CARY, N.C. (BVM) — Layla Lamar’s competitive spirit was formed at a young age thanks to her parents, James Lamar and Marissa Young, who competed at the D-I level. Now Layla aims to carry on the lessons she learned from them as she continues to strive toward her career as a Florida Gator.
James played football and baseball for the Indiana Hoosiers and Young, Duke’s head softball coach, was a three-time All-American and back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year (2002 and 2003) for the Michigan Wolverines. Layla is considered the No. 5 player in the Class of 2024 by Extra Innings Softball and has played alongside her sister Jolyna, but both fell in love with softball thanks to their mom.
Michigan built Marissa Young. Marissa Young built Duke Softball.
— Duke Softball (@DukeSOFTBALL) February 26, 2022
“Ever since I was little, I would go with my mom to her lessons,” Layla said. “She used to coach at Eastern Michigan, and me and my sister would always be with her, and as soon as she was done with her lessons or team practice, we would always play around. That’s how we got started with it.”
Layla and Jolyna continued to thrive on the diamond and coming from a successful athletic family, coaches around the nation were eager to get Layla to commit. She found her school and verbally committed to Florida in the sixth grade before the NCAA shut down early recruiting in 2019.
“When I went there on my official visit, the rule was changing quickly, maybe two or three days after my visit,” Layla said. “I really liked the coaching staff, how the girls seemed very connected, they prioritized winning, but I also got the sense that the coaches really cared about the girls. I wanted to play in the SEC, and they have a pretty good medical program there, so that really helped me make my decision.”
Along with choosing a school to continue her athletic and academic career, she couldn’t help but think about the standards her parents set for her along the way and how they’ll play a part in her future.
“I do feel like there’s a standard in my family athletically and academically,” Layla said. “But I also feel like I can make my own way, with my own success and that can speak for itself.”
Layla has forged her own path, becoming a top recruit, recording a batting average of .585, hitting five home runs and accumulating 29 RBIs in her junior season, according to MaxPreps. However, this is just her second year competing at the high school level.
“My freshman season, I was coming off ACL and meniscus surgery, and I was just cleared when they were starting the [sophomore] season,” Layla said. “I didn’t think it was the best option for me to jump right back into things because I hadn’t played softball in over a year.”
She bounced back from the injury, and in her first competitive season with the Panther Creek Catamounts, she broke the school’s home run record and was named 2022 NC District 3 Player of the Year.
Our Sophmores showed out last night! @aecare2024 , @SisakLauren (with her 1st Varsity bomb), and @_laylajada with 2. Layla broke the Panther Creek Softball single season home run record, which now stands at 8! PC defeated Millbrook 11-1. 💣💣💣💣 pic.twitter.com/jL4dPdeZ1g
— PCHS Softball (@PantherCreekSB) March 31, 2022
— Layla J. Lamar (@_laylajada) July 5, 2022
“I didn’t know there was a home run record at all and I had eight and our coach said, ‘You broke our home run record,’ and I thought it was really cool,” Layla said. “I ended up hitting 13, and I think that record is a good accomplishment, but it is a goal of mine to break my own record and I still want to be better.”
Success like that can bring forth a lot of attention and distractions, including the annual rankings from different platforms, but Layla doesn’t let them affect her too much.
“It’s definitely an honor and something I pay attention to when they come out,” Layla said. “But I think every player is different. I could say there is something I do better than the No. 1 player in the class, and there’s probably something the No. 15-ranked player does better than me. You have to take them with a grain of salt and don’t get too big of a head but also don’t get too down on yourself.”
Living up to rankings may not fluster Layla too much, but playing for her father and the Lady Dukes Lamar travel ball team has also helped her realize you have to put in the work no matter what your last name is.
“Ever since 14U, I played for my dad, but before that, I played for Team NC,” Layla said. “My dad is harder on me than anybody else and I think that’s made me better … I think that he’s harder on me because he wants me to do better. At the end of the day, he’s my coach and he wants me to be the best I can be.”
Coming to that realization has helped Layla take pride in what she does on and off the softball field, and even while she’s going to have bad days, she’s going to relish the days that she accomplishes what she wants to.
“I love the game and I love to compete,” Layla said. “Softball is a really cool sport because the game can change every day. You can go 4-for-4 one day, and the next day you can go 0-for-4, and it’s mentally challenging, but I think it makes your success that much better, and it makes you work harder and when you have that success, it brings you so much joy.”
Layla has accomplished so much on the softball field, and as she begins to prepare for her travel ball season and moves closer to her collegiate career, she’s going to continue to try to be a role model for future softball players and use the advice her mom has given her when it comes to competing in softball.
“One of the biggest things I’ll take away from her is, ‘Be where your feet are and give effort in everything that you do,’” Layla said. “We play a game of failure, and everyone is going to mess up, [so] don’t get down on yourself … Do whatever you can to play your role and do it to the best of your ability.”