In a world full of noise, distraction, and high-stress environments, any parent knows how important it is to provide teens with a sense of community and togetherness. One of the best ways to achieve that can be through sports.
The Firecracker Adams are a softball league for teen girls in La Mirada, California. The team consists of twelve 14-year old girls, all freshman in high school. Between school, tournaments, and softball practice twice a week (not to mention additional batting, fielding, and pitching lessons), these players are not only learning how to play softball, but how to juggle busy lives and maintain strong relationships with their team.
The mission of the Firecracker Adams Softball League is to provide a level of training to players that ensures the highest level of social and athletic development and growth. Playing the game professionally, having self-respect, and respecting others are the core values that the program was built upon.
Audree Fukumoto, the team’s Secretary and Financial Manager, explains, “Being a Firecracker means you understand that you are beautiful, certain of yourself, and very capable of playing this game. Most importantly, you are striving to make the decisions that will provide you happiness for the rest of your life.”
The team is run by Arron Adams, the Head Team Manager, Scott Dulken, the Assistant Manager, and Audree Fukumoto, the Secretary and Financial Manager. All three members are extremely passionate about their team and inspiring the girls to be the very best that they can be.
The team started when Arron, a father of four and former professional baseball player, realized that there was a shortage of coaches out there who have actually been “on the dirt”. Audree describes, “Arron has had the highs of the best game of your life, and the lows of crying in the locker room after the worst game of your life.” Arron has been an assistant softball coach for over a year, and has experience coaching on other ball teams for his daughter. In 2018, he decided that his next step was to start a team of his own.
Scott has also been involved in the softball world for a number of years: his oldest daughter played softball and is now a Senior in college, and his youngest daughter is on the Firecracker Adams team. He was an assistant coach last year, and now he wants to help Arron take the team to the next level.
Audree has worked in accounting for over 20 years and currently works from home for a software company. She is very involved in her children’s sports; when her daughter started playing softball six years ago at age 8, Audree was asked to be the dugout mom, and she “just kept going ever since”.
“Since the team consists of 14 year old girls, softball is a great way to keep them engaged in something other than boys, social media, and the pressure of schoolwork and grades” , Audree explains. “I think that kids and teens these days tend to find themselves a little lost, what with the dangers of social media, underage drinking, high school peer pressure, and the like. Being involved in sports is a great way to keep them involved in their communities and learn how to be good people. These kids are so busy, don’t have a lot of time to find themselves in trouble. We also try to do a lot of things to make it fun, so that they continue to stay involved over the years.”
Last year, the team spent 10 days away from home competing in softball tournaments in Colorado. In addition to time spent on the field, the girls and their parents went white water rafting and had dinner as a team. “It’s a softball family.”, Audree explains proudly. “The girls refer to each other as their softball sisters. It takes a village to do what we do. And we do everything that we can to help our girls become strong, capable people.”
The Firecracker players have big dreams to get into college with softball scholarships. Audree expresses, “Schoolwork and grades are first and foremost. We want to teach these girls that hard work pays off, and school is an important part of that. You can be an amazing softball player, but you also have to have good grades in order to get a scholarship for college. Our goal is to try to help support our players in that however we can.”
Recruitment for college softball scholarships starts early. During their freshman and sophomore years of high school, the players create college profiles and reach out to coaches to express interest in certain schools. Official recruitment starts during junior year, which is when the players can start to visit colleges of interest.
“It’s good to get those things underway early on, so that they have the best chance of success.” Audree explains. “It’s actually not that much different than when you’re interviewing for a job. You have to know how to promote yourself, be positive, and stay clean on social media.”
More than just a game, softball teaches these young women how to be good athletes, students, and people. “Playing softball has given these girls a lot of confidence.” expresses Audree. “They walk around knowing to represent themselves with pride, and to represent the organization with pride. Our team motto is ‘play with honor’.”
She goes on, “The sad truth is that, for a lot of people out there, softball has become a big money making machine. That’s not what we’re here for- we want to keep softball a family. We are all in, and we do whatever we need to do for these girls. Because at the end of the day, if they’re not having fun and if they don’t love what they’re doing, then there’s no reason to do it.”
When asked about a particular inspiring moment that stood out to her this season, Audree smiles in recollection. “Our girls do such an amazing job of welcoming other players. For instance, when we won our biggest tournament this fall, we actually had a girl from outside our usual group playing with us. She had driven all the way across town to play in the tournament with us, but since she lived further away, a lot of our girls had never met her before. When we won the tournament, the girls were all hugging each other and jumping up and down. But the new player was kind of hanging back, until the Firecracker girls opened up their circle and said ‘get in here. You are a part of this.’ That was huge for me, as a parent. It means a lot to see that your children are growing up to be such good, accepting people. I’m so proud of them for making sure that this new girl felt welcomed and appreciated.”
In an age where teens (and particularly student athletes) are constantly stressed about grades and getting into college, it’s more important than ever to foster environments where they feel supported and safe. Being a member of a close-knit sports team like the Firecrackers teaches teens that nobody is perfect, and that it’s okay to fail. Everyone has good days and bad days, but what matters the most is having a team of people behind you to support you through it all.
Audree describes, “It’s more than just a sport, really. There are a lot of lessons that softball offers, too: how to deal with adversity, how to be a good teammate. How to pick yourself up and get back on the field when you get knocked down. And truly, when you think about it, these aren’t just sports lessons. These are life lessons. And our hope is that our girls will carry these lessons with them for a long time after they step off the field.”
To learn more about the Firecracker Adams or to donate to their organization, check out their Instagram at @fcthornburgadams2022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org