Two former Oklahoma Christian University athletes take on a different role this season, serving as graduate assistants for their respective teams.
Madison Nordyke, who played softball for the Lady Eagles from 2015 to 2018, graduated in the spring of 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. While a member of the Lady Eagles softball team, she started all four years, playing pitcher and first base. In her last two seasons, Nordyke earned All-Heartland Conference honors.
She helped lead the Lady Eagles to their first conference title game appearance as a senior. After the conclusion of the 2018 Heartland Conference Championship game, she was named to the All-Heartland first-team and the all-tournament team. Additionally, as a senior, Nordyke hit .346, the fourth highest in the conference, with 32 RBIs and finished 7-8 from the pitcher’s mound with a 3.42 ERA.
After graduating, Nordyke said she was not looking to become a graduate assistant at Oklahoma Christian until head softball coach Shanon Hays petitioned her.
“My dad has always coached, so I’ve grown up around [softball],” Nordyke said. “It’s always been an interest of mine. I hadn’t planned on staying at Oklahoma Christian, but then Coach Hays gave me the opportunity. I had never met him before. I had just heard about him through his brother at Lubbock Christian University. He actually called me and asked me, and I really wanted to learn from him and see what he had to offer.”
Transitioning from player to coach, Nordyke said her new position has allowed her to become a go-between for the players and the new coaching staff.
“It hasn’t really been difficult,” Nordyke said. “The weirdest thing is when you go to practice—you’re not practicing anymore, you’re in the coaching spot. It’s just a weird thing. Coach Hays has asked me things we’ve done in the previous years and how to get to know the girls better. I just try to help anywhere I can in practice. A lot of the girls I’ve known and played with for three years. It’s hard to balance, but I have to balance and know my loyalty is to the coaches.”
Senior Chelsea Key serves as a student assistant for the women’s soccer team. She played for the Lady Eagles from 2014 to 2017 and during her time on the field, started on the defensive line all four years. She scored two goals in her collegiate career, one was a game-winner over St. Mary’s University in her senior season.
Unlike Nordyke, Key currently still attends Oklahoma Christian, working to finish her nursing degree. Key said still being at Oklahoma Christian made the decision to remain involved with the soccer team easy.
“At my end-of-the-season meeting with Coach Anderson after my senior season, I knew I was going to need to take a fifth year in school,” Key said. “I asked if coaching was a possibility and she said she had already thought about it and was going to extend the offer.”
Although Key is still attending school and only a year removed from being on the team, she said she believes her young perspective is pivotal among the coaching staff.
“I think, since I am close in age with the girls and still have good relationships with them, they feel more comfortable coming to me with more of the social issues,” Key said. “For example: how to get along with specific teammates in stressful situations and whether or not a player should bring up a situation to Coach. I know, with women’s teams, the social aspect can get a bit complicated at times. The fact I’m in the loop but not on the team makes me a good person to bounce things off of and get a less biased opinion.”
Even though it adds another layer of commitment their busy schedules, both Nordyke and Key said they returned to the game because they love it and cannot imagine athletics not being a part of their life. Both agree, however, the desire to be playing often overwhelms them.
“After sixteen years of playing, there was no amount of mental and emotional preparation that would help me with the transition,” Key said. “Soccer has taught me so many lessons and been such a gigantic part of my life that, even though I’m still a part of the team, I still long to be on the field.”