To err is human but to bounce back is fine.
One of the uplifting things about Jaden Thompson that Mattituck High School softball coach Kim Gerstung noticed earlier this season came on an error, of all things.
It came in a 14-4 defeat of Rocky Point when Thompson charged in to field a bunt. The junior third baseman slipped and fell to her knees. It was from her knees where she made an off-target throw that flew into rightfield.
But here is the part that Gerstung liked: Thompson put the mistake behind her.
“She didn’t let that bother her,” Gerstung said. “She focused on the game. She doesn’t let it her fluster her.”
In the past, perhaps, Thompson may have put her head down after a play like that and it may have affected her the rest of the day.
No more, apparently.
“She’s just very confident — a lot of confidence — and that makes a huge difference,” Gerstung said. “If she makes a mistake … she brushes it off.”
That lesson has evolved through Thompson’s experience and from her mother, Kathy, who had also played third base for Mattituck.
“Softball’s a game of mistakes,” Thompson said. “It can mentally challenge you, so I had to teach myself that, ‘OK, I messed up. Now I have to make it better.’ ”
Thompson has good reason to be confident, given her achievements. Last year she made All-County with some impressive numbers: a .554 batting average, four home runs, 27 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. This year Newsday named her among the top 100 players on Long Island.
By the looks of things, she is off to another huge season. Through Mattituck’s first three games, she went 10-for-10 with two doubles, a triple, eight RBIs, eight runs and three stolen bases. Seven of those RBIs came in a 27-2 rout of Amityville.
“It looks like a good season from here on out,” she said.
Gerstung said Thompson has looked good at the plate. “When she hits the ball, she hits the ball hard,” the coach said. “You don’t want to get in the way.”
Thompson bats third in the order, ahead of cleanup hitter Ashley Perkins.
On the defensive side, Thompson had three putouts, five assists and two errors.
“She plays centerfield for her travel team, so she doesn’t play third base for most of the year, but I need her in the infield,” Gerstung said. “She’s part of the glue that holds it together.”
The Mattituck infield typically has Thompson at the hot corner, with Perkins at first base, Ashley Chew at shortstop and Aniah Thompson (Jaden’s younger sister) or Cassidy Mullin at second base.
Jaden has a knack for getting her glove on the ball, and has a good arm as well.
“That’s saying it nicely,” Gerstung said. “When she plays centerfield, I’ve seen her throw it home, and there’s no arc on the ball.”
Jaden received national recognition when she was selected to play in the All-America Pre-Season Tournament this past January in Conroe, Texas. The tournament draws players who have committed to top-level colleges such as Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Auburn.
“It was a good competition and I got to learn new things because I got to play with girls across the country,” said Jaden, who would like to play in college.
Gerstung said, “She’s definitely on everybody’s radar.”
Jaden said she was inspired to play softball by her mother. “I always remember going to her summer games and I always loved watching her play,” she said. “So I was like, ‘Let me try the sport.’ ”
Jaden was brought onto the varsity team as an eighth-grader, and has been a starter since she was a freshman. She is a year-round player, as are Perkins and Alexis Burns.
Another valuable lesson Jaden has learned is accepting constructive criticism. “Taking criticism is a big thing because people are only trying to help you and the more you learn, the more you can do,” she said.
In describing Jaden, Gerstung said: “I don’t even have words. She’s just a great kid. She’s a leader on the team. She loves the sport. She could play softball seven days a week.”
And if an error pops up from time to time, well, that’s going to happen.
“It’s part of the game,” Gerstung said. “You’re going to make mistakes. It’s how you react to those mistakes that makes you the person you are.”
Photo caption: Mattituck junior third baseman Jaden Thompson has gotten off to a hot start at the plate this season. (Credit: Bob Liepa)