Troup softball rallies around Arnold during her long road to recovery

Published 4:55 pm Monday, June 17, 2024

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Families are not always related by blood. The Troup High softball sisterhood is one such family. The bonds and tethers that bind the Troup softball program so closely together were shattered last month when one of their own, Hadilee Arnold, was involved in a tragic car accident that left her in stable but critical condition. As Arnold continues to make small and large strides in what will be a long recovery, her softball family is there for her every step of the way.

On May 16th of this year, hundreds of lives in the Troup County community were no longer the same when a tragic accident involving five Troup students sent two to the ICU in critical condition with one passing away in the days that followed.  An emptiness cloaked the community in the days and weeks following this tragedy. Faith, belief and the power of community coming together helped Arnold’s adopted family through the darkest days.

“I just couldn’t even get through school the next day, we were all crying,” said Madeira Sirmons, Arnold’s friend and former softball teammate. “But to see our school come together on, I’ll never forget that moment. Everyone was around that flagpole. Everyone was an ally.”

That fateful day in late May is a day that few in Troup County will soon forget. That day and the days following left Arnold’s closest companions in pieces. Piece by piece they have put themselves back together but it still feels like one piece is still missing.

“That morning she was trying to steal my Chromebook charger because she lost hers and didn’t want to pay for a new one,” Troup softball coach Ryan Simpson said. 

“It was crazy because me and Hadilee had the next class together and I was really looking forward to seeing her and then once I got the news I broke down and couldn’t even walk into school. I was hyperventilating and couldn’t even walk,” Sirmons said.

The pain was searing hot last month and it has done little to subside in the following weeks as Arnold continues to battle through her injuries. 

“I can still remember them sitting me down and telling me and I was able to keep it together until I got to my car where I just broke down,” said Haley Kitchens, another friend and former teammate. “I don’t even know how much time passed while I sat in my car and cried.” 

Arnold is a warrior. Her fight and resolve throughout her life make those closest confident that she can overcome an obstacle.

“Anytime she was going through something, she would never let you know,” said Patience Watkins, Arnold’s friend and the fourth member of the Troup softball class of ‘24. “It was never super obvious because she was always trying to make everybody laugh and smile. She was always dancing and singing.

“I’ll never forget that day pulling up the school and not seeing Hadilee’s car.”

Barely a day has passed since the accident that one of Arnold’s two former softball coaches is not making the trip to Atlanta to see their girl.

To define Arnold’s relationship with her fellow softball players from the class of ‘24 and her beloved coaches as a friendship would be disingenuous. They are family and the bond shows through the good times and the bad.

“I spent my 26th birthday with Patience and Hadilee and then went to dinner then we went and passed out candy for Halloween,” said Haley Dodgins, assistant softball coach at Troup High. “We all have such a strong relationship with her even outside of school.”

When thinking of memories with Hadilee, a rush of different ones comes to the memory banks of her teammates and coaches.

“[Dodgins and Arnold] butted heads one day really bad at practice and you looked at me and I remember yelling ‘Hadilee, poll!’ We went down to the poll and the girls could only see her face with my back to them so they couldn’t see my face. I acted like I yelled at her but really told her to stop talking to Dodgins that way,” Simpson said, laughing. “She looked me in the face and said ‘She’s getting on my nerves.’ I made her run a power poll, acted like I yelled at her again, made her run another and then sent her up to Dodgins.”

Recalling one memory triggers another as a flood of good times comes back to Simpson and her crew.

“Last year, the little children messed up where the base was and I was painting the lines, this didn’t add up and we finally figured it out after I painted the lines. So I had to send Madeira and Hadilee to the store to buy the color of grass green spray and they never let me hear the end of it,” Simpson said, as the quintet shared a hearty laugh. 

Arnold and her trademark sass have always been quick-witted and even quicker to push the buttons of her coaches. It is what makes her uniquely Hadilee.

Arnold pushed her coaches’ buttons, but she also worked her way into their hearts. A genuine and kind individual with a winning smile made Arnold hard to say no to.

“She always made time for her people even though she was a distinguished graduate and had so much going on,” Dodgins said. “She would always make time to stop in and see you or shoot you a text.”

“I used to get biscuits,” Simpson said, flashing a grin from ear to ear. “One morning she came to my room and said ‘I made homemade biscuits and thought you’d want one.’”

As Arnold’s friends ready to head off to college and prepare for the next stage in their lives, they do so with heavy hearts. The four softball graduates are set to disperse across the state in the coming months, but the bond they share will transcend time and space.

“I think it was hard too because of how Hadilee took care of her people,” Dodgins said. “She had plans that day to meet Gracie (Baker) to sell a bat and she had [Sheniyah Philpot’s] shoes in her car that she had to give back.”

The softball program will continue to lift up its own as long as is necessary. Arnold is one of their own and that does not change just because she graduated, plain and simple.

All proceeds from the Troup softball camp that will be hosted on July 27 will go to Arnold’s recovery fund. As the team works through the summer and into the 2024 season, all involved are still looking for additional ways to support Arnold. 

“We are going to continue to support her in the weeks and months to come because this will be a long road,” Dodgins said. “The family needs all the support we can give them right now.”

As the three players and two coaches talk about their sister-in-arms, they can’t help but share a few laughs, smiles and tears. The five also can’t help but feel a sense of longing; longing for a spark that the life and spirit of Arnold always provide them when they are in her presence. They are all ready to make some more memories with their favorite always dancing and singing Swiftie as soon as they can.

Anybody interested in donating towards Arnold’s recovery fund can contact coach Ryan Simpson at or coach Haley Dodgins at or CashApp: $THSLadyTigerSoftball