Two years ago, Kanisha Hodges first realized she might have a chance to play softball in college.
Unfortunately, a knee injury in her junior year at Columbus High School put her college dreams on hold and left her wondering if she would return to the lineup and have a chance to make those dreams a reality.
Another injury — this time to her left knee — during soccer season earlier this year cast even more doubt on Hodges’ athletic plans for college.
Instead of giving up, Hodges used the injuries as motivation and convinced herself all she needed to do was to work hard and good things would happen.
On Thursday, Hodges’ perseverance paid off as she signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball at Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Hodges said. “I never thought I would be able to go off to college and play softball, but finally my dream has come true. That was one of my No. 1 dreams.”
Hodges has been playing softball for almost eight years. She started playing softball in the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation League. She also played soccer to help keep her in shape for track and field, but she said her attention turned to softball after she had surgery to repair torn meniscus in her right knee.
Hodges said her attitude was the primary reason she was able to realize her goal. She said she stayed positive through all of the injury problems, and used that same mentality earlier this month at a tryout at Coahoma C.C.
“I thought I was going to be nervous when I got there, but I just did what I had to do,” said Hodges, who received a scholarship offer that day. “In my head I wanted to dance (when she received the offer).”
Eric Thornton has worked with Hodges for the past four years in slow-pitch softball and for the last three in fast-pitch softball. He said Hodges’ approach has remained the same each season and she has continued to do whatever needed to get better. Thornton said that attitude helped her rebound from the injuries and to hit. .468 in her final fast-pitch season.
“Kanisha has won our hustle award the last couple of years,” Thornton said. “She is just one of those who wants to stay after, who wants extra fly balls, who wants extra reps. She just comes every day and works hard and is one I never have to say anything to. She comes with that positive attitude and works hard every day.”
Thornton said Hodges returned from her injuries to play multiple positions. He said she is a versatile hitter with good speed. Even though Hodges is a right-handed hitter, Thornton said she worked as a slap hitter from the left side to capitalize on her athleticism. He believes that is something Hodges will work on even more at the next level.
Thornton said he wasn’t sure if Hodges would be able to return to form following the injuries, but he never saw that doubt in Hodges. He feels that confidence will serve her well as she adjusts to life at Coahoma C.C.
“She is going to have to fight a lot harder to earn playing time, especially as a freshman,” Thornton said. “I think she is up for that challenge, though.”
Hodges believes she is ready, too. She acknowledges there will be an adjustment period, but working back from injuries has allowed her to see what she can do when she is committed to making something happen.
“I had to tell myself if I really wanted something to do I had to work for it and I have to do it,” Hodges said. “Nobody was going to do it but me, so I had to do what I had to do to get better.
“My ninth-grade year, I didn’t care too much, but I had to realize I am growing up and if I wanted something for myself I had to put forth the effort to do it.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.