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It's 8:30 on a Saturday morning and the parents are sucking down coffee, hoping the caffeine will artificially give them the same high as the small blond woman who holds their daughters' undivided attention.

But Dot Richardson doesn't need any wake up call. She's all sorts of fired up. Any high-energy word - charismatic, passionate - describes her perfectly. And the kids, well, they eat it up.

Richardson, the two-time Olympic gold medal softball champion, spent Saturday at Erie Community College's north campus, instructing about 100 Western New York girls, from age 10 to 17, in a hands-on clinic.

For the past two months she's been doing this - traveling the country every weekend to give three days worth of softball clinics for players, coaches and parents. And even though her eyes are slightly bloodshot from the crazy schedule, she's far and away the person with the most energy in the gym.

She starts by telling the girls her story. How, when she was growing up, she wanted to be a major league baseball pitcher. How she was asked by a little league coach to play on his team, provided she cut her hair and used a boy's name. How later that same day, she was discovered by a female coach who wanted her to play softball.

Then, she gets down to the nitty-gritty. She starts with hitting.

"You know why we're going to start with hitting?" Richardson asks the girls. "Because you can be 500 pounds or 50 pounds, but if you can hit the ball, you are going to get into the game."

And so she spends the next two hours with the kids, going over the grip and the three stages of the swing before spending some time on fielding and throwing.

But the day is not so much about learning techniques as it is about motivation.

"At a three-hour clinic, you're not going to show them very much," Richardson said as she enjoyed a 15 minute lunch break in between sessions. "I can show them some techniques, but they really have to go home and practice them. What I hope to do is to leave them more inspired - that they'll see softball as fun and how they can use softball as a tool to achieve their dreams."

Dreams like a college scholarship. She frequently stops a drill and has everyone look at one girl using perfect technique.

"See that?" she says. "Scholarship baby!"

Changing drills are announced by the rhythmic clap followed by Richardson yelling, "Let's go!" Her speech is peppered by drawn out, "Oh, yeahs" and she's always moving.

Just like her career.

Richardson, affectionately known as Dr. Dot, is an orthopedic surgeon. She starts her new job Oct. 1 as the medical director and director of women and children's sports medicine and fitness at the National Sports Training Center in Clermont, Fla.

She's also put in her application to coach the 2004 United States Olympic softball team.

She also has her own non-profit association - the Dot Richardson Softball Association - which is an instructional program for coaches.

Oh yeah, and she's getting married in September.

So, just listening to her schedule is enough to make most adults reach for another cup of coffee.

But for Richardson, it's part of her calling as a softball player. Her job isn't just to excel on the field, it's to help in the propagation of the sport. Whatever she can do to serve as an ambassador and role model, she does.

"I want those kids to know that I was just like them," Richardson said. "Every time I look into the eyes of a child, I get motivated. They inspire me."

That explains why she stands at a table after the first session of the clinic for a good 50 minutes, signing autographs. Only Richardson doesn't just sign an autograph. Anything a girl brings up to the table, she signs, even if the unassuming girl wasn't expecting to get her signature on her stinky bat bag. And she doesn't just sign her name, she writes whole paragraphs, in your choice of black or silver ink.

Immediately, she puts her admirers at ease.

"I was nervous meeting her," said Erin Russ, a member of the ECC softball team and a Lancaster native, helping out Richardson in her weekend clinics. "I mean, I'm just a community college softball player. But she's so unassuming. She's so down to earth. We were sitting talking to her and I just got so pumped up. I'm like, yeah, let's go out and play now."

And that's the basic two-part message Richardson wants to share - that Olympic athletes are not some kind of untouchable immortals and that softball is a lot of fun.

It's a message she knows can have a huge impact in a young girls' life.

"I saw how important it was to have Billie Jean King and Chris Evert on TV," Richardson said. "I saw them play and I was in 10th grade and decided I had to play tennis. So I know the impact that it makes to see women competing.

"Those were athletes I looked up to, and they weren't even in my sport. Today, you start with Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy and you have Lisa Leslie. There are superstars in every sport, now."

Including softball.

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