Meet Olivia Madkins, Columbia University’s first Black softball player

Dollita Okine April 24, 2024
Olivia Madkins has broken ground to become the first Black player on Columbia University’s women’s softball team since it was founded. Photo Credit: Columbia Athletics

Olivia Madkins has broken ground to become the first Black player on Columbia University’s women’s softball team since it was founded.

The 18-year-old sociology major and freshman outfielder started playing softball at the age of eight, never realizing the significance of her involvement until recently when she got her offer to Columbia University. Her first softball experience came from playing T-ball with a boys’ team.

She told Andscape, “I’ve always thought of softball as a means for me to do bigger things with my life. I just saw an opportunity to do good for a lot of people and really empower my community.” 

She recounted, “On the day that I got my official offer, Coach T [Jennifer Teagues] actually let me know that I would be the first [Black player], and of course, my first reaction was like. ‘OK, you mean like the first since you’ve been coaching here? But she was like no, no, the first. I was shocked, but my heart was set on the school regardless, and I just knew that that would make my opportunity here that much more special.” 

From an early age, the Los Angeles resident understood that the two most important factors in choosing a college were academic excellence and Division I athletics. Therefore, even though Columbia was far from home, attending the school made sense after attending one productive recruiting camp in 2021.

Madkins was eager to fill whatever role was given to her when she initially joined the softball team, whether it was pinch-hitting in close games or calling pitches from the bench, all to set an example for future generations of women.

The pioneer revealed that she was used to being the only Black female on her squad and watching Odicci Alexander of the 2021 Women’s College World Series inspired her to make a significant impact.

Madkins proved her worth in March with her debut game of the season against Kentucky, a top-25 club. Her coach, Teagues, said that she had known from the moment she met her that she would make a fantastic teammate.

Madkins has always had the support of her parents, Julee and Gerald Madkins, who enrolled her in track, basketball, and tennis, among other countless activities to keep her occupied.

While her mother attends the majority of her softball tournaments and engagements, her father, a former UCLA player and NBA shooting guard who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, has always served as an inspiration to her.

Madkins said of her father, “He just empowers me in my own identity and to be strong in who I am and to continue to be a good representation for our community, so all around a really great support system there.”

After lifting weights in the garage together, her father sent her off to school the morning she received the call from Columbia. The proud dad remarked, “The fact that I’ve been around sports my whole life, my daughter understands that she has certain advantages that some African American girls do not and she doesn’t lean on those… but I tell her all the time, ‘you have to take advantage of what’s in front of you, it’s not your fault who your dad is.’ You’ve been given an opportunity to do some things, can you use the opportunity you’ve been given to help others?’ And I think that’s exactly what she’s done.”

Her mother also expressed, “I always would keep all of her mentors in touch and have my mother-in-law, aunts and cousins reach out to her. For me it was just putting people around her, lots of mentors and also really advocating for her with her coaches and making sure that they understood because they often didn’t, but they were really open to hearing it and having these conversations and did everything they could to protect her.”

B.B. Bates and Aleah Macon, two former UCLA softball players who taught Madkins the fundamentals of the game, always told her that “if you can see her, you can be her.” Thus, she remained focused on her objective because of the representation these women provided.

She played for the New Jersey Intensity in a 14-and-under league after briefly living in New York due to her father’s employment with the New York Knicks.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 24, 2024


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