April 29, 2004
Tifton-- Kids often identify with action heroes, like Power Rangers. But with time, they grow out of the fascination, moving on to adult pursuits.
But a Tifton woman never grew out of her love for Superman, who became the philosophical backbone of her highly successful collegiate coaching career. "I think it happened when I was younger watching cartoons on TV, something we did on Saturday mornings. I loved the superheroes, particularly Superman," says Coach Donna Campbell before softball practice at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
The more she watched Superman, the more she wanted to emulate the character. "I use to pretend I was Superman around the house as a little kid," remembers Coach Campbell, who couldn't wait for Halloween to arrive where she would have another reason to wear a Superman costume.
Those Superman stories taught her about real life. Remember Kryptonite, the only substance that would sap Superman's strength? "I think in life, people have their own Kryptonite, something that doesn't allow them to fulfill their dreams or be successful. People got to find their own Kryptonite and eliminate it."
It must work. She won 96 National Junior College Athletic Association championships, five state championships, and nationally ranked four out of six years, with a lifetime record of 477 wins with 240 losses, super accomplishments.
To Donna Campbell, Superman stood for what was right about the world, no political correctness needed. "He's a good man. He helps people and I wish we had more Supermen in the world today."
In Superman's own words, "I'm here to fight for truth, justice and the American way." Her girls fast pitch softball players know all about him, even though many of them never saw the original TV programs. They hadn't been born, but that doesn't matter. They know, now.
The players' lounge has numerous Superman memorabilia. A blow-up Superman sits in a chair behind a desk, in front of the coach's collection. Lunch boxes, beverage containers, and toys fill a tall shelf behind the desk. An unopened package of moist towelettes sits near the lunch boxes.
"I've gotten into the old memorabilia stuff from the George Reeves days, who was the original Superman. I like things back from the 50s and 60s more so than the newer things," says Coach Campbell, standing by one of her self of memories.
One of the items has a special place in her heart. "My favorite is the Daily Planet from the 60s." The toy has Superman and the other characters suspended from top of the Daily Planet building, as if flying around the building. It looks brand new.
What does it say about a 40-something coach who obviously loves Superman and uses the players' lounge to remind the players of him and what he stands for? "It's definitely nice to see a coach showing her personality. It brings a positiveness to the room," says Kelsi Thiessen, who played first base on ABAC's Golden Fillies team.
Some players believe it helps with recruiting, showing a prospective ABAC athlete that Coach Campbell is a down-to-earth person, not afraid to expose her liking of the fictional hero. "She stands for everything Superman stands for. She really sets a good example and wants us to set a good example," says Caroline Cripe who played short stop.
Donna Campbell never intends to turn her back on the super hero since she has a tattoo of the Superman shield on her lower back, a 40th birthday gift to herself. "That way I could take a part of Superman with me everyday," says Coach Campbell with a big smile.
Her fast pitch softball players will take a part of Coach Campbell and Superman with them, too. They make a good team.
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