April 21, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
The old saying "It takes a village to raise a child" seems appropriate for South Carolina softball’s Kaylea Snaer. The junior first baseman from Rowland Heights, Calif., lived with her mother and grandparents growing up, and she has many familial influences who have made her what she is today.
“I’ve taken a lot from everybody, but I’m definitely my own person,” Snaer said. “My mom is really intelligent. She makes really wise decisions, and she is confident. So I think I get confidence from my mom. My dad can be kind of stubborn. I can be that way in that I’m not going to give up or take ‘no’ for an answer, and I’m going to work hard to get where I want to be. My grandparents are just so loving. I can’t tell you who I am most like, so I’ve just tried to take all of their wisdom, and trust their support. I know that they are all always there to lend me a hand.”
Choosing to come to South Carolina could have been difficult for someone with such a close family, but Snaer feels right at home with the Gamecocks.
“When I was considering coming here, I just wanted to experience a culture change,” Snaer said. “It’s been a great opportunity because just playing in the SEC, I get to see so much of the south.
“I’m very family-oriented. It’s not just with my family, but with the team too. One of the reasons I came here is because of the coaches, and they just seemed like a family together. Since all I know is being around something that is close-knit, that’s how I am with my teammates too. It’s just the best feeling in the world to have a family away from home.”
Snaer’s mother, Tammy Ouellette, was 19 when Kaylea was born. Mother and daughter moved in with Kaylea’s grandmother, “Dee-Dee,” and grandfather, Joe.
“My mom was finishing school, and she later went on to get her Ph.D.,” Snaer said. “My grandparents were also still working at the time. So my great aunt and uncle would watch me while my mom was at school. Everybody claims me as their own. I’m an only child, so yeah, it takes a village to only raise one.
“My grandmother says that I am her second daughter. My grandparents have always been in my life. It’s not just them though. I grew up with most of my immediate family living in the same neighborhood. We’re very close knit. My dad (Lerome Snaer) was still in the picture, but he didn’t live with us.”
Although her parents never married and her father had to move to different parts of the country while serving in the Navy, Snaer never felt like she was missing out.
“It wasn’t hard on me not having him around because I didn’t know any different,” Snaer said. “I would see my dad every other weekend when I was younger. It’s not like he was out of my life. He is in the military, so he ended up moving to Mississippi later when I was around 10. So then my relationship with my dad was more through the phone.
“I think some people would expect me to have some resentment, but I didn’t see it as him leaving me behind. I just saw it as something he had to do. Because I had so many other male figures in my life, I don’t think I really missed out on anything.”
Although her father did not get a chance to see her play softball in high school, he is able to drive down from his home in Virginia from time to time to lend his support.
“He’s learning the ins and outs of it now,” Snaer said. “I started playing softball when I was 11. So he never really saw me play until I came to college. He tries to coach me sometimes, but we’ve come down to the agreement that his advice to me for now is just ‘see the ball’ and ‘hit the ball.’ That’s all he says.”
Sometimes you can think too much when you’re standing in the box. Now, I’m just trusting that I am prepared, and I’m in that spot to a do a job.
Learning On and Off the Field
After a pair of solid seasons for the Gamecocks in 2014 and 2015, Snaer is enjoying a breakout season in 2016 in which she has already broken the school single-season record with 22 doubles and is among the team leaders in batting average and RBI. Her mother is now a neuropsychologist, and Snaer, a psychology major, has no trouble applying her education to her game.
“It’s not like she ever used any techniques on me, but my mom and I are just very close,” Snaer said. “I think my thought process is a lot like hers. I’ve always had a really big focus on my mental game. I do a lot of visualization that I’ve relied on a lot more this year. Sometimes you can think too much when you’re standing in the (batter’s) box. Now, I’m just trusting that I am prepared, and I’m in that spot to a do a job.”
Snaer has some interest in becoming a sports psychologist, but she is also interested physical therapy.
“Some of the best players in any sport can hold themselves back because of things they tell themselves,” Snaer said. “For me, just staying positive means a lot. We play a game of failure, and it’s hard for some people to overcome their failure in order to improve. I work hard every day knowing that just because I didn’t get a hit that one time, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to get the job done next time.
“When working with student-athletes, you need sports psychology, whether it’s on the field or if it’s retraining a body and helping it heal. I’m on the fence right now, so if I can integrate it together, that would be great too.”
Snaer will have a chance to broaden her educational horizons when she joins teammate Nickie Blue for a study abroad opportunity this summer in Amsterdam.
“We’re working the European Championships, which is track and field event,” Snaer said. “I’ve never been out of the country before, so I am really excited for that. My nanny kept asking me if I would ever get the opportunity to study abroad, so when I found out about this, I wanted to sign up. During my freshman year, a girl from the Netherlands came to my University 101 class and spoke to us. I just thought that it would be really cool to go there, and then I got this email this year where I found out about the trip.”
Even though she won’t have any of her immediate family there, she is already getting an education of sorts from her father about her trip.
“He’s very protective,” Snaer laughed. “He said we’d have to have a big talk about going overseas. He just wants to talk to me about safety and things like that. I’m definitely going to listen.”
The Best of All Worlds
In addition to her success on the field, Snaer continues to achieve off the field. She has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll after each of her first two years, and is a member of South Carolina’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. With all of her success, her family is still her priority.
“My relationship with my mom is just so special,” Snaer said. “She really is my best friend. Our relationship has really opened up since I’ve come to college. She tells me about so many things in her life. It is just so special to have someone you can tell anything to and someone who you know is going to give you good advice. At the end of the day, I really trust my mom the most.
“It’s interesting because now that I am in college, my dad is really involved in my life. He has really worked with me on goal-setting, and that’s something that nobody else really spoke to me about. So our relationship has become a lot closer. I have the best of both worlds because I was so close to my mom’s side of the family, and now I can still be with my dad.”
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