Howard's Kalita Dennis Inspires Bison On And Off The Field
Kalita Dennis’s impact on the Howard University softball team is felt from both her talent on the field and her work ethic off of it.
“I'm definitely not one of those players who (can) just come out and wing it,’’ Dennis, the 2019 MEAC Rookie of the Year, told Softball America. “I always have to work for everything I get.”
And that work ethic has inspired everyone from Howard's head coach, Tori Tyson, to Dennis's teammate, Camille Navarro. Navarro won the MEAC Player of the Year award in 2021 in large part because of Dennis's impact on her, according to Tyson.
“I told her that...Camille getting that (award) is going to mean more to you than you'll ever know, and it meant more for me as a coach,” Tyson told Softball America. “Because Camille is very, very talented, but Kalita was a big part of Camille coming and putting in that extra work.”
For the Howard senior, who has played softball since she was six years old, the culture the Bison have in place with their softball program has felt like a sisterhood for her.
“I don't have any sisters,” said Dennis, who played both softball and volleyball at Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove, Calif. “So being around a lot of other Black girls I think has helped me love myself more, helped me with my hair...(it’s an) understanding. This is where I'm meant to be.”
Dennis found her home at Howard after a couple of her travel teammates, including Maxie Harrington, committed to play for the Bison. She also attended an HBCU fair at her high school that introduced her to the idea of attending one herself.
And while Dennis admits that Howard does not have the types of resources that other Division I softball programs have, she believes the Bison have a different kind of closeness and motivation because of that reality.
“We don't have our own facilities,” Dennis said. “We don't have a lot of things, to be honest. But, we have each other. I think us not having all that big, shiny stuff really shows who wants to put in the work.”
Dennis clearly has put in the work during her college softball career with the Bison. This season, she's batting .318 with five doubles, three home runs and 22 RBIs for Howard, who is currently 14-19 overall and 5-3 in conference.
“She takes so much pride in being an HBCU standout athlete,” Tyson said. “Kalita Dennis hasn’t had a bad number yet.”
Following her college softball career, Dennis looks forward to pursuing a PhD in sports psychology. At Howard, she is pursuing a degree in criminology, while also double-minoring in psychology and sports journalism.
To her teammates, coaches and university at large, what Dennis represents is a new era of athletics at HBCUs around the country.
“HBCUs are making a really cool comeback on the sports scene,” Tyson said. “We still have a ton of work to do, but no one can tell our stories like us.”