Upon the retirement of long-time softball coach Tom Heath, Oklahoma Christian University hired Shanon Hays this summer as the second head softball coach in program history.
After two seasons at Colorado Christian University (CCU), a NCAA Division II program, Hays steered the Cougars toward their first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
During his nine seasons as a softball coach, two at Lubbock Christian University (LCU) and five at Texas Tech University prior to his time at CCU, Hayes holds an overall record of 469-150. He also coached a variety of other sports with similar success before his time as a softball coach.
Redshirt junior Brie Dunckel followed Hays in his transition from CCU to Oklahoma Christian. Dunckel said what separates Hays from other softball coaches is his consistency.
“He is coming out to compete,” Dunckel said. “It is consistency with your faith and the field at the end of the day.”
Hays began his collegiate coaching career in 1995 at Frank Phillips College in Borger, TX coaching men’s basketball before taking a job as the head basketball coach at Abilene Christian University (ACU). He led ACU to a 58-26 record and an NCAA tournament berth. He then accepted an assistant coaching job at Texas Tech for the next two seasons.
Following a short time as ACU’s athletic director in 2001, Hays took his coaching capabilities to Midland Junior College in Midland, TX the following year. He led their program to a 30-7 record and a third-place national ranking.
Hays then served as the associate head coach at the University of Houston, before switching sports and manning the helm of LCU’s softball team during their introductory year. LCU, in their inaugural campaign, went 58-9 and won the NAIA national title. Hays was later named the NAIA Coach of the Year.
Following a 53-7 sophomore season, the Lady Chaparrals won another conference title and competed in a second NAIA tournament where they came up just short of a championship repeat.
Texas Tech hired Hays in 2010 to rebuild their softball program the same way he built LCU’s. In his first two seasons at Texas Tech, Hays led the Red Raiders to back-to-back NCAA Division I tournaments. In 2014, Hays left the program as the winningest softball coach in school history, never having under a 30-win season.
Despite his success, Hays said his goals have never been driven by the win-loss column but on the things that come long after games are over.
“Basing things off wins and losses is an empty way to define success in your career,” Hays said. “The relationships you build with the girls, having a chance to talk to your team and develop a relationship, that’s deeper than athletics. It’s spiritual things that are eternal.”
In terms of everyday practice, Hays said the Lady Eagles’ primary focus this fall, other than improving strength and conditioning, is making strides offensively.
“Our biggest focus is to be a better offensive team,” Hays said. “It’s really big for us to take live batting practice every day, take a lot of hacks and develop a mentality that my teams have had before in being really offensively productive.”
Senior Hunter Strickland, who played centerfield for the Lady Eagles last season, said she is excited to see Hays’ knowledge turn into results this spring.
“I think Coach Hays’ coaching style is going to push everyone to new levels and I’m really excited to see what we can do once we bring everything together,” Strickland said.
Oklahoma Christian’s softball team hit .284 as a team and lost in the Heartland Conference Championship game last May, ending their season with an overall 32-25 record. They will begin their 2019 season in February.