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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 4

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 4 86 "I definitely learned to grow up," she said with a laugh. "I'm a sensitive child and usually I would rely on my par- ents to handle situations for me. Having to pull myself out of, I guess, a feeling of failure and then knowing what I am capable of doing has helped me to grow in a lot of different areas, not just softball-wise." But the softball transformation, at least at the plate, was significant in 2017. Hughes already was a left-handed slap hitter, and the new staff didn't change that approach. It wouldn't make sense to, considering Coach Boo De Oliveira called Hughes "one of the fastest athletes I've ever coached." "All Maya has do is tap the ball, and she can get on base," De Oliveira said. So the staff just tweaked Hughes' fundamentals a bit with footwork and other small things, which Hughes just saw as expounding on things "I had hidden in my tool belt before they got here." But the physical changes to the swing weren't the big- gest piece to Hughes' bounce-back year, she said. It was, mostly, mental, she said. During Hughes' difficult freshman season, she started going to Purdue's sports psychologist Kacey Oiness and learned about meditation, visualization and positive self- talk. That turned out just to be a foundation with the new staff's mindset. De Oliveira built a fear-free environment of encouragement with a focus on building players up, and Hughes started to believe. And thrive. "You're trying to turn women into warriors up at the plate," De Oliveira said. "That's what we work on a daily basis. It doesn't matter if it's our No. 1 player or our No. 25 player. We're working on that mental prep because it's the difference of championship-caliber teams, how they handle pressure and how they recover from it. I think with Maya, she really does buy in to the mental game and that's an important piece because she realized there were areas she needed to improve on and she did. "Our job as coaches is to develop them to their top po- tential as a student-athlete and empower them to be the most independent women that they can be. I think the combination of (No.) 1 really looking at, 'Hey, what are you really good at? Let's have you be great at that instead Purdue Athletics Hughes has grown as a leader during her four years with the Boil- ermakers, evolving in to one of the team's most important pieces behind the scenes.

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