How BYU softball star Violet Zavodnik came to BYU and how she wants to be remembered

Many athletes have walked the campus of BYU, but few have been enshrined as Cougar legends. BYU junior and softball star Violet Zavodnik wants to be remembered just as the greats who came before her — but in a different light.

She has the accolades and the talent to be compared with the greats that came before, but she wants people to know who she is off the softball field, and for that to happen, this story must start from her beginning.

Zavodnik was always an athletic child, but finding her passion was the real objective. From basketball to volleyball to dance, she said she tried just about everything, but it wasn’t until her older sister, Keegan chose softball that Zavodnik found her place on the diamond.

“I felt like it was just cool,” Zavodnik said. “You’re seeing someone hit a ball that’s coming from midfield and (they’re) swinging with a stick. People don’t realize how hard it is. So seeing my sister succeed in it, I (thought), ‘I wanna do better than (her). But it looked like she had so much fun. And then I played, and it was.”

While the BYU star player is good at swinging a bat and catching a ball in the collegiate ranks, she didn’t start out that way. But it didn’t matter, because the young 5-year-old Zavodnik was just looking to have some fun and that feeling is what has kept her going.

“The thrill of softball and the feelings of softball, it’s one in a million,” Zavodnik said. “Especially being a little kid, not knowing what I was going to do in my life, what my future was going to be, but knowing that I could play, that was what kept me going. It was more along the lines of, ‘I’m gonna play with my friends. I’m gonna enjoy it. I don’t care if I suck, I’m just gonna go out there and have fun.'”

Having fun quickly turned into having success as Zavodnik grew up and played with the best of the best. When her older sister joined the 18-year-old league, Violet’s parents wanted her to play on the same team as her sister for at least one year. So as a 13-year-old girl, Zavodnik stepped out onto the field with high school athletes, and colleges started to recognize her potential.

Then as a freshman in high school, Zavodnik publicly announced her commitment to the University of Utah.

“I wanted to go to a school for academics and I wanted to do softball a little because I thought school was way more important than softball, and that’s just how I viewed things as a little girl. I never wanted to go to big (Division-I) schools (because) I was always scared of them,” she said.

A few years after her commitment to the Utes, Zavodnik felt impressed to talk with BYU after an encounter with a few of her teammates who were, at that time, committed to the Cougars. So, due to scholarship implications and family matters, Zavodnik decommitted from Utah and began exploring her interest in BYU.

Shortly after, she was able to sit down and have her first discussion with BYU softball head coach, Gordon Eakin, and both of them remember that as a special experience.

“We always try to make sure that the person that we want to bring here has great character, and I just remember being impressed. The type of young lady that she was, her character, her family values, and her commitment to doing things the right way—it reinforced to me that she was the right type of athlete to be at BYU,” Eakin said.

Soon after, Zavodnik committed to BYU, and in 2020, she walked onto campus as a student athlete and softball player for the Cougars.

In her freshman year, Zavodnik led BYU’s team in batting average, and became the first player in WCC history to win both conference player of the year and freshman of the year.

“My freshman year, I (thought), ‘I’m not gonna try to prove anything. I’m just gonna play my game and see if something happens.’ I’m not a big person about awards, I really don’t care about them. It’s just an award. It’s just another day. I’m just going out there and enjoying it because if I play my game and have fun, then others enjoy the game. (My mentality was), ‘You’re a freshman. You (can) do no wrong. You’re right here at the bottom, so you can either go up or you can go smooth sailing,'” she said.

Since her freshman year, Zavodnik has gone on to become a three-time WCC Player of the Week, a two-time All-WCC First Team selection and an NFCA All-Pacific Region First Team Selection. Despite all the individual accolades, she just cares about her teammates and having fun playing the game she loves.

Graphic by Nathan Thatcher

“My goal is just to be myself. I think my goal will always be to be my genuine self because when I play outside of myself, then I feel very off. It’s more of making other people enjoy it as well. Because if everyone enjoys it, you enjoy it,” she said.

Her teammates definitely seem to be enjoying the ride with her.

“She is amazing. She really takes care of all the players,” freshman teammate Ailana Agbayani said. “Especially since I came in as a freshman, she really helped me and she told me that she’s there for me and so I view her as an older sister in a way.”

Agbayani and the other young players look up to Zavodnik as a leader, but juniors and seniors on the team find her presence just as impactful.

“I think Violet is a really caring teammate,” senior teammate Chloe Temples said. “She is always coming up to me after games, in the hotel, and between innings to check on me. I don’t even have to tell her, she just knows when to check in.”

These opinions from her friends, or her “sisters,” as Agbayani likes to put it, come to show how Zavodnik wants to be remembered by not only her teammates but by everyone who watches her play.

“Obviously, I want to be remembered as a good player,” Zavodnik said. “No matter what, my athletic ability will be remembered, but I don’t want that to be the big statement under my name. The first thing (that I want) to come to mind is that (I) was a good person, a good teammate and (I) cared for (others). It’s about making sure that everyone knows (they are) here for a reason because God put them here and put us together.”

Zavodnik has much more to accomplish while she swings a bat with the Cougars for the next two years. But remember, that while she is hitting home runs and breaking records, she is also having fun and making friends along the way.

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