Connor Casey

Braud refuses to break under pressure

by Connor Casey June 19, 2013 in Softball

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Picture this: You are a college student-athlete and you’ve just finished your freshman year at the University of Alabama. You’re on the softball team and finished the season as a huge offensive threat with a .505 batting average. But it doesn’t stop there. You’ve been named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and named a National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American as a second baseman. You helped your team win the SEC Tournament championship and make it to the NCAA® Division I Softball Super Regionals. And to top it off, you’ve been able to balance athletics with academics, making the Dean’s List both semesters.

Now imagine that your coach has asked you to switch to left field, a position you’ve never played.

This was the situation that Alabama outfielder Kayla Braud found herself in back in 2011. Assistant coach Vann Stuedeman, now head coach at Mississippi State, brought up the suggestion for Braud to switch positions due to her one weakness – a mental block while throwing to first base that resulted in 13 errors.

“She couldn’t throw it to first base,” Stuedeman said in an interview with Tuscaloosa News in 2012. “Bless her heart, we tried everything. She’s a resilient competitor, and so we put her in the outfield and she embraced it. She’d never played outfield a day in her life and she embraced it and said, ‘This is where I’m going to play, this is where I can contribute.’ And hats off to her and Alyson Habetz, the outfield coach, they have worked hard.”

Braud made the transition look easy. In her sophomore season, she was named an NFCA All-American, this time as an outfielder, made the All-SEC team, and led her team in five offensive categories with a batting average of .436. As a sophomore, she committed only one error at her new position.

“I’ve forgotten about infield, honestly,” Braud said in an interview with Tuscaloosa News in 2012.

After being named a captain for her junior year, Braud helped lead the Crimson Tide to a 26-game winning streak and Alabama’s first Women’s College World Series® championship. As a senior she was unable to get Alabama past the Super Regionals, but she was named an NFCA All-American for the third time.

The resiliency and determination Braud displayed on the field was also shown in the classroom and community. Her cumulative GPA of 3.7 not only put her on the Dean’s List every semester but also earned her a spot on the Capital One Academic All-American team for three straight seasons.

Along with aiding in disaster relief after a tornado tore through Tuscaloosa in 2011, Braud participated in Read Across America, the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, Field of Angels, the Autism Society of America’s Light It Up Blue campaign, the Walk for Autism campaign and Student for Survivors.

The amount of pressure that comes with competing at such a high academic and athletic level while participating in so many community service activities might break many college student-athletes. But Braud managed to thrive under the pressure.

I definitely like to play under pressure,” Braud said in an interview with the Crimson White in 2011. “It brings out the best or worst in a player. I think I kind of live for those moments. They kind of define a player and I think when you succeed in those moments, it really shows that all of your hard work has paid off.”