. Or driving in her team's only run in a 22-1 home-field loss to Arizona.
That's life in this league.
“I think about that all the time, like why did I choose to go to the best conference in the country,” she said, “and I’m like, that’s so every day I can say I stepped on the field and competed against the best players in the nation and walk away being proud of that.”
Dickman was on base when teammate Alyssa Barrera's grand slam gave Utah a 5-4 win over No. 3 Washington in mid-April. Then came her career-best, five-hit night vs. BYU. Those are indelible memories. So are the SAAC events she has organized: the vigil for track and field athlete Lauren McCluskey, who was killed on campus in October; a Halloween trunk-or-treat event for children prior to a soccer game; the holiday dinner for all of Utah's athletes at the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center, while collecting canned goods for charity; the Crimson Carpet Awards, as she procured ESPN's Holly Rowe as the emcee; and bringing the Dam Worth It initiative to the campus with mental health presentations to athletes and athletic department staff members.
That’s biting off a lot. Dickman had help, but she was a driving force of it all. “She always wants to be so involved, always pushing to do more, always trying to come up with new ideas,” said Ute gymnast Shannon McNatt, the SAAC co-president. “It’s been incredible to have her by my side this whole year. She has so much heart and passion for everything she does.”
After next week’s season-ending series, Dickman have to refocus her efforts. She’ll go home to California and look for work in an organization such as a nonprofit group that needs fund-raising and event planning. Dickman will miss softball, but she’s sure to find another outlet.