Every week in Mac sports you can’t help but hear the numbers: goals scored, number of strikeouts, sets won and so many others. But more than anything, sports are games of percentages. It doesn’t matter how many steals you had in one game if you turned the ball over just as many times. There’s no reason to cheer about a goalie having five saves if the other team scored twice as often. No single number can determine the outcome of a game on its own. Numbers matter in relation to other numbers, and those relationships are what success really boils down to. When a single athlete manages to balance those relationships in the right direction time after time, we call that consistency. It’s not easy to be consistent, but it’s much more important than being occasionally outstanding. Wilt Chamberlain may have scored 100 points in a single NBA game, but he will never be considered a better basketball player than Michael Jordan for that reason.
There’s no better way to measure such consistency than through statistics. Michael Jordan made his biggest mark on history with his high points per game average. Almost all sports have at least one percentage statistic that define those players that really stand out, and most sports have many. In football, there’s the quarterback rating and yards per carry. In golf, there’s greens and fairways in regulation as well as scrambling percentage and several others. In this article, I’m going to focus on basketball’s three-point percentage and softball and baseball’s batting average, showcasing the consistency of two of Macalester’s most consistent female athletes: Lauren Clamage ’17 and Abby Cox ’16.
This past season, Clamage was exceptional from behind the arc, draining 45 of her 114 attempted threes. That’s an astounding 39.5 percent from deep, and she’s still got one more year left as a Scot. This places her only 5.5 percentage points below professional phenom Steph Curry, who has the third highest percentage in the NBA. Despite the all-star comparison, Clamage doesn’t find her inspiration from professional athletes. Rather, she looks up to her older brothers. “Watching them play, their intensity, and their motivation to get better every game is so encouraging to me,” Clamage said.
Clamage was always a top-flight three-point shooter growing up, which didn’t change at the college level. She hasn’t stopped improving either. She jumped 10 percentage points from her sophomore to junior year, solidifying her role as the team’s best three-point shooter. Her performance, however, didn’t come without practice. Clamage is constantly working on her shot in and out of season. “I would say I take at least 50 three’s a day when I practice during the summer. When I am home, I find myself going to the gym almost every night with my brothers just to get some shots up. And if we don’t make it to the gym, I am shooting on the driveway with my dad,” Clamage said.
While the three-point percentage is a highly discussed statistic in basketball, nothing garners more attention and has a greater history than the batting average in softball and baseball. It’s every player’s dream to hit .400, which hasn’t been accomplished by a professional since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. Even though it’s easier to achieve that feat at the college level, it’s still very uncommon. Under two percent of all Division I softball players and under four percent of Division III players were able to achieve that feat last season. While Abby Cox didn’t quite hit that mark in 2015, finishing with a still impressive .351 average, she’s hitting .438 through 16 games and 48 at-bats in 2016. Knock on wood, but if she keeps up the pace she’ll find herself a spot in Macalester history.
Unlike Clamage, Cox pays a lot of attention to higher level athletes, actively following last year’s College World Series. “I was incredibly impressed with Michigan’s Sierra Romero. She led the team with a .449 batting average, 22 home runs and 83 RBI. In the Big Ten Tournament she was hitting over .500. I admire her tenacity at the plate, and that is something that I definitely try to reflect in my own batting,” Cox said.
Like Romero, Cox has a tenacious approach to every at-bat, something she learned from her sister, who played D1 softball at the University of Virginia. “She told me I had to go to the plate with a ‘boss’ mentality, meaning confident and demanding, not hoping that I would win this at-bat with a hit,” Cox said.
With that mentality comes her at-bat routine, something that almost every softball and baseball player has given the superstitious nature of the sport. Cox visualizes where she wants to hit the ball as she approaches the batter’s box, takes a deep yoga breath before she steps in and touches the head of her bat to the outside corner of the plate before she’s ready to hit. But that’s not all. “I cannot touch the chalk lines in the batter’s box or the foul lines. In the dugout, the bats cannot cross. I also have been known to wear dirty socks on a winning streak,” Cox said, listing off some of her superstitions.
Although incredibly controlling over the small things, Cox doesn’t think too much about her batting average when she’s up at the plate. “I think less about my average as a statistic and more about my actual at-bats: what I could have done differently, what went well and what I did to have a successful at-bat, whether that was to moving a base runner over, a sacrifice RBI, a walk to get on base or a double to left-center,” Cox said.
She maintains this mentality between at-bats and games as well. “While I have extremely high standards for myself, I try to not look at the outcome of my last at-bat, and more about the overall process of my hitting,” Cox said.
Having a team-first, forward-looking attitude is something that Clamage embodies as well. “Being a shooting guard, I felt the best way to contribute to my high school, AAU team and to Macalester College was consistently making three-pointers,” Clamage said.
Perhaps this mentality is the secret behind being a consistent athlete at Macalester.