Neiles family bonds over softball at UJ and abroad
The Jimmies' Megan and Jayda Neiles and their father, Scott, have been playing the sport of softball together for their entire lives.
Two players on the University of Jamestown softball team, Megan and Jayda Neiles, were born to play softball, literally. Despite Megan being two years older than her sister, they share the same birthday, June 13, which is World Softball Day.
“I feel like it being World Softball Day is kind of a crazy coincidence on top of the fact that we share a birthday,” Jayda said. “As much as I feel like people might think it would be a little difficult, I’ve never found a problem with it. I’ve always thought it was quite convenient, actually, and super fun that we get to do that one thing together all the time. It’s never caused any arguments or problems and it’s always been a nice thing that we get to do together.”
The Neiles sisters from Winnipeg, Manitoba, got into their sport from their father, Scott, who is currently the president of Softball Canada.
“He taught me everything I need to know, everything in my swing, everything in throwing, everything in confidence in the batter's box; how to be a person off the field, how to be a good teammate, pretty much everything I need to know,” Megan said. “He’s like a walking softball dictionary.
Scott Neiles said he has seen his daughters' games change tremendously over the years, with Megan having to work harder to get the results than her sister did but Jayda having to grow into her body and her game more.
The family’s presence on the Jimmies softball team started with Megan, who is a sophomore; Jayda is a freshman.
“I always had the goal growing up that I wanted to play college softball,” Megan said. “Getting out of high school, I didn’t really put in that effort to reach out to schools and whatnot. Eventually, coach (Kevin) Gall came and visited me up in Winnipeg at one of our tournaments and we started talking. He was really the only school that I kept in contact with and it’s close to home, it’s only four and a half hours away. I love the town and I thought the campus was really pretty, so I took the offer and ran. I came here to visit three times, I’m pretty sure.”
After Jayda decided to pursue softball at the collegiate level, she said watching her sister helped her make the decision to play for the Jimmies.
“....But seeing her experience in her first year and part of her second year, made it look really fun and very inspiring,” Jayda said. “I thought when the coach reached out to me, I should give it a try and if I could have half as much fun as her it would be totally worth it.”
Scott said the fact that both Jayda and Megan are playing for the Jimmies has he and his wife, Carla, excited.
“The opportunity for Jamestown for Jayda came later as a result of COVID, Jayda missed almost two years of full schedule and we weren’t sure she wanted to pursue anything,” Scott said. “She had a couple schools reaching out to her. When the opportunity came up at Jamestown, she was fairly excited about it. I left it up to her to discuss with coach Gall as to what her opportunity was there and she decided to do it. As parents, it’s a heck of a lot more convenient than if we were trying to cover two girls in various parts of the U.S.”
The Neiles sisters are joined on the roster by fellow Winnipeg native Sidnie Aasen, with the three growing up as neighbors. Jayda also played in the 2018 Fast Pitch World Championships with Aasen, which she said was a cool experience to have with her now roommate.
“It was definitely a completely different experience than I’ve had before because for us we had mostly just been doing our provincials which is like state,” Jayda said. “So, whenever we get to that, it was a lot of fun, especially with Sidnie, she’s my best friend. It’s really fun to do that with somebody that you’re so close with.”
Megan said she loves having her sister on campus with her and having the ability to rely on her sister when things might not be going well on the diamond or off of it.
“I love having her at UJ because it's nice to have an extra shoulder to lean on especially when it’s family,” Megan Neiles said. “I know I always have her there, as much as we are softball, I don’t see her that much during the day on campus. She’s definitely my best friend.”
The sisters and the rest of their teammates listened to Scott speak in early February, in a speech where he said he told the team to be in the moment when they are on the diamond and in practice, and to not let any outside worries or stresses cloud their minds during those fun moments.