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A Leader Among Leaders

The following article on softball player Jennae Tomlinson appeared in the Army Official Sports Report on March 25, 2010, and was written by John Ferro.

WEST POINT, N.Y. - When you talk to Army softball player Jennae Tomlinson, you get the feeling that her potential is unlimited - only it just takes her a while to realize it.

When she arrived at Beast Barracks her plebe year, she took stock of the older, experienced cadets who were leading the basic training for new arrivals.

"I thought, 'That's never going to be me,'" she said. "I'm never going to be the First Captain. I am never going to be on Brigade staff. I am going to be a lonely, trunk-room officer. That's truly what I thought going into first year."

Now a senior, Tomlinson is one of four regimental commanders within the Corps of Cadets, second only to the First Captain.

Last year, when the softball team elected its captains for the 2009-10 season, Tomlinson believed in her heart that she was not deserving of the honor. She was a part-time starter. She had batted .176.

"I didn't feel I had shown my abilities athletically in order to be a captain," she said.

Her teammates felt differently. Tomlinson was chosen co-captain along with Erin McClain.

So maybe it's only fitting that now, after three years of being a sometimes starter and below-average hitter, Tomlinson is starting every game, batting leadoff and hitting a very healthy .341. In 44 at bats, she has 15 hits, including two doubles and six RBIs. Her on-base percentage is .396 - right where you'd want a leadoff hitter to be.

She credits her coaching staff, and the added motivation that came with being elected captain, for her success.

"Peer leadership is one of the harder things you do a t the academy," she said. "And to be elected from a group of girls - who I consider a privilege to play with every day and didn't consider myself a leader among the group by any means until they told me that they thought I was - it definitely was inspiring."

Tomlinson singled out Army assistant coach Kate Stake for her ability to communicate some of the more technical aspects of hitting in a way that is easy to process.

Stake, Tomlinson said, has a profound ability to examine a swing, understand exactly what is wrong with it and then provide corrective advice with a useful analogy.

"She will say something like, 'Do you know how you skip a rock? Well, swing your follow-through hand like that,' " Tomlinson said. "Her ability to give you another outlook on your swing . and the amount of time that all of the coaches spend with us on a daily basis definitely helped out a lot."

Tomlinson, a native of Lima , Ohio, is not the first from her family to attend a military academy. Her brother, Nicholas, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2006. Tomlinson said she was accepted to both Army and Air Force.

"I looked at West Point and West Point was a better fit for me," she said. ". West Point develops you to be a leader among individuals, among soldiers. I think that is what truly drew me to West Point - the ability to lead individuals. To lead soldiers in combat just fits my personality more than versus the Air Force academy, where you develop yourself as a leader and then you go fly something. They are not really leading anyone; they are flying a machine - which is great if that is your personality. But my personality is more about leading individuals and inspiring other people to do something versus just flying a machine."

Indeed. It just took a little while for Jennae Tomlinson to realize it.

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