Being a key member of a sports team isn’t always about a person’s athletic ability or stats but about other ways they strengthen the team, and such is the case with Tahlequah High School senior McKinley Thompson. She is a member of the Lady Tigers volleyball team and a Hometown Hero.
“I started playing in the seventh grade when some of the girls from church that played and that I looked up to got me interested. When I started, I wasn’t very good, but I decided it was something I wanted to work on,” said Thompson who is also on the student council, FCA, president of the National Honor Society chapter, and a member of Link Crew which is a freshman mentoring program. “I also did cheer until my freshman year and decided to drop it and concentrate on volleyball. Our first team camp was very humbling so that’s when I really decided to buy in to the program and with the help of coach (Don) Ogden got better.”
But Ogden’s take on McKinley is really what the story is all about.
“I’ve coached her for four years and she’s one of those rare athletes that is focused more on everybody else and not herself. She’s got a generous spirit and she’s all about what she can do to make the team better and make your day better. She’s very caring and that has really separated her from a lot of people. She came to us without a lot of volleyball experience but made herself into a solid player as a defensive specialist. But it’s her willingness to help anybody and everybody she can that sets her apart whether that’s working with a younger player on the court or being the team limousine driver. And in this day and time when everyone asks, ‘what’s in it for me?’ her attitude is very refreshing.”
That attitude is also reflected in the volunteer work she does at her church with the youth group and gives music lessons on the piano, guitar and box drum. Her advice for those that follow?
“Just try to keep everyone’s spirits up and you’ll play a whole lot better. But if you start picking at one another that’s when you fail the most as a team.”
McKinley will stay close to home next fall by attending Northeastern State on a President’s Leadership Council scholarship and will study communications with a goal of going into youth ministry.