Janie Takeda - More than an athlete

Nov. 10, 2016, 12 p.m. (ET)

It was in her teen high school years that she wore maroon and black as part of her club team, the OC Batbusters. Then, University of Oregon softball fans saw her dawn the infamous green and yellow uniform while playing in the outfield of Howe Field from 2012-15. Following her senior year as a Duck, she was selected to represent Team USA and sport the Red, White and Blue through international competition in the summer of 2015, and again in 2016.

Regardless of the teams she has played on, the uniforms she has worn and the accolades she has added to her resume, Janie Takeda is more than an athlete.

She is an entrepreneur.

On September 9, Takeda launched a project simply titled, “IGNITE + UPLIFT” where she has since then introduced a line of coffee mugs, wall ornaments, journals and watercolor stationary. Announced on her website, www.janietakeda.com, Takeda has also shared upcoming events and camps, galleries, and her blog, where she hopes to share more about the products and where her source of inspiration comes from.

IGNITE + UPLIFT came at a time where Takeda was stuck on the thought of what to call the name of her camp and it was around then that her sister was graduating from her teacher training classes and wanted to make mugs for each of her classmates as gifts.

“We had seen a friend make mugs by hand and since I was already interested in hand-lettering, she wanted my help on it,” Takeda said. “After making a few and sending pictures to my friends, they convinced me that I needed to make them and sell them.”

Wanting to combine her passion for creating these inspirational pieces and her love of softball, Takeda started to think outside the box.

“From that moment on, I started to go to Michael’s and wander through the aisles, and sayings or ideas would just pop into my head,” she says. “This is how I knew something was there. I knew that God was putting certain things on my heart. There was never a moment in the brainstorming process that I felt stuck. It just kept flowing.”

Anyone that visits her website can find these motivational sayings crafted on coffee mugs, wall ornaments and more in addition to being the foundation on which she starts her camps with. If you take a moment to look at the design of IGNITE + UPLIFT, you’ll see a light bulb squeezed between the ‘N’ and ‘T’ in IGNITE and it serves as a meaningful reminder of what Takeda has been through.

“The light bulb has been a huge part of my life since my senior year of college,” she says. “When I was in college and first started to understand what I believed, I went through a time where I was confused as to why I was dedicating so much time to a game when there was so much to do in the world. There are so many people so helpless all over this Earth who need love, compassion, and physical aid as well. I was really thinking about quitting the game – not because I didn’t love it anymore, but because I felt a call on my heart to go to these people. I soon realized that that was not a call from God because He spoke to me and told me, ‘Yes, there are people all over the world who need those things, but there are also girls on your team who need those things, too. There are people suffering all around you who feel helpless and hopeless, and that’s why you’re here.’ It was a realization that I’ll never forget because it has caused me to try and see what God wants me to see wherever I go. Even when I go to the grocery store, there may be someone there that needs a smile or needs to be noticed. Every single place God has you is where you’re meant to be. So from that moment on, I knew that my job was to be a light for my team.”

“I have always struggled with being too emotional with the game and I never knew how to solve it. I couldn’t help but want to slam my bat against the nearest water cooler whenever I got out or didn’t make a play,” Takeda says. “But this was life changing. I would draw a light bulb on my wrist before every game to remind myself that every failure is a chance to show the true joy and perspective that God has placed in my life. It’s not about me, it’s not even about the team to me anymore, it’s about the only thing that can transcend this life and that is Jesus Christ.”

Takeda recalls the background of ‘IGNITE’ and ‘UPLIFT’ and how the name came to be.

IGNITE because… “I want to help girls find a passion,” Takeda says. “If it’s softball, great. If it’s not softball, still great. If it’s softball AND something else, even greater. God has put so many passions in our lives. When I had surgery, I still had other passions that I had invested in that kept my life going while softball wasn’t available. I’m so thankful for that.”

UPLIFT because… “It came from the desire to encourage people, but also to encourage others to encourage others,” Takeda says. “There is so much comparison and competition today. We grow up playing a sport solely based on comparison and we start to believe that there is a comparison between us and the girl next to us – but we were all created so differently and so perfectly. There is no comparison. It’s a lie that we’re told and sadly most of us believe it. The worst part is, that’s not where it stops. When we believe in the comparison, we start to treat others poorly. We get jealous, angry, lonely, or exhausted and we’re no longer trying to lift others up but tear them down. I wanted it to be something that made sense to everyone regardless of your spiritual belief system.”

Why is IGNITE + UPLIFT important to her?

“All I want to do is encourage people and then offer a physical item to help them live it out,” Takeda said. “In each journal, I write a handwritten letter and an ‘art’ page. The letters can be similar, but each one is different. I believe that God knows whose hands they are going to end up in and whatever I write is going to plant a seed in that person’s heart. The art page consists of a watercolor background with ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ written across it. I want that journal to be filled with ideas, passions, dreams, etc. I want girls to be encouraged to be themselves and to invest in the passions they were born with. I don’t want them to care about things only because the world tells them to care about them.”

Takeda has outlined her website’s headline with three words, and it’s those three words that have proved to be the driving force behind IGNITE + UPLIFT: Positivity. Freedom. Joy.

She is a coach.

Takeda joined Biola University’s coaching staff at the start of the 2015-16 school year and now begins her second season as an assistant coach for the Biola Softball program. By focusing on her strengths, lefty/slap hitters, base running, and working with the outfielders, Takeda is able to help the Eagles succeed in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

“Slappers and outfielders are near and dear to my heart,” Takeda said in response to being asked about a Takeda-like trait she hopes to pass on. “As a slapper, I think it’s important to have bat control and put the ball where you want it. I also think it’s important to have a lot of tools so the defense is scared when you walk up because they have no idea what you’re going to do. As an outfielder, I believe the art form can get lost at times. Being able to hit a glove from 150 feet away isn’t easy so I have a real strong passion for trying to teach them how to have a strong and accurate throw.”

In the time she has started coaching, Takeda has recognized how the different perspective as a coach has helped her on the playing field.

“I was so excited this past summer to apply everything I had learned from being a coach,” Takeda said. “I really enjoy paying attention to the whole field as a coach. I notice things now that I never noticed before because I was just focused on my individual role on the field.”

Transitioning to the role of coach hasn’t been a walk in the park, considering it wasn’t that long ago she was a student-athlete herself. However, since graduating in spring 2015 from the University of Oregon, Takeda has learned how to be her own kind of coach.

“My role as a coach is difficult at times because I’m so close in age to the girls,” Takeda said. “What I’ve realized is that I don’t need to try and be a certain way. It’s okay to be my own coach. I don’t have to mimic anything I’ve seen before. I can just coach the best possible way I know. I like to be approachable and I also think learning discipline and structure is incredibly important. They (student-athletes) need to know that discipline with the little things affects the big things, but we can also laugh and have fun because it’s a game.”

“I love when other coaches ask me about how to talk to girls because it’s such a mystery to a lot,” Takeda says. “How in the world do we coach girls? My advice is to know what’s going on in the world. Understand what they’re going through at the time. Unfortunately, the world is getting crazier which means we have to counter the message they’re hearing every day. People have said that the athletes are getting softer these days. That may be true but I’m more interested in the why. I believe it’s because every girl is getting critiqued from head to toe on social media and it’s causing an epidemic of insane self-consciousness and self-loathing, leading to prideful insecurity.”

Takeda recognizes that it’s not only the position she has but the school that has made all the difference.

“I love being a coach at Biola because I can be totally open about my belief system,” Takeda said. “Each year they have a different program that they go through on the team to help them grow spiritually. I help with the sophomores each year by encouraging them to find their identity in Christ.”

Heading into this season, the team goal for the Biola Eagles can simply be summed up with two words: Greater Than.

“I’m really excited to see where this year goes because they are all extremely dedicated to working hard and putting themselves last,” Takeda said.

She is a part of Team USA.

Team USA’s Janie Takeda is an outfielder. Through the 2015 and 2016 season, Takeda has had the opportunity to compete with the Stars and Stripes at the World Cup of Softball X and XI, the 2016 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women’s World Championship (WWC), the Pan American Games, and the Japan Cup twice.

“I never thought that I would be at the level of my heroes,” Takeda said. “It means the world to me to be able to represent this amazing country and play alongside some of the best in the game.”

Shortly after taking home the Gold Medal at the WBSC WWC, Takeda was quoted in an article published Aug. 3 titled, “Culture of Success Breeds U.S. Softball Team’s 10th World Title,” by Team USA freelance contributor Karen Price, further showing her outlook as a player and understanding as a coach.

“All the coaches do a great job of reminding you of the bigger picture; that it doesn’t mean you’re not good at softball or they don’t need you,” Takeda said. “You have a key role being ready at any time, supporting your teammates and not throwing a fit. There were a few of us who didn’t get a lot of playing time, but the coaches help build the culture and the veterans help build the culture that it doesn’t matter who’s out there. All that matters is that the team gets it done, and that was the genuine feeling across the board.”

“I enjoy when a team comes together and fights for a common goal,” Takeda later said. “I also love when the girls on your team not only make you a better player but a better person and add laughter and joy to your life.”

For Takeda and the rest of her teammates, it becomes a lot more than just hitting the field for practice and games, as most of the games end with autograph sessions to meet the passionate and dedicated fans who support and cheer on Team USA. Many of the fans being young girls, who dream of being in her shoes one day.

“We try to make a positive impact on the younger generation through interviews, at camps and after games,” Takeda said. “Any encounter we have with anyone, we want to share a little light. They look up to us, our journey, and where we are now. I just want to use what God has given me for good, because I’d be nothing without him.”

And it doesn’t stop there. Takeda also recognizes the power of social media to connect with her fans.

“Most of my followers are young girls who have seen me play on TV, so I take responsibility in sharing things that I wish I would have heard at that age,” Takeda said.

And at the end of the day, Takeda’s goal stays the same: “To work hard and be the best I can be so that people will ask me how I got there and I can tell them truth. There are a lot of extremely talented and wealthy athletes with many Gold Medals who feel like they’re still missing something. I don’t want that for anyone. The fullness I feel through my faith regardless of my circumstances is something I want everyone to know.”

Takeda has proven that she is more than a player. Whether she is creating the latest product for her IGNITE + UPLIFT line, coaching on the diamond at Biola, or representing Team USA, Takeda recognizes the role she plays at any given time in whatever environment she is in and seeks to make a positive impact through it all.