Lawton coaches take over OCA Hall of Fame Lnduction

Former Eisenhower coach Tim Reynolds accepts his OCA Hall of Fame plaque.

By Michael Kinney

TULSA – In 2015, when former Lawton High great Will Shields was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was surrounded by his family and friends. Also by his side during that special moment was his high school coach Clarence Madden, a man Shields said helped shape his career.

So, it should not have been a surprise that when it was Madden’s turn to enter a hall of fame, Shields was front and center to watch the ceremony.

“It’s awesome Shields said. “That’s one thing about it, a guy that actually helped you with your career, started you of with the love of the game, taught you how to treat your family in high regard. He’s one of those guys that sort of did it by example.”

Madden was joined by former Eisenhower coaches Bruce Harrington and Tim Reynolds who were part of the 50th annual Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame induction Saturday night at the Marriott Southern Hills in Tulsa.

The rest of the inductees included Danny Daniels (Hominy), Jim Ferguson (Alva), Ron Lancaster (Tulsa), Doug Tolin (OBU) and Larry Turner (Owasso).

Madden coached at Lawton High for 12 years. In that time he racked up an 83-50 record as head football coach. That included three trips to the state 6A semifinals. He was also an offensive line coach with the Wolverines when they won the 1987 5A state championship.

Madden, who is now the offensive coordinator at Cache High, was in awe of the moment.

“It’s just a humbling experience,” Madden said. “There are so many great coaches out there. Coaches that I’ve worked for, coaches that I’ve worked with, coaches that I’ve had growing up, which kind of made me want to be a coach. It’s an honor.”

Harrington recently left Eisenhower in order to take a coaching position in Forth Worth, TX. at Northside High School. The move ends a 32-year stint at EHS.

In his last official act as a member of the Lawton community, Harrington was honored to join the same hall of fame thathis father, Clester Harrington, joined in 1989.

“I think to all coaches it’s one of the greatest honors you can get in Oklahoma,” Harrington said. “Following in my father’s footsteps, it’s a big deal. I’ve been going to coaches clinics since I was born. It’s a great honor.”

Harrington, who won a state title with the Eagles in 2015, tallied a 435-264 record in 25 years as head coach with the Eagles.

“A lot of my best friends are my father’s friends,” Harrington said. “And a lot of them are in the hall of fame. I always sit around the room and listen to their stories. The Oklahoma Coaches Association has a great history and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

With 27 years and four head coaching stints under his belt, Reynolds was inducted into the hall of fame. His stops include Paul’s Valley, Chickasha and one year at Noble. He also spent time as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State.

But it was Reynolds’ four years at Eisenhower that will be attached to his name at the very top of his resume. In that span he racked up a 40-11 record, four playoffs appearances, two trips to the Class 5A state title game, one state title and the mythical 1990 USA Today National Championship.

Despite being one of only two Oklahoma coaches to ever win a national title, Reynolds said he was stunned he made it to the hall of fame.

“For 27 years it was my passion now when I get up in the morning I work for a living,” said Reynolds, who now owns a real estate company in Chickasha. “I never considered it a job. This is one of the highlights of my life. To be recognized by your peers.”

Story first appeared in The Lawton Constitution. Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer at Eyeamtruth.com

Sooners look to have impact at Rio Olympics

Coach Mark Williams and former OU gymnast Jake Dalton talk over routines as they prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games.

By Michael Kinney

When the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics team takes to the competition floor for the first time during the 2016 Olympic games, they will have a familiar look to them. Those who have followed the Oklahoma gymnastics program for the past decade or so will recognize several faces.

Three of the five gymnasts who will represent the United States in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the Olympic games are alumni of the Sooners. They include Jake Dalton, Chris Brooks and Alex Naddour. They will join Sam Mikulak and  Danell Leyva, who round out the five-man squad.

Leading US team into Olympic battle is OU head coach Mark Williams. After four previous trips to the Olympics as an assistant and individual coach, this will be his first turn as the lead man in charge.

“I am honored,” Williams said. “It’s amazing to be in a position to lead any team at the Olympic Games, and I feel we are very fortunate to have athletes that have been part of the Olympic process in the past. I’m excited about this team. I think we have a tremendous opportunity in Rio and I’m looking forward to the journey.”

Williams, who is heading into his 18th season at Oklahoma, is coming off back to back national championships and the 10th for the Sooners’ program. That resume helped him secure the national team coaching gig.

“Obviously my Oklahoma teams have done very well over the years,” Williams said. “They want to have somebody that is in a place that continues championships. I am hoping I can put the pieces together with the five man team where we’re in a great position to be able to be put up on the medal stand at the end of the competition.”

This will be Dalton’s second trip to the Olympics. He was part of the 2012 squad that took fifth in London.

But being able to go to the games with his coach leading the way makes it even more special for him.

“It’s incredible,” Dalton said. “It has to be so rewarding for him. Even for us to watch it for him because he deserves it. No one deserves it more than this guy. He is such a good coach because he can put together a training plan and make the athletes peak at the perfect time. That’s kind of what he has been known for in college. And he’s been doing it with me the last three years, helping me put together training programs. He is going to be a great coach out on the floor.”

The men’s team has had a chance to bond and get to know each other in the weeks heading up to the games, which last from Aug. 5-21. But because of the Oklahoma connection, it was a much easier task than previous Olympic teams.

“I feel very comfortable with those guys having coached them before,” Williams said. “I know they have been on championship teams and have represented the United States at World Championships and at the Olympics for Jake. They are guys that have earned their spots and in the next three or four weeks we will put in the training necessary to go to Rio very well prepared.”

This is the first time since 1984 that there have been three members from once school on a gymnastics team. Then it was UCLA, who had three of the six Olympic gymnast.

“It’s incredible. Speaks volumes about the program, about the coaches here and even the athletes,” Dalton said. “Everybody gets here, they go through Mark’s training. It’s hard, but if you stick with it, you’re going to come out a better gymnasts. Everybody is really a family here when they are training together. They you get the support from the University and we get to team in this amazing facility every single day. Couldn’t ask for a better place to train.”

Even as the team prepares for the Olympics, controversies continue to surround the games. Everything from beaches polluted with body parts to the Zika virus has driven away other athletes from competing.

But Dalton said, for him, it’s worth the risk to fulfill a lifelong dream and wear USA across his chest.

“There is a lot of media about it. I think some of it is a little bit over hyped,” Dalton said. “I think there are concerns some people need to make sure they are aware of. For me, if I get the opportunity to represent my country at the Olympic Games, I’m not backing down.”

Kinney is a freelance writer. Go to Eyeamtruth.com

At Team USA Level, basics is at the core

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – The game of softball has changed considerably over the decades. Everything from the gloves players use to the uniforms worn has gone through a transformation.

Even the way players are taught the game has changed. There is now more technology involved in the game than ever before. However, according to two-time U.S. Olympian and Cal State Northridge softball coach Tairia Flowers, there is no better teacher of softball than the pure basics.

“The biggest thing we see is being able to play catch,” Flowers said. “Field the ball, throw it to a target, be able to hit somebody in the chest every single time. If you watch, the majority of the errors in games at this level are going to be throwing mistakes because they are rushing their tempo.”

Flowers, who is also serving as coach for USA Softball’s developmental squad, the USA Elite, led the team to a fourth-place finish at the World Cup of Softball last week in Oklahoma City. Even at the international level, Flowers likes to see her players get in serious work on the tee. Hitting the ball off a tee is something little kids do when they are first learning how to play the game, but she feels it works just as well in keeping the skills of veteran players sharp.

“I am always a fan of tee work,” Flowers said. “I think you can get a ton of work in without having to adjust to speed and tempo and the ball moving. You can perfect your swing off the tee.”

The Elite roster is filled with women of varying degrees of experience and ages. That includes Sam Fischer, who has been with USA Softball since 2012.

Fischer agrees with her coach that the most important work softball players of all experience levels can do is throw, catch, hit, and field.

“Keep it simple. Always keep it simple,” said Fischer, who is a native of Simi Valley, California. “I’ve been around for a long time, and there are more and more things that are coming out that are taking away from the basics. So if we get back to basics and just work on the foundation, girls are going to get better than if they use all these tool and different stuff. Keep it simple for sure.”

For 18-year-old Madilyn Nickles, who has yet to even start her collegiate career at UCLA, training her mind to do the right movement in the right moment is part of the keep it simple philosophy. She says it helped her land a spot with USA Softball at such a young age.

“I did mental drills more than anything,” Nickles said. “That was always my biggest issue growing up. It still is to this day. Physically I’d say do the little things. The little tweaky little drills that you need to do to become successful. You can’t really do the same exact thing every time in a game. You just really need to work on things that will make you confident in a game.”

Fischer does suggest one bit of technology to help players get better. But even that is just a prelude to more hard work.

“What I would say with the technology we have now, film yourself when you’re hitting,” Fischer said. “Film yourself when you’re fielding. Watch what the girls on the USA team or in college are doing and see what looks similar. See what they do differently, what they do better. And just get out and get reps. When I was growing up I really didn’t do a ton of drills. But I was out there getting hundreds and hundreds of reps. So no matter what, you’re going to get better when you’re practicing. Even if you are just swinging off a tee, you’re going to get better.”

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