Four years ago, Community Christian School assistant softball coach Jeff Cox told head coach Gary Rayburn about a pair of exciting developments for the fledgling program.
First, Cox had talked an ex-OU player into coming out to instruct the team's pitchers. Second, the program would soon have a couple of new players who were coming to CCS from another school.
“In walked these two girls and they've got on the full softball regalia,” Rayburn said. “They've got the uniforms and the backpacks with two bats sticking out. I just assumed the bigger one was the OU girl and she'd brought along one of their younger players with her to help.”
That was Rayburn's first introduction to his new catcher, Niki Davidson.
Rayburn had pieced together a team of mostly cheerleaders, many of whom had little experience playing softball.
This week, with Niki as a senior and her sister, Lacey, as a sophomore, CCS enters its first playoffs as members of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association. The Royals start district play at 2 p.m. Thursday at Wayne.
“I have to go to the band room and cheer room every year just to have enough kids to play,” Rayburn said. “I think it's fair to say we wouldn't have a team if it wasn't for her.”
Niki and Lacey had been playing competitively for several years already, and Niki quickly became the best player on the team.
It was a balancing act for Niki, helping the other players — many older than she was — while still fitting in as a teammate.
“At first, I thought there might be a problem,” Davidson said. “I just had to find the balance of helping but not being too bossy. I try to do the best of acting like an equal on this team, especially my junior and senior year, I've grown up a little bit. It took me awhile to realize how to handle the situation.”
It's also opened her eyes to what she'd like to do in the future. Davidson, who has committed to Oklahoma Christian, wants to coach softball.
She's getting some experience this year, as she helps coach the CCS junior high softball team.
“She's just one of those really rare kids,” Rayburn said. “Every kid in the school likes her and looks up to her.”
Davidson is enjoying the experience, even if it keeps her busy as she bounces between playing and coaching.
“It's exciting getting to know all the girls and seeing them grow as people and players,” Davidson said.
Davidson's mother, Twana, was a regular fixture at the CCS softball field since her girls came to the school.
Twana battled cancer for several years. She died in April, right in the middle of slowpitch season.
The girls played in a game two days after their mother's death and then a day after her funeral.
Niki never considered skipping out.
“It's definitely been really rough,” Davidson said. “She always told me to do my best and help others as much as I could. I'm really blessed to have these girls around me and the rest of the people at CCS to help me through.”
Davidson also gives plenty of credit to her dad, Shane, for helping her through it.
“We're really similar in our personalities,” she said. “It's definitely been a blessing to have him and his guidance. Without him, I can't imagine how tough it would've been.”