Diana Nisbett achieved a lifelong dream on a softball diamond thousands of miles away more than two years ago. The 17-year-old Ironwood Ridge senior, who’s manned the middle of the infield over the last four years for the Nighthawks, will do the same this summer on an international stage.
Nisbett, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa to British parents, will compete for the United Kingdom’s Under-22 softball team this summer.
The senior will join the UK squad, coached by Johanna Malisani, at the 2019 Canada Cup Women’s International Softball Championships, held in Surrey, British Columbia in July.
Nisbett qualified for the team, thanks to her mother, Elizabeth, who is a British citizen. She had to try out at a camp in Plant City, Florida, in January to make the final 14-woman roster.
She originally tried out for the UK Under-16 team two years ago in London, making that squad easily, allowing her to try out in the U.S. each year since.
Softball is a growing sport across the pond, according to Nisbett. The Under-22 UK squad launched in 2018 in preparation for the 2021 European Championship. The team just missed out on qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics at the 2018 championship. The top-two teams earned a spot, and Great Britain finished fourth.
Nisbett chose to compete for the UK, rather than her native South Africa, because of its success in European competition of-late.
The senior infielder believes the squad can do great things on the diamond, showcasing the sport’s growing importance to the European nation.
“It’s not quite like the U.S.,” she said. “But now they’re getting really good. And to be honest, I didn’t even know half these countries even played softball or knew what it was. But the competition is insane.”
Diana’s mother believes her daughter will learn a lot about herself and the sport she loves over the summer while competing at the international level.
“We just think it’s such a fantastic experience for Diana, or for any athlete,” Elizabeth said. “I mean, this has got to be a dream come true for her.”
Elizabeth believes her daughter can learn a lot from playing such elite-level competition and seeing how the best of the best play the game.
“She gets to see international athletes,” Elizabeth said. “She gets to travel, see other countries, see how other cultures live and so on. Which is fantastic, because she gets to travel, and it’s always wonderful being able to represent your country.”
Nisbett said she’s eager to get to get to know her new teammates, who she’ll hit the diamond with this summer.
“Just meeting the new girls and just competing is probably one of my favorite things,” Nisbett said. “To meet girls from all around the U.S. and all around the world is just exciting.”
Nisbett is committed to play softball at Midland University in Nebraska, and believes her experience over the summer can help her prepare for playing the sport at the collegiate level.
Second-year Nighthawks coach Dave Martinez, who’s helped Nisbett learn the sport in and out, believes the senior has learned a lot about the game from her experience with the UK squad.
He’s hopeful that Nisbett can take the lessons she’s learned at the Oro Valley school and put them to good use this summer, helping the national team reach new heights.
“It’s just a great honor to have her on our squad,” Martinez said. “She went off and played in Florida and then just came back with just a different understanding of the game. She’s a completely different ballplayer than she was last year and so it’s a great honor to have her with us.”
Nisbett believes that her time with Martinez has prepared her to play the game at its highest level.
“He really helps us get more comfortable, so if we’re playing out of position, he helps us get more comfortable,” she said. “And just the number of games that we play, we just grow so much as a player and as a team. So, he’s helped out a lot.”
Nisbett’s ready to represent her parents’ homeland this summer, bringing pride to her family of British expats.
The senior said her family was thrilled when she made the final roster in February for a number of reasons.
“They said, ‘you’re playing for a country, but you’re also playing for your family. And your family everywhere is watching you,’” she said. “So, they were so excited for me to represent their country.”