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Saint Louis head softball coach Christy Connoyer recently traveled to the Netherlands as part of USA Athletes International. During a 10-day stay, Connoyer coached in five games, helped conduct a softball clinic, and took advantage of an opportunity to experience Dutch culture.

The American squad faced various teams from the Netherlands, some of which included current Dutch National Team members. Games were played in Haarlem, Holland, where in 2014 the USA and Japan met in the title game of the first-ever Softball World Championship held in Europe.

“It was an incredible coaching opportunity, and the personal growth I experienced in my first visit to Europe was rewarding as well,” Connoyer said. “Observing a different culture and hearing a different language was fascinating. It was exciting to see a new corner of the world, to have the honor and privilege of representing the United States as a coach, and to experience international camaraderie with Dutch softball athletes through competition and respect for our sport.

“We held a small clinic to teach young Dutch athletes the fundamentals of softball,” Connoyer said. “The language barrier made it interesting, and we definitely used more demonstration than description. Yet, it was refreshing to see the enthusiasm and passion around the sport, no matter the culture. It was so popular that we were on the local news as Americans giving of their time to teach softball to the youth in the community.”

Among the off-the-field highlights for Connoyer were a canal cruise in Amsterdam; a scooter tour to see windmills in Holland; a trip to a dairy farm to observe the making of cheese; a concentration camp tour; observation of wooden shoe crafting; and a visit to Bentheim Castle in Germany.

USAAI is a nonprofit organization that has been participating in international competition since 1992. The organization is dedicated to giving amateur athletes and coaches an opportunity to participate in international Olympic-style sporting events throughout the world. Based in Olathe, Kansas, USAAI supports teams in 15 different sports that compete in 25 different countries.