Oklahoma Alum Jadyn Wallis Has Built An NAIA Powerhouse
Softball in Oklahoma. Some people associate this phrase with the Oklahoma Sooners, a storied program in Norman. Other people think of the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, where the best teams in NCAA Division 1 clash each June in pursuit of a national title. But there is more softball in Oklahoma beyond just these big names.
Less than an hour down the road from Oklahoma City sits a lesser-known university that has been quietly building a powerhouse softball program with local athletes.
The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) in Chickasha is a small NAIA school with enrollment under 1,000 students. In 2013, the USAO softball program began its rise to dominance with the hiring of Jadyn Wallis.
Wallis spent her collegiate years at the University of Oklahoma on the Sooners' pitching staff for legendary head coach Patty Gasso. After graduation, Wallis returned to the softball field and began a career in coaching. Eventually, she landed the job at USAO, where her sister was on the roster.
“It was kind of a neat thing to be with my sister and be local,” Wallis said in a phone interview with Softball America. “To be back in this location was a big tie for me because I am a small-town girl and family is the most important part of my life.”
Since taking over the program's helm in 2013, Wallis has coached eight NAIA All-Americans and holds a .746 winning percentage as the head coach of the Drovers. This season has been one of her best to date, with her team holding a 40-6 record.
In 2018, Wallis led USAO to the NAIA World Series, where the Drovers captured the program’s first national championship. Every player on the roster was from Oklahoma, which made the victory even sweeter for a coach who is passionate about keeping local talent in-state.
“They were all overlooked at some point. Everyone doubted us,” Wallis said of her 2018 squad. “But we knew what we had inside of our little circle, and we went out and showed the world what it was. It was the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life because we defied all the odds. (We were) a bunch of women that nobody thought would make it, and we did.”
Coming off the high of a national championship, the Drovers didn’t let up. USAO won 59 consecutive games, the longest winning streak at any level of college softball.
While the goal remains to win softball games, Wallis strives to create a family atmosphere for athletes, while also preparing them for life.
“I’m a firm believer that if your players know you love them and respect them, and that you would run through a wall for them, they will do the same for you as a coach,” she added. “The relationships that I build with my athletes are the most important thing to me.”
Reflecting on her time in Norman, Wallis spoke about some pillars of Coach Gasso’s philosophy that still impact her today.
“The one thing that I take away from Coach Gasso is that you come in as girls and become women,” Wallis said. “That’s the biggest takeaway that I find because there is a bigger part than just softball in this. I want to prepare them for life. My hopes and goals for my athletes are building strong women. (After) they come in as 18-year-old girls, I want them to leave as strong, independent women.”
Despite the allure of winning streaks and championships, Wallis keeps her team focused on the details.
“Our motto is to win every pitch of every inning of every game,” Wallis stated. “We play for each other and don’t get caught up in the big things.”