Freshman softball player lets her play do the talking
Rilee Malloy | Staff Writer
Mason softball player Audrey Renaud knows what it’s like to be mocked. She also knows what it’s like to get the last laugh.
Renaud has Tourette’s Syndrome. A disorder that involves uncontrollable repetitive movements or unwanted sounds, also called tics. Even though she started developing severe tics in the seventh grade, Renaud wasn’t diagnosed with vocal, motor, and complex motor tics until she was in the eighth grade.
Despite dealing with what can often be an exhausting condition, Renaud feels most at home on the softball field. She grew up in a sports obsessed family, inspired by her great uncle who was a professional baseball player.
Even though she thrives on the field, it has also been a place where she has experienced some painful moments at the hands of other players and even umpires.
When Renaud’s tics were at their worst, one of her most common vocal tics was repeating the word “rabbit”. She would often utter this word when she stepped into the batter’s box.
“I went up to bat and the umpire was like ‘rabbits huh, what about squirrels?’” Renaud said. “Then the catcher started mocking my squeaks and it made me really angry.”
While the catcher was talking from behind the plate, Renaud let her bat do the talking.
“I hit a bomb out to right field,” Renaud said. “That felt good.”
People who suffer from Tourette’s can often control some of their tics when they’re busy or actively involved in a situation. But there can be downtimes on the softball field. Moments between batters or a play when a player is not involved are among the some of the times that impact Renaud the most.
Not only can Tourette’s be physically demanding on Renaud, it presents a mental challenge as well. Sometimes she has to suppress her tics on the field which requires her to maintain a laser focus until she can return to the dugout, which Renaud said “can be really tiring, difficult and painful.”
Even though she deals with Tourette’s, Renaud hasn’t let that impact her performance on the field. As a slick fielding freshman infielder on the varsity team, she has a .400 on base percentage, collected 18 hits and has scored 22 runs for the 20-7 Mason Comets.
The numbers do not tell the whole story.
Even though she’s only been around head coach Liann Muff for a short time, the long time head coach has been extremely impressed with Renaud’s mindset and approach to the game. She is the first player Muff has encountered with Tourette’s. Muff said that Renaud’s work ethic is no different than any other players.
“She is quick to smile even if she makes a mistake,” Muff said. “She handles herself every day just like all the other girls. She really wants to get better.”
The worry that she would not be able to play because of her condition never really crossed Renaud’s mind. Softball has been helpful to her especially since playing sports can be beneficial to people with Tourette’s and tic disorders. Playing gives the mind something else to focus on, which can help limit the severity and frequency of the tics.
“It helps my tics a lot, as well as a lot of other people with Tourette’s and tic disorders,” Renaud said. “Anything that you focus on takes some of that off your chest and it helps.”
Sometimes when an athlete has an injury or a condition, they can put a bandage over it or wear a brace. Renaud doesn’t have that luxury when it comes to her condition. In fact, coming in as a freshman and supplanting upper class players as a starter on the varsity team can even add a layer of stress at times. She additionally has to manage her tics throughout the school day. So when the bell rings and it’s time to head to the field Renaud can finally breathe a sigh of relief because it is on the field where she says she feels most relaxed.
“It’s always relaxing, once you get there and get everything set up you just get to play and that’s always fun,” Renaud said.
Since she is only a freshman, her teammates have not really been around her very long so she is very aware that it could take a while for those around her to learn how to react to her tics or vocal outbursts. She believes the most helpful thing that someone can do to help her is to do nothing at all. She said that the less you make someone aware that they are ticcing, the more helpful you can be.
“If you’re aware that someone has a disorder like that, the less you fuel it or make them aware that they’re doing it the better,” Renaud said. “Ask questions, questions are fine, but I feel like the more I think about it the more I start ticcing.”
There have been a few times when Renaud has been unable to play because of her condition. She admits that it can be frustrating, but she tries to use that frustration as fuel to help her concentrate on overcoming the setbacks and work toward improving as a player.
“I believe that the second you start talking up on yourself the person behind you is using that time to get better,” Renaud said. “You’re not gonna be there as soon as you start working but if you keep pushing, you will get where you want to be.”
Muff believes Renaud embodies the Mason Softball program’s motto of self improvement and high standards. She is impressed how the freshman stand-out does not make any excuses and never allows her condition to be an obstacle.
“There’s nothing holding Audrey back,” Muff said. “I have not seen anything within her condition that has held her back from getting a little bit better every day.”
Photo by Riley Johansen