Softball skills and tactics learned at Keller Central are now being spread in the Far East, thanks to a Lady Chargers alum.
When Kelli Walker Wilson played at Central from 2004-2007, she played on the school’s first-ever team, starting as just a JV squad.
After playing softball at Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, La., and Hutchinson Community College, where she was an Academic All-American, Wilson eventually earned her degree from the University of Oklahoma and then moved a bit further away.
Wilson and her husband, Will, have now been in Okinawa since 2011, as he is active in the Air Force with the 33rd Search and Rescue unit at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa City.
On the other side of the world, Wilson couldn’t get away from the game she loves, becoming the Kadena High School softball coach.
In her time at Kadena since Feb., 2012, the Lady Panthers have won the district championships from 2013-2015.
The team has also won the Far East Championship four out of the last six years and finished second in 2011 and 2013.
Her husband serves as the assistant coach.
Wilson said she also has coached varsity volleyball and cheer at the high school.
Much of the success of the Lady Panthers is in part thanks to what Wilson picked up her days at Central.
Wilson said her freshman through junior years were played under head coach Megan Brown. Her senior year was the year current head coach Kim Reed joined Central.
“Coach Reed was one of the best coaches I ever played for,” Wilson said via e-mail. “I still keep in touch to this day. She really changed the program at Central.”
At Kadena, Wilson works to establish many routines, traditions and softball techniques which she learned at Central and from Reed.
Some of those traditions are straight from Texas and other American high school routines.
Wilson’s mother, Lyndee Walker, said she has imported Texas traditions such as Senior Day celebrations which the school had not had previously.
“I send all kinds of things,” Walker said. “I have even sent mums … with boas and lights and stuffed panthers.”
The “Americanized” softball environment seems to work well.
Wilson said they won this year’s Far East championship tournament in six games, with five of them ending due to the mercy rules.
“We scored 100 runs in six games,” Wilson said. “We had four All-Tournament (members) and the tournament MVP.
In Keller, Reed isn’t surprised that Wilson is having success wherever she goes.
“She was very much a hard worker and she would do anything you ask of her,” Reed said of Wilson’s time at Central. “In her senior year she had to adapt to a new coach and a new coaching style. She then just came on and her confidence built with every practice and every game. She made adjustments on the mound, pitch-by-pitch.”
Wilson’s success as a coach reflects one of the reasons Reed herself enjoys the occupation.
“She enjoys the same thing I did in the kids,” Reed explained. “When I have talked to her, she sees kids with those smiles on their faces when they accomplish something they didn’t think they could do. The smiles tell it all.”
For now, Wilson said they will be in Okinawa for another before going somewhere else next.
“I should have one more season with my Panthers,” Wilson said.
And if she should get back to the area and reconnect with Reed again?
“I would love to work with her one day!” Wilson said.