When softball star Cat Osterman competed at Athens in 2004, she was the youngest athlete to win a gold medal for Team USA—in fact, she was still a student athlete at the University of Texas. The pitcher won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and she came out of retirement at age 38 to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. While the host team of Japan took gold this year, Cat’s legacy as an inspiration to young girls was cemented by the message she shared after her team’s second place finish. When asked what she would say to little girls following in her footsteps and watching from home, she said: “The biggest thing is you’re not going to win every game. You’re not going to win every pitch. You’re not going to win every at bat…You have to be able to figure out how you’re going to bounce back with it or how you’re just going to move forward with it.” We interviewed Cat about her journey to Tokyo, including becoming a wife and stepmom, her advice for parents raising young athletes, the biggest hurdles at this year’s Olympics, and more.
What has the journey to Tokyo been at age 38, compared to your previous Olympic experiences?
It’s been a different journey mainly because I know what to expect in terms of emotions and nerves, and I feel like I was able to manage and use those in a more productive manner. However, it’s also been exciting because the Village life is always fun and entertaining.
You’ve gotten married and become a stepmom since the last time you competed at this level. How has becoming a mother changed your perspective?
The idea of my stepdaughter being able to watch me train for this, has been a big motivation. I want her to see what it takes to reach your dreams. I also have had to learn to compartmentalize in order to train and compete at my best. I cannot be effective on the field if I’m worried about what’s going on at home.
What has it been like not being able to have your family in the stands this Olympics? Were they able to travel with you and if not, how have you stayed in touch?
Our families had to stay home. No one could travel abroad with us. Thankfully, I knew the little we get to interact with them during a normal Games, so while it was a bummer, I didn’t let it consume me. Technology is well advanced, so texts and FaceTime have been life savers.
Do you have any thoughts on youth sports or encouraging young athletes—including your stepdaughter, Bracken.
My biggest advice is letting your little ones fall in love with whatever it is. It’s their heart that has to be in it not yours. My parents let me try everything, and when my interest peaked or even changed they supported it in every way they could. However, you also have to instill the traits that make them learn discipline, work ethic, etc.
What’s your favorite part of your job, and what has been the absolute highlight through the years?
As an athlete, my favorite part is competing. I love being able to go out and battle each pitch for a win with my teammates. The thrill and challenge is what I live for. Winning Gold in 2004 is the ultimate highlight.
Anything else you’d like to share with any parents reading this?
Support your kids journey, but make sure they know win or lose, great day or bad day, that you love them and love watching them. Attaching your love to their outcomes will make their journey a lot harder. No one tries to perform poorly, but success is never a guarantee in sports, so love them through it.