Stephanie Huddlestan wants the young softball players she coaches to know that they can do anything if they put their mind to it.
That’s the lesson she has learned both on the field as a player and in the field as an archaeologist.
“I just followed my passion,” she said. “That was how my career evolved and everything else evolved.
“I’m hoping that I can at least teach them that if they are passionate about the sport and want to learn they should keep at it because there will always be opportunities to grow and have fun.”
Born in Surrey, B.C., Huddlestan’s passion for softball began when she was six years old. She was at a family reunion where her relatives were playing in a game, and she wanted to take part.
“My family didn’t think I would enjoy playing that much because until that point, I had been more into art than sports,” she said.
Instead, Huddlestan said she remembers holding onto her mothers hand running around the bases. It was the most enjoyable thing in the world to her at that young age and she was hooked.
She continued to play in youth house leagues before being scouted to play third baseman and shortstop for the Surrey Storm, a U-10 rep team that competed south in the province. Huddlestan continued to play rep-level ball until she went to Kwantlen Polytechnic University — then Kwantlen College.
Archaeology was not something that was on Huddlestan’s mind when she first attended college. Rather, she said it was something that evolved for her as she was taking courses in fine arts, history and anthropology.
Huddlestan eventually decided to complete a degree in archaeology, with a minor in history, at Simon Fraser University. Her first archaeological dig was at a 3,000-year-old Celtic bronze and iron age site in Austria in 2004. After graduating from the program at Simon Fraser, Huddlestan worked with the Katzie First Nations — whose traditional territory is in the Lower Mainland — for eight years uncovering and developing historical sites.
Huddlestan moved to Prince Rupert in 2013 when she began working with an archaeological consulting firm called Kleanza to do assessments on land being considered for development.
“We would gather as much information as we can to figure out if there was something there,” she said. “If there was, we would provide recommendations as to how the interested party could continue their work, if at all.”
When Huddlestan arrived in the city, she immediately looked to find a softball league. While in university, Huddlestan had stopped playing rep-level fast pitch softball, opting instead for less competitive Slo-Pitch. This allowed her to balance playing with school — and later her career. Now, in Prince Rupert, she was looking for a way to continue playing at that level.
Huddlestan started playing with teams in the Kaien Island Slo-Pitch League, and through her involvement, she learned about a new youth softball association that was getting started. When she found out the association was looking for coaches, she immediately reached out to Ralph Weick, the league’s president.
“I knew it was something I wanted to do because I wanted to contribute to the game, and I thought it would be a fun thing to give back,” she said.
Together with Jessica Hunter-Newman, Huddlestan coaches the league’s U-8 and U-11 age groups. She said after so many years playing competitive softball, it is refreshing to teach the game to a younger generation.
“You rediscover your passion when you coach,” she said. “You see other people getting inspired and that motivates you to continue teaching and to continue playing yourself.”
Much in the same way that her life and career path were shaped by doing the things she loved, Huddlestan said she hopes that by giving her players confidence on the field, they will believe they can pursue their passion of it.
“When some kids struggle with the sport, I hope I can support them as they continue to grow,” she said. “That’s what will help them most.”