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Our story begins in Orlando, Florida in 1968 with a little girl, only 6 years old, watching the Olympic games. Glued to the television, between the black and white pixels, she watched as Bob Seagren, an American pole-vaulter, battled his way to an Olympic gold medal in what was then one of the most exciting match-ups in the event’s history. As he stood on the podium and the official put the gold medal around his neck, the television crew scanned the Mexico City crowd to show the American flags being waved by fans and the crowd chanting: “USA, USA, USA . . .”
That night, she had a dream. She saw the crowds and the red, white, and blue banners and she heard them chanting “USA, USA, USA.” The only difference was, when the athlete stood up with the gold medal, it was not Bob Seagren on the podium. It was her.
That was the dream that started Dorothy Richardson on her epic journey to Olympic gold. “Dottie,” as she was called then, could not shake that dream of being an Olympic gold medalist. It started with baseball. Dot (as she later became known) had two brothers of close age and she would play baseball with them at the local park. Of course, the boys always picked her first (she was the best in the league!) but she was never allowed to play in a real game. Back then, remember, girls were not allowed to play baseball – especially not with the boys!
Until one day in 1971 when everything changed.
After being rejected from yet another baseball team because of her gender, young Dot was approached by a female at the ballpark who asked her if she was interested in practicing with their team. Always up for a new experience, young Dot said “yes” and took a few ground balls at third base. When the coach invited her to join the team, she was shocked to learn that Dot was only ten years old . . . the average age on the Union Park Jets (a women’s majors team) was 22. Still, with permission from her parents, Joyce and Ken, Dot became the youngest woman to play women’s majors fastpitch softball.
But her athleticism was not exclusively reserved for softball. As a young adult, Dot enjoyed all sports including tennis, track, basketball, and others. Of all the sports she played, though, it was softball that she loved. The challenge, of course, is that in the 1970s (when she was in high school and preparing for college), softball was not an Olympic sport. How, then, would she ever live her dream of being an Olympian if softball was not in the Olympics?
Resolute in her commitment and unwavering despite the odds, Dot pursued her passion in the sport of softball. In 1979, she became the youngest woman to represent the United States of America in international play when she was selected to compete in the Pan American Games and earned her first gold medal . . . could that have been her dream fulfilled, she wondered? It was a gold, but not the Olympic gold. She did not give up.
Softball kept her busy traveling the World and carried her away from home in Florida to California where she earned a scholarship to UCLA and won four (4) National Championships. She played her summers in Stratford, Connecticut with the Raybestos Brakettes or the United States of America and continued to do so after college. By then, Dot measured her softball career – and her educational opportunities – in four year increments:
In 1988 Dot earned her master’s degree in exercise physiology from Adelphi University. With faith that her dream was her destiny, Dot prayed that softball would be announced to be in the Olympics in 1992. Not quite ready to give up on her dream, she decided a post-graduate study of medicine would buy her some more time (“why not?” some would say, she’s always wanted to help people). To medical school she went . . . waiting for that fateful announcement to come.
It did not.
The 1992 Olympics came and went without softball joining the games. Still in medical school and now thirty years old, Dot thought her dream of being an Olympic gold medalist may have been just that: a dream. She decided she would wait four more years.
In 1995, as Dot was entering her residency as an orthopaedic surgeon and just starting to accept that she may have to hang up her spikes, the International Olympic Committee announced that softball would be in the 1996 Olympic Games. It would be the 100th Olympic Summer Games and they would be in Atlanta Georgia, USA. With all her travels abroad to represent the United States (in Holland, Australia, Japan, Puerto Rico, China, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada . . . the list goes on), the first Olympic softball games would be held in her backyard, less than 500 miles from her home town.
After representing the United States in international competition for sixteen years, was Dot finally on the verge of living her dream?
From here, most newspapers, magazines, and wiki-pages have covered “the rest of the story.” Dot went on to lead the Americans at short-stop and hit the first homerun in Olympic softball history as well as the last of the 1996 Games (the one that would ensure the United States the first ever gold medal in our sport). What most media did not report, because they could not have known, was what Dot realized in that fateful moment. As she stood on the podium with the gold medal around her neck in Atlanta, Georgia that summer, she looked around the stadium and took in her surroundings:
Her parents and family cheering her on
The fans waving American flags
The chants: “USA, USA, USA . . .”
She realized in that moment that she had lived her dream.
It took 28 years for Dot’s dream to come true. It took hard work, dedication, and commitment in the face of incredible adversity: time, nay-sayers, and the sacrifices that are necessary to achieve such an extraordinary goal. The point of the story, though, is not that Dot is an incredible woman (she is!). The point is that dreams can come true.
It is on this belief that PFX Athletics was built. Dreams can (and do) come true. Dot Richardson organized our organization in 1996 after she made her dream come true with the purpose and objective of helping other girls and women have the chance to make their dreams come true. Our history as a company has evolved through the years: from a training organization, to the non-profit arm of the Pro-Fastpitch X-treme Tour, to who we are today.
Pay close attention as you visit our website and social media pages. For us, the photos and stories are more than just photos and stories. Behind the pixels, as young Dottie did in 1968 and as we do today, we hope you see the dreams that we are helping make come true.