April is Girls Sports Month, and as part of USA TODAY High School Sports’ fourth-annual Girls Sports Month celebration, we’re speaking with some of the top female high school players, influential athletes, coaches and celebrities in the sports world. We will also be highlighting some of the best stories from the past year and trailblazers in girls sports.
Stephanie Mill taught physical education to Mo’ne Davis, who at the time was in fifth grade at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Philadelphia). Even back then, Mill could already see the talent.
When many of her classmates could barely hit the rim, Davis could hit 3-pointers.
That was when Mill and Davis first met. For Davis, her budding talent in elementary school blossomed into numerous athletic achievements. Her shutout win in the Little League World Series for the Taney Dragons led to a Sports Illustrated cover and an ESPY for Best Breakthrough Athlete.
“I think I’ve matured a lot. I know how to handle things,” Davis said about her time since her achievements in Little League. “Other than that, I’m still pretty much the same. …. I feel like I’m a little bit more to myself now.”
She played softball in sixth grade, and then baseball for three years — from seventh to ninth grade — until her sophomore year when she decided to play softball again. With Mill also being the softball coach at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, she was back mentoring the athlete she had met all those years ago. Davis, now a senior in high school, captains the softball team.
“She’s been the shortstop for three years and defensively she just gets better and better every year,” Mill said.
In a Florida softball tournament two seasons ago, Davis was at shortstop when a ball was hit between her and third base. Davis angled back and fell to her knees as she fired the ball across the diamond to the first baseman, beating the runner. That’s when Mill first realized that Davis had the potential to be a Division I athlete in softball.
And Davis will be a Division I softball player. She’s going to Hampton University next year to play the sport. Davis estimates it will be the first time since she was five years old that she will be a single-sport athlete.
Besides softball, Davis has played soccer and basketball throughout her varsity career at Springside Chestnut Hill. She also continued to play baseball in the RBI World Series.
Maria Kosmin, the soccer coach at Springside Chestnut Hill, knew about Davis from her performances in the Little League World Series, and had thought that it was possible for Davis to be conceited from achieving fame so young.
According to Kosmin, however, that wasn’t the case at all. The coach recalled a time where she and Davis were sitting on the bus for an hour, chatting, on the way to a game. Davis had to leave early after the soccer match that day and didn’t tell Kosmin the reason for it. Kosmin didn’t know it was for a television appearance until her player was on the news the next day.
“She like texted me and she was like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’” Davis said. “I was like, ‘I don’t like telling people that stuff.’”
Davis would email her coach to let her know she’d be late for practice and when Kosmin would ask for an explanation, she would often hear about a television show.
Among other things, Kosmin liked Davis for her versatility. Davis can play any position on the soccer field, including goalie. There was a match this season against William Penn Charter (Philadelphia) when a center back on Davis’ team went down with an injury. Davis was moved to center back, a position she hadn’t played before, in a match that was in overtime. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
“She’s just a natural in everything she does,” Kosmin, said. “This past year, she was like my lifesaver.”
One thing Kosmin, Mill and Davis all agree on is that playing multiple sports is beneficial for a young athlete, which makes sense considering the school rules of Springside Chestnut Hill.
The school Davis attends, and Mill and Kosmin coach, has a rule: All students must play a sport.
One sport is required and they can choose an activity like robotics or theatre as a second requirement. If they don’t want to choose an activity, they have to play two sports. The rule changes slightly when a student becomes a senior.
Students can go down to one sport with no other requirement when they become seniors, because Springside Chestnut Hill lets students choose senior projects. Davis’ senior project will entail working with the Philadelphia Phillies Broadcasting Crew. In college, Davis will be majoring in communications, and she wants to become a sports broadcaster.
“I kind of want to have my own television show,” Davis said. “Do like fun and games. Hopefully, it’s majority athletes, so [I’ll] try to get a different side of athletes that people don’t normally see and just have fun.”
When she heads to Hampton, Davis said she’ll miss playing a bunch of different sports, but overall, she’ll be fine with focusing on one.
“It’ll be kind of weird at first cause I’m used to playing [all these] sports,” Davis said. “But at the same time, I can still watch them on television.”