By Krysti Cole
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
To Maddie Stein, a softball star at the University of Kansas, an education means more than any achievement she will attain on the field.
The senior utility player for the Jayhawks grew up with big dreams. She was going to become the first in her family to receive a college degree. Now, years later, Stein’s dreams will soon become a reality as she takes the stage in Memorial Stadium in a couple weeks to embrace the prized certificate.
“Getting a college degree is something that is unique to my family,” Stein said. “KU holds a special place in my heart because it has helped set up the rest of my life. I know that’s kind of expected out of college, but the experiences that I have gotten from KU are things that I would have never dreamt of happening growing up.”
During her tenure at Kansas, Stein has achieved lifelong goals both in the classroom and on the softball field. In March, she rewrote the Jayhawk record book after tallying her 141st career RBI on a game-winning home run, the most all-time RBIs in Kansas history. So far this season, Stein has collected 40 RBIs for the Jayhawks and currently has 149 RBIs in her career.
Yet, Stein’s impact goes far beyond what she does on the diamond.
“Maddie is such a great kid,” Kansas softball head coach Megan Smith said in an interview after Stein broke the RBI record. “She loves her teammates and she does anything she can for anyone, including our entire athletic department. She is a great representative of Kansas softball.”
The selfless attitude Stein embodies was shaped by her childhood experiences. With parents who always encouraged her to do better than they had themselves, Stein made sure to make the most of every opportunity she was presented with.
“I came from a low-income family which wasn’t educated,” Stein said. “But because of softball I have been allowed to come here [Kansas] on a scholarship and become more than what was predetermined for me. KU taught me that anything is possible. It’s been a place of dreams.”
While softball has provided the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma native the opportunity to fulfill her dreams, Stein has become more than just another student-athlete at the University of Kansas. Earlier this year Stein was given the opportunity to represent the Big 12 at the annual NCAA convention where she got to speak on behalf of student-athletes around the nation.
Her involvement in a multitude of organizations on and off campus is motivated by the acknowledgement that the sport can only take her so far.
“Softball has taken me to great places, but softball could end tomorrow with an injury,” Stein said. “I can’t say enough about the fact that an education can never be taken away from me.”
Her determination in the classroom has been recognized multiple times by academic awards throughout her collegiate career. Most recently, Stein has been rewarded for her hard work in a form that surpasses any other award she could receive as she was accepted to graduate school at the University of Oklahoma. Attending grad school will be another first for Stein’s family.
Along with continuing her academics, Stein will also work to build a foundation for her professional career. While at the NCAA convention, doors opened for Stein to serve as a graduate assistant for the Sooners Faculty Athletic Representative program. Her job will consist of being an advocate between the University’s campus and the athletic department.
“I know that the student-athlete life right now has worked so well for me while I’ve been in school,” Stein said. “I want to be able to help protect that and going forward make sure that I am a difference-maker in college athletics.”
Stein’s determination to pave a path for her future came at a young age when she and her family realized that softball could be the ticket to attending college and earning a degree.
“At a very early age she was determined that she was not just going to go to college, but that she was going to go and play Division I softball,” Amy, Stein’s mother, said. “That was her dream since she was seven. She gave up playing with her friends, going to dances and a lot of her social life to be able to play college softball.”
Family has always been the driving force behind Stein’s motivation. Having parents and a sister who support her in all of her endeavors continues to give Stein a desire to accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
“I can’t say how much my family has been instrumental in letting me be able to do these things and encouraging me to do more,” Stein said.
Stein’s younger sister, Molly, is her No. 1 fan. Without her sister’s support and love, the elder Stein sibling is certain that she wouldn’t be the woman she is today.
“My sister means so much to me,” Stein said with tears in her eyes. “She’s the first person I call when I call home. She encourages me to go after my dreams.”
With her family cheering her on, Stein knows that there is still more to achieve. If there is one thing she has realized during her time at Kansas, it’s not to let anyone or anything set limits on herself.
“The biggest thing I have learned from my time at KU is for one, don’t let people place barriers on you, and for two, don’t place barriers on yourself,” Stein said. “I couldn’t begin to describe how many things I have completely surprised myself with what I have accomplished over time.”
It is obvious that there is a greater motivation behind Stein’s pursuits in life. While she works hard to be successful in all her endeavors, she hopes that she is also impacting the world positively.
“I hope that when I leave KU people remember me for someone who really cared about what they were doing,” Stein said. “No matter what it was, whether it was picking up balls on a field or giving a speech in class but that everything I did I carried myself in a manner that I put my heart into it.”
Just as Stein had known all along, her softball career is coming to a close. Although it won’t be easy for the talented athlete to say good-bye, she is ready to fulfill her next dream…earn a master’s degree.