During the spring, young girls of all ages flocked to Lady Vol softball games at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium just to get a glimpse of their heroes.

Many of these girls hope to be just like players such as the Vols' former second and third basemen, Lauren Gibson and Raven Chavanne.

But there's one thing young girls have an opportunity to accomplish that their two heroes will not.

Chavanne and Gibson will most likely never play in an Olympic game.

And it's not due to a lack of talent.

Softball and baseball were both removed from the Olympics in 2005 after the International Olympic Committee's voted to oust the two sports. The last time a sport had been removed from an Olympic lineup was in 1938 when the IOC revoked water polo's Olympic spot.

So why pull the plug on the sport?

Baseball had become somewhat notorious for steroid use at the time of the sport's removal from the Olympics. However, it wasn't completely the IOC's intention to remove softball. In fact, the vote in which softball and baseball were removed came at a time when the IOC was actually hoping to promote women's sports. In short, the removal of softball from the 2012 Olympics was a bit of a fluke.

A fluke that has forced the sport's dedicated athletes to watch as the years, along with their life-long dreams of playing for their country, pass them by.

Chavanne and Gibson are two of those athletes, hoping for a change in the future.

"All of us girls, from college to tee ball, were all hoping it would get reinstated so that we had a chance to play," Gibson said. "I know for me, if it was going to be in 2020, I was going to attempt to keep playing so that I could play. I'd be 29.

"I would put my life on hold for the Olympics. Now, I wouldn't really have a chance."

However, Chavanne and Gibson are far from ready to lay their softball legacies to rest.

The girls are both members of team USA and completed their collegiate careers with the Lady Vols this past spring. Although becoming an Olympian may not be in their futures, the Olympic future of the sport lies in their hands as well as other collegiate softball players.

"That's kind of gonna be our role now," Chavanne said. "Now that we can't be Olympians, there's still girls on our team that are 18 who maybe could do it if they did it in 2024. Now we're just gonna be that U.S. team that works for all the girls that are 12 years old, so that they can become an Olympian."

Though softball didn't get its chance to be reinstated, Gibson is optimistic that media can also play its part in returning the sport back into the Olympic Games.

"We need to get more media," Gibson said.

Chavanne believes a lack in exposure contributes to the popularity of the sport.

"It's only four or five days for the World Cup that we're actually on TV, so people don't even realize it's on," Chavanne said.

Gibson agreed with Chavanne's notions.

"Then they watch a championship game and they're like, 'when do you play next?' well, that's actually it," Gibson said. "The TV ratings for softball for Alabama versus Tennessee beat the Yankees. It's gotten so big. But, if they exposed USA softball just as much, people would get more interested."

It will be a few more years until the IOC votes on this matter again, but for now, Chavanne and Gibson are enjoying even the simplest components of the game that captured their hearts all those years ago.

"It (team USA) taught me to love the game again," Chavanne said, reflectively. "I literally felt like I was playing 12-and-under all-stars out there.

"I was just having so much fun, just smiling, and going out there remembering why I played the game in the first place."