Chelsey Atkins, a 2021 graduate of Surry Central High School, will continue her academic and athletic careers at Surry Community College.
Atkins already signed her NJCAA National Letter of Intent and will suit up for the Lady Knights this fall.
“It feels really good to continue playing something that I’ve played for so long,” Chelsey said. She went on to thank her family, “for being supportive through my whole entire softball career and constantly running me places, or even coming to games after they’ve been at work all day.”
Softball was the first sport Chelsey ever played, picking up a bat when she was five years old. It didn’t take long for her to become enamored with the sport.
“This is the sport that I love,” she said.
Chelsey started in T-ball, moved to a recreational league and then started playing travel softball for Surry Smack. She later moved to the Braves coached by current Surry Central head coach Joel Jones.
Jones, who formerly coached the JV team at Surry Central, has coached Chelsey for close to nine years.
“Chelsey is a super kid that’s also great in the classroom,” Jones said. “She’s a smart kid, a great teammate and all-around ball player. She’s good at all aspects of the game and really knowledgeable. I think she’ll add a lot to Surry.”
Chelsey said she played travel ball up to her senior year of high school, and even then she filled in when needed. Jones spent a lot of time with Chelsey and played a pivotal role in her development as a softball player and young woman.
“When I was just starting off, he (Jones) encouraged me and kept pushing to keep me going,” Chelsey said.
She was also pushed by three of her longtime Golden Eagle teammates: Kaylee Snow, Megan Atkins and Emma Bullin. The four girls spent their years as both teammates and opponents, also holding each other to a high standard.
Chelsey said that she’s played with at least two of the three girls every year since T-ball. That trend will continue in 2022 as Snow and Megan Atkins have also signed with Surry Community. The fourth senior in Surry Central softball’s class of 2021, Bullin, is set to play softball at Pfeiffer University.
“It was most definitely something to be proud of, sending four girls to college off one team,” Jones said. “It’s pretty phenomenal if you ask me. Almost unheard of. That’s one of my goals as coach is to get as many girls to college as I could. That’s what I do it for – these kids, and trying to continue their education whether that involves sports or not.”
Even more impressive is that all four girls were limited to 17 combined games as juniors and seniors due to COVID-19.
The team got off to a promising 2-0 start in 2020 when the season was cancelled. Chelsey admitted she was worried her senior season wasn’t going to be played, but was relieved when she was able to compete in both volleyball and softball in 2020-21.
Surry Central finished 9-3 in the Western Piedmont 2A Conference and went 10-5 overall. The Eagles were one of 16 teams in the region to qualify for the 2A State Playoffs.
“I was really upset hearing that we might not have a season. That was going to be my last year of high school and softball was really the end of that year,” Chelsey said. On the 2021 season, she said “I thought it was amazing. I knew that we would probably go far, but I didn’t know how far since we lost a lot the year before.”
Surry Community provides Chelsey with a chance to extend her playing career. It also allows her to pursue the career path she’s always wanted.
“I’ve been planning on doing nursing since I was a kid,” she said. “I’ve always loved the medical field, especially when I could help take care of my grandparents when they got sick.”
Being able to play softball while pursuing a nursing degree gives Chelsey the best of both worlds. She said she hadn’t even planned on playing college softball until her junior year when she learned she could do both. She also wasn’t ready to give the sport up just yet since the pandemic cut down on her last two seasons in high school.
“Chelsey has put a lot of time in off the field, practicing on her own to get to where she’s at,” Jones said. “That’s what it takes if a kid wants to play ball. All four of the kids this year really put in the work.”