May 12, 2010
Sooner born. Sooner bred.
Simple as it may sound, those four words describe University of Oklahoma senior Lindsey Vandever.
Vandever is a homegrown talent from Davenport, Okla., and, as a little girl, she always dreamed of wearing the crimson and cream and playing softball for the Sooners. Today, that dream is reality. Vandever has been the Sooners' starting catcher for the last four seasons, proving dreams really do come true.
"When I first saw Lindsey play, she reminded me of another catcher from Oklahoma who played here - All-American Ashli Barrett," said Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso. "Lindsey possessed the leadership and the potential to be a great hitter. The first thing I noticed about her was how well and how quick she threw the ball. When you get a package like that and it's in your home state, you fight hard to keep it. She wanted us as much as we wanted her. It was a match made in heaven."
A small town with a population of less than 1,000, Davenport has always been a community where the people are friendly, prideful of where they are from and everyone knows everyone. At a young age, Vandever knew she wanted to be a Sooner. Her family's strong loyalty to OU played a part in her love and dream to be a Sooner.
"She would come watch us play and see the level we play at, and it was exciting for her see us play in the Big 12, postseason and the Women's College World Series," Gasso said. "She represents her hometown. They are very proud of her accomplishments and she has a lot of fans from all over that come to watch her play."
While believing in the dream to play at OU, Vandever had the support of her family which included older sister Nikki and younger sister Ali. But this success story does not stop with realizing a dream.
"I come from a die-hard OU family," Vandever said. "Most of Davenport are OU fans, so there's a lot of crimson and cream support there. My dad has always been a big OU fan and supports all of the teams here, not just softball."
In her time at Oklahoma, Vandever has accomplished many goals for herself and as a member of the softball team. She has also gained an enormous amount of respect for her teammates and coaches.
"When I arrived at OU, I was very nervous on and off the field," Vandever said. "I wanted to make my family proud. I take a lot of pride in everything I do, so I demanded perfection. When I figured out that was impossible, I started setting little goals year by year and have done pretty well at achieving them."
Those accomplishments speak highly of her. Vandever earned All-Region first team honors as a sophomore and junior and All-Big 12 second team accolades as a junior and first team as a sophomore. She was named to the Big 12 Championship all-tournament team as a freshman. She takes the most pride from the little letter that stands out in the top right corner of her uniform - C. It stands for captain.
"My biggest honor at OU on the field would be being selected team captain," Vandever said. "This was a big goal of mine. There is nothing more honorable than knowing that your teammates selected you to lead them. I enjoy being a leader; it is definitely in my personality. It helps to have such an easy and awesome team to lead. It makes things run so smooth. Since Amber (Flores) and I are the only two seniors on the team, it is hard to take over our team allows us to and follows our lead."
Gasso speaks volumes of her leadership ability. Being captain is a job that requires more than just wearing a letter on the uniform. It requires holding teammates accountable.
"I think she saw leaders ahead of her and how hard it was," Gasso said. "It might affect your play a little because now you're responsible for so many others. I remember asking her `Are you sure you want this?' and she said `Absolutely, it's a great honor.' When she said that, I knew she was going to be the perfect one. What's great is her play has elevated more than any other season she's had here. The things that she says are exactly right. The timing, the presentation and the motivation is just what it needs to be. She holds players accountable when most leaders would let it go because they don't want confrontation. Lindsey nails it every time."
Off the field, her greatest joy will happen in December. Vandever will receive her degree in human relations. Last season, she was a first team Academic All-Big 12 selection. This season she earned second team honors.
"Getting a degree from such a prestige college is such an honor and achievement," she said.
Aside from accomplishing the many goals Vandever set for herself, she says throughout her four years in the program she has learned many life lessons. Intercollegiate athletics are more than a game for college student-athletes and she realizes the invaluable life lessons she has gained from her time in Norman.
"College softball has taught me strength, a better work ethic, leadership, humility, failure, faith, endurance, and to never to give up on your goals and dreams," Vandever said. "This sport has taught me how to live a better life and how to make it through hard times. It has been my comfort place when I am struggling off the field. It is a nice get-a-way."
Like most student-athletes, Vandever had her share of struggles and tough times. She said she had to learn how to become more mentally and physically tough upon her arrival at OU and how to not let small problems and issues become bigger than they were. Vandever credits her strong faith with helping her along the way.
With her senior season coming to an end, Vandever is grateful for the wonderful memories she has had at OU. While it is hard to narrow down her favorite, Vandever leaves with two very special milestones - a Big 12 Championship title and a Big 12 regular season title. It's much easier for her to know what she will miss most when her Oklahoma softball career is over is easy.
"Playing the game of softball," Vandever said. "Softball has been my haven ever since I was a kid. It is my home away from home. My passion for softball is so strong; I will miss the celebrating, my teammates and coaches, everything that revolves around the game."
One thing Vandever can find comfort in is that when her playing days are over, her time at OU will not be. Upon graduating, Vandever plans to get her masters while being a graduate assistant for the Sooner softball program. After that, she aspires to be a successful collegiate head coach.
"She is going to be an unbelievable coach," Gasso said. "She has great qualities now at this age, and she's not afraid to use them. This year she's stepped up as a player and a leader, I've seen so much from her that signifies her character. I would want my child to play for her."
While talented student-athletes come from far and wide into big-time athletic programs such as Oklahoma, Vandever appreciates and cherishes her accomplishments as an Oklahoma native and the experience she has had while playing for her home state.
"It is very humbling and such an honor," Vandever concluded. "To be a representative of this state and my hometown is such an honor. I think that the best compliment someone can get is that they are a role model and are looked up to."