For half of her life, she’s played the game with friends. She’s gotten to play in front of family. She’s gotten to travel around the region with friends and family.
“It’s something I love to do,” said the 11-year-old, who will enter seventh grade at Yankton Middle School this fall.
“It’s her first love,” mother Tessa Hoefs added.
For eighth months, however, softball was more than an athletic and social outlet for Hansen. It was, as she and her family would tell you, her source of strength.
Last October while on the way to a softball tournament in Sioux Falls, Hoefs and her husband Matt, along with Hansen, were involved in a serious two-vehicle accident. Hansen sustained the most serious injuries, which included a broken arm, a broken leg, a broken pelvis and a head injury.
What followed were a series of surgeries, plenty of tears and an outpouring of support for Hansen, according to her mother.
“It was a really long road,” Hoefs said.
Throughout it all, though, was Hansen’s favorite sport. She was determined to return to the softball diamond.
“Basically from day one, that was her goal,” Hoefs said. “To get back to playing softball.”
Hansen was bound and determined, she said, to not let an entire summer pass by without her returning to the field.
“My goal was to be able to play by the fall,” Hansen said.
Knowing full well that her daughter was working extra hard to return to the game she loves, Hoefs said she made a deal with Hansen.
“I set the goal for her, that she would at least pitch one inning by the end of the summer,” Tessa said.
Little did anyone know that it would happen so soon.
Eight months after the accident and two months after her last surgery, Hansen returned to softball on June 22 with her Yankton Fury Hornets teammates.
“I didn’t expect myself to be back in it so quickly,” she said.
But yet, there she was, back in the pitching circle. And the way her family tells it, Hansen’s return went much better than expected.
“She didn’t skip a beat,” stepmother April said.
Still, the injuries and eventual surgeries had a lasting impact. For starters, Hansen wasn’t able to run until a month ago — and still can’t run at full speed, according to her mother. Then there was the fear of a ball coming at her and doing any kind of further damage.
“I was scared that I’d get hit or something would happen,” Hansen said.
The physical fear was only part of the worry for Hansen once she did return to softball, though. There was a very real possibility, according to her mother, that Hansen could be away from the game for much longer — “It looked like there was no way,” Hoefs said.
“I was worried,” Hansen added. “I was very sad that I’d be missing my friends and hanging out with them.”
As hard as it was for Hansen to be away from her favorite sport, she was never far from the support of her friends, she said. Sure, it was hard for her to have to hear friends talk about their school projects or their athletic events, but the well-wishes from random kids at school made her smile, Hansen said.
“When I came back to school, people would come up to me and say hi, and I had never met them,” she said. “I had no idea who they were.”
As fall turned into winter and winter turned into spring, softball rolled around, and Hansen — along with her family — understandably had a hard time dealing with her not being out there with her teammates.
“The summer has been frustrating,” Hoefs said. “It’s been so hard to sit here and watch and not have her play.”
It was all the motivation Hansen needed to return.
“I was happy and really excited that I could play again,” she said.
And that’s where Hansen is. Eight months after being thrown from a vehicle in a serious accident, she’s back on the diamond with her friends.
“I look at pictures from back then and I just can’t believe it,” Hoefs said, as she looked out at the field before Tuesday night’s doubleheader at the Summit complex — Hansen’s Fury Hornets were getting ready to face the Yankton Fury Twisters.
“I’m just so happy and proud of her,” the mother added.
She is especially proud, Hoefs said, of the way her daughter has pushed herself to not only return to softball, but to return to her former self in the pitching circle and at the plate.
“Her expectations are sure higher now,” Hoefs said, with a smile. “It’s not, ‘I want to get back,’ it’s now, ‘I want to be good again.’
“It’s not enough for her just to be back.”
Hansen wasn’t going to be denied to help her team win a state title, she said. The Fury Hornets will compete in the USA State Fastpitch Tournament this weekend in Sioux Falls.
“I’m very happy I was able to get to that point,” Hansen said.