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Pitching ace finds success through preparation

By Don Fennell

Published 12:43 PST, Thu January 18, 2018

Time management just may be the most important attribute of any high-level athlete.

Richmond’s Hanna Finkelstein exhibits this quality en masse.

The 2017 Hugh Boyd Secondary graduate—the school’s top female athlete, while sporting a 3.9 grad point average—has always recognized the importance of being prepared. Even as a little girl.

“My first sport was gymnastics,” says Finkelstein, today one of Canada’s most promising softball prospects. “I remember admiring the strength and artistry required to succeed, and the bravery to attempt new skills. I think it contributed to my open-mindedness for critique and technical feedback.”

Inspired by her dad, Finkelstein learned at a young age the importance of goal setting which he would often reiterate. One of her earliest and fondest memories is of time spent in the backyard with her dad learning how to throw the ball properly. They would also frequently converse about what she wanted from softball, and he helped her determine how to achieve those goals.

“He would encourage and support my brother and I to go beyond what was expected of us by our coaches,” she says. “Witnessing him put all his lessons into practice made them even more impactful. Growing up and having someone like my dad, who would do anything he could to see me succeed, was and still is greatly inspiring to me.”

Participating in high-level training at the Richmond Olympic Oval for the last five years has helped Finkelstein to further focus her softball aspirations. She says considerations like proper exercise and good diet to be vital for success in any sport.

“Taking care of your body through proper diet and exercise improves individual performance,” she maintains. “It is important to understand how certain foods may affect your body and subsequently make proper diet choices.”

Finkelstein believes the marriage of proper weightlifting technique and agility exercises she received at the high performance program at the Oval, and through her softball association, has further prepared her for college. Attending Long Island University Post on a full-ride softball scholarship, she’ll officially debut as a Pioneer when the New York-based team begins its 2018 schedule March 4 versus Ferris State in Clermont, Florida.

Finkelstein also recognizes the critical importance of sleep.

“Sleep is vital for overall health and performance,” she says. “Not getting enough sleep you are not only hurting yourself, but your team as well.”

She tries to be as efficient as possible with homework and other responsibilities. Falling into a consistent routine also contributes to an effective sleep schedule.

“The more I am able to stay organized and reduce stress, the easier it is to ensure I get enough sleep,” she says.

At the beginning of each semester, Finkelstein compiles a calendar much like a schedule—listing all her softball and academic obligations. She finds having a visual of when each task must be completed helps keep her on track.

Also excelling at volleyball in high school, Finkelstein was nearing the end of her Grade 10 year when she decided to pursue softball at the college level. But she knew she had to dedicate more time to strength and softball skill development.

“The two schedules often clashed, and it became clear that I would have to prioritize one over the other,” she says. “However, I would encouraged young athletes to play as many sports as they can for as long as they can. I have found the versatility and overall athleticism infiltrate all facets of virtually any sport.”

In the 11 years Finkelstein has been playing softball, her love for the sport has only intensified.

“I have made friendships that I am positive will last far into the future,” she says.

Renowned for her pitching talent, Finkelstein’s strength is her spin. She doesn’t consider herself a speed pitcher but rather one that utilizes movement and speed variation to keep batters guessing. She reasons that the most successful pitchers often carry themselves with a sense of intensity and confidence on the mound, which she also tries to bring to each outing.

MVP at the 2015 under-18 women’s Canadian Fastpitch Championships, Finkelstein’s pitching prowess and overall athletic talent earned her selection to the Canadian junior national team. The opportunity to play for the squad is her favourite sports memory so far. The sense of pride she felt while playing the game she loves was an experience like no other, she says.

While Finkelstein may be a pitcher by trade, her versatility as an athlete is one of the things that most impressed Long Island University Post softball head coach Jamie Apicella when she signed a letter of intent in 2016 to join the school’s softball team.

“She is a standout athlete that I feel can help us with her utility qualities,” Apicella said. “We feel she has the potential to be a front-line starter for us, with the ability to add offensive fire with her bat.”

When it all seems to be getting too much, Finkelstein has learned to take a step back. It’s then she often reflects on how far she has come and reassures herself she get through whatever the situation. For instance, she has a strenuous academic and softball schedule, but sets checkpoints throughout the week.

“This way, as each practice, game, test, or paper passes, I am one step closer to completing all that needs to be done.”

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