The Talon staff sat down with Kaylie Upton, a senior pitcher and first baseman for Oklahoma Christian University’s softball team, to discuss the team’s prospects this season, as well as life as a collegiate athlete.
What goals do you have for the team for the 2019 season?
“I have a couple. Last year, we got really close to winning the conference, so first of all I’d say—and this is everyone’s goal, not just mine—is to win the conference tournament. And secondly, we want to win the conference during our regular season so we can host that tournament. After conference, you make it to regionals, so we’re hoping to make it pretty far in regionals, and I think we can.”
What is the team dynamic like this year?
“This is my fourth team to be a part of, and I’d say this is the most fun team I’ve been a part of. It’s kind of hard when you get 17 or 18 girls together to really mesh and all get along, but I think we’ve pretty much perfected that this year. It’s really special and fun to be a part of.”
Are there many freshmen or new players on the team this season?
“We brought in four freshmen, and that’s a good group. We also brought in two transfers. They’ve been a good addition to our team. We’ve enjoyed getting to know them.”
What are some of the toughest challenges associated with being a college athlete?
“The obvious is trying really hard to get your schoolwork in and go to classes on top of practices, games, traveling and stuff. But, something we all struggle with and that I’ve been struggling with lately, is you have to bring your best and you have to be 100 percent every time you go to practice and every time you walk through those doors. That’s something maybe a lot of people don’t realize is you always have to be on your A-game because if you walk in, and you’re in a bad mood or if you’re not ready to give it your all, other people see that, and it’s easy to feed off that and that’s pretty contagious. So, that’s a big challenge. No matter how tired you are or how much homework you have, that’s your job. Softball is my job, so I have to give it my best.”
What strengths do you believe the new coach brings to the team this season?
“A lot, honestly. First off, just experience. He brings a ton of experience, even from the basketball side. Most recently, he’s coached at Texas Tech [University] in Division I. He’s seen it from all sides, and he’s seen the best of the best He’s brought a lot of that here, and he’s really challenged us, pushed us to get better every day and to go compete and have no fear. That’s been really good for us.”
What will it take in preparation for the team to return to the conference championship and what needs to change to win the championship this year?
“We’ve been working hard since August almost every day, so I would just say to rely on our training and have confidence. Really, that should carry us through the entire season, and I have no doubt that we’ll win the tournament. You’ve just got to go into games like, ‘I don’t care who my opponent is. We’re going to beat them.’ That confidence is really important in sports and in life. I don’t think we’ll have any problem if we know that we’re good enough, and if we know we’re supposed to win.”
How has being a collegiate athlete prepared you for a professional career?
“Showing up and being your best but also, it’s taught me the obvious like how to work as a team, how to be an effective communicator and the value of working hard. There’s no point in doing something if you’re not going to give your best.”
What are you most looking forward to for this season?
“I’m tired of practicing, to be honest. I’m looking forward to suiting up and hitting the field and just competing with my teammates. Practices, they get monotonous, and they get boring and stuff, but it’s fun to think that in little over than 20 days we actually get to put it to the test, so I’m looking forward to that.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind at OC?
“Every athlete wants to leave behind a legacy that they’re a great athlete and I’m no different. Also, I want my teammates and coaches to remember me as someone who worked hard and someone who pushed her teammates and was reliable in that sense.”
What are your plans for life after graduation?
“That is a great question. I’m looking at a few grad schools to get my MBA, and I’d like to stay in the game as much as possible. I’d like to be a graduate assistant for a program wherever I end up.”