APRIL 13, 2016 - COVINGTON
Arianna Richards, a senior at Covington High School, knew from a very young age she wanted to be a softball player.
So when the opportunity arose for her to continue her softball career and education as an Education Major at Hiram College, Richards wasn't about to pass it up.
"I've been playing ball since I was four years old and to be able to continue playing in college is amazing," said Richards, after she put her name on the dotted line on Wednesday at Covington High School. "I had an overnight visit (at Hiram) and liked the coaches and players on the team. It's a small school and I felt like I really fit in."
Richards, the daughter of Eddie and Cristy Richards, is a tenacious player who has never been afraid of competition and challenges.
This was apparent at a very early age.
"I can remember when she started playing for Shon (Schaffer) at four years old with the Cannons' traveling team," said her mother, Cristy. "She was playing against kids eight and nine years old. Now, to see her getting to play in college is exciting. It will be different, but exciting."
Arianna has had a number of coaches over the years who have had a significant impact on her game - and her life.
"We have a great softball program at Covington with Dean Denlinger, so I've learned so much from him," she said. "I've also had great coaches since I was little in travel ball with Shon Schaffer and Mark Gibson."
There are two other coaches Richards played for who she holds a special place in her heart.
"Two of my coaches had a huge impact on my life and I lost both of them," she explained. "Jim Crowell and Donny Yingst have meant so much to me and I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for them."
Where Richards is today is one of the premier catchers in the history of Covington softball and a future collegiate standout.
"I have no doubt in my mind Arianna will be successful at Hiram," said Covington coach Dean Denlinger. "She's a special player who plays the game with passion. Her mindset as a catcher is unique and the way she communicates with a pitcher is a huge plus. She's the type of player you can't replace. You just hope someday you can develop another one like her."
Which coach Jackie Mangola and the Hiram softball program will soon find out.
"Kids like Arianna don't come around very often," Denlinger continued. "When you have a kid like this that comes in and brings it every single day, you have a special player. Hiram got a really good one in Arianna Richards."
Richards plans to enjoy every minute of her collegiate softball career, but she hopes to have an impact on kids as a teacher and coach once her playing days come to an end.
"I want to take advantage of playing as long as I can, but one day I want to be an elementary teacher and maybe even coach," she said. "I like kids and want to have an impact on them like my coaches and teachers have impacted my life."
Until then, Richards will use her talents to impact Hiram College.