Despite season ending early, Gabbi Jenkins excited for her future

Photo courtesy IU Athletics

This was never the way Gabbi Jenkins’s softball career at IU was supposed to end. 

Jenkins, an elementary education major at the IU School of Education, was several games into the 2020 softball season when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Big Ten to cancel all spring sports.

But the abrupt end to the season doesn’t diminish the team’s and Jenkins’s accomplishments. Last year, she started all 57 games and was named a Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten. She came to IU to change a program from being, in her words, traditionally irrelevant to one of national relevance.

“Playing for the caliber people that my coaches are is what I dreamt of as a young girl imagining life as a college softball player,” Jenkins said.

Originally from Floyds Knobs, Indiana, Jenkins chose to study education to empower her students to do far more than they ever thought they were capable of before entering her classroom.

Gabbi cares so deeply about others, and her influence will extend beyond the classroom. Gabbi’s students will remember her as the teacher who lit the fire to help them become the best versions of themselves.

IU Softball Coach Shonda Stanton

“A tremendous reason for why I desire to become a teacher is daily influenced by seeing the way my coaches teach and come alongside each individual on my team. I have seen and experienced firsthand the power of someone instilling unwavering belief in a young person like my coaches, professors and mentors have in me,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins has been playing softball for 17 years. After so much experience balancing school with athletics, she says she’s actually more productive during the busiest times of the softball season.

“This may come as a surprise but our team GPA usually goes up during the spring semester when we play over 55 games all over the U.S., leaving four days of the week at a time,” Jenkins said. “We get in a routine that demands work be finished in a timely manner, which I think ultimately leads to more productivity on the road. I have been blessed with professors who care to work with me through scheduling, field experiences and extra meeting times outside of class when necessary.”

Time management isn’t the only skill softball has given her: “In our softball program we often share that ‘we win with people,’ and this means that we recognize the rich blessing it is to be surrounded by people that share our vision in the journey. Without these special people we would not be able to chase the large dreams we have of changing the face of Indiana Softball,” Jenkins said.

Photo courtesy IU Athletics

“In the same way this is true for the game of softball, it is true for the students that will come through my classroom playing the game of life,” she added. “As my coaches have taught me the significance of cultivating my mind, I will teach my students how they can take care of their minds. I have seen the empowerment my coaches offer through the passion we share in softball, and I long to give that same empowerment to each student who walks through my door.”

According to IU Softball Coach Shonda Stanton, Jenkins has helped create and model the standard of excellence that Indiana Softball desires to achieve.

“She leads from the heart, genuinely cares about her teammates and staff and takes an enormous amount of pride in the privilege of wearing the Indiana script across her chest,” Stanton said. “She is such a joy to coach, and her impact on this program will be felt for years to come.”

Stanton has no doubt Jenkins will make an amazing teacher someday.

“Gabbi has the intellectual capital to be a successful in a classroom, but more importantly the heart to lovingly lead her students to believe in themselves,” she said. “I came across the following quote and it perfectly describes Gabbi: ‘There’s nothing more powerful than a humble person with a warrior spirit who is driven by a bigger purpose.’ Gabbi cares so deeply about others, and her influence will extend beyond the classroom. Gabbi’s students will remember her as the teacher who lit the fire to help them become the best versions of themselves.”

As Jenkins looks ahead to having a classroom of her own someday, she hopes her future students know they are deeply and genuinely cared for: “I know that in the game of softball, it is not the stats, or the wins even that will carry on with us after we leave this season of life, but it is the relationships that will walk forward with us in all the days to come. This is my hope, that my students may learn to treasure moments and relationships that can last forever, not those things that are fleeting.”

Even though her senior year isn’t ending the way she pictured, Jenkins remains positive. There is a chance the NCAA could allow seniors a fifth year of eligibility, meaning her softball career would continue.

“Though this season has ended in the most unsatisfying way, there are some things I know to be true on the best day and the worst day. My God is good, my journey has been nothing but full, and my journey will continue to be full because it rests in the hands of the Creator,” Jenkins said. “I am so proud to be a Hoosier and wear the Indiana Script. Whether I have just worn my jersey for the last time, or whether I get to rep the script for another full season, I have enjoyed this journey and all it will lead to more than I could have ever fathomed. I am all for Indiana!”