Sitting at 18-5 in regular season and 2-2 in Heartland Conference play, the Oklahoma Christian University softball team has experienced a “hot start” to its 2019 season under new head coach Shanon Hays.
As the team enters the second half of its season, Hays shared his thoughts on his recent move to Oklahoma Christian and the expectations he has for his inaugural season with the Lady Eagles.
Q. What made you originally interested in the head softball coaching job at Oklahoma Christian?
“I grew up in the Churches of Christ. I like that it is a Church of Christ school and a Christian school. I knew that OC had fantastic softball facilities with the Lawsons and Coach [Tom] Heath getting together and building this great facility. I thought, ‘Hey, what a great place to go and try to start a program of my own,’ and pick up where Coach Heath had left off. It looked like a neat challenge.”
Q. With experience coaching basketball, baseball and football in addition to softball, why did you want to continue coaching softball?
“I grew up playing fastpitch softball in the summers. From before I could walk, I was at the softball fields. It’s a game I grew up loving, and when I got into fastpitch, I found girls who loved to compete and wanted to play for the love of the game. I also like the recruiting and the team concept of softball.”
Q. What were your expectations going into this season, and how has the team managed to hold up to those anticipations?
“My expectations are the same going into every season because you never know what type or group of girls you will have. I just want our girls to go and have fun and compete. People talk about winning all the time, but I feel that winning takes care of itself when you go out and play for the right reasons. It’s no fun if you’re not competing. If you go out there and get after it, even if you get beat, you win, and it is fun. The concept of competition is cool to me, and that is why I love coaching.
I feel like for the most part—99 percent—our girls have done that. So far, they have competed well, and I have been thrilled with that. We haven’t won all of the games that we could have won—we’ve given a few away—but we have competed and maybe won a few that we could have given away. I’ve also been really happy with how our pitching has progressed.”
Q. What qualities do you look for in your softball players?
“Everyone has different strengths, but of course you would love to have the ideal five-tool player who can run fast, throw it really well and be a great fielder, hitter and pitcher. But, I think the No. 1 quality you look for in a player is someone who likes to compete. I look for someone who loves to go out and make that the focal point. What I have found out is that if you have girls who maybe aren’t that talented physically but love to go out and compete, they find ways to help the team win. I want someone who loves getting after it and being part of a team, working toward a greater goal. That is one of the great things about softball—it’s a team sport, so everyone has to do their part and chip in to help the team win.”
Q. What would you like to see from Oklahoma Christian in the next five years?
“I would like to see us build on what is happening here now. Especially the end of last year, what the program did with Coach Heath, that was a great step. They competed well in the conference tournament, played well and were a force. I want to continue to do that, especially this year in the Heartland Conference. The Heartland is a great conference and I think it is one of the top conferences in the country. From top to bottom, everyone in it has been really good this year.
Over the next few years, we want to be solid and put good kids out there who are going to compete and give us a chance to win. I think with our facilities and where we are in the country and the conference we are in, if things go right, this is somewhere you can be a national powerhouse and a contender every year.”
The Lady Eagles will look to improve in the conference standings as they host Texas A&M International University Friday, March 15, at 5 and 7 p.m.