Columbia University’s softball team has made history by welcoming the first Black player on its team. Olivia Madkins is a freshman outfielder and sociology major. She made her season debut on March 17 of this year at the Ivy League institution.

A Los Angeles native, Madkins has harbored a passion for softball since she was 8 years old. She decided to commit to Columbia after attending camp during summer 2021.

“I just absolutely fell in love with the coaching staff, the environment and it was just a gut feeling of this is exactly where I want to be,” she told Andscape. “After that camp, I stayed in contact with coach Jennifer Teague and sent her a bunch of videos. Sept. 1 of my junior year we set up my official visit and I committed about 18 days later. Columbia was kind of a gut feeling for me. I knew this is where I wanted to be and I don’t regret my decision at all.”

Madkins did not know she would be making history by joining the team. She found out through her coach Jennifer Teagues the day she received an offer.

“Coach T actually let me know that I would be the first [Black player], and of course, my first reaction was like. ‘OK, you mean like the first since you’ve been coaching here?’ ” she said. “But she was like no, no, the first. I was shocked, but my heart was set on the school regardless, and I just knew that that would make my opportunity here that much more special.”

The softball player saw this as an opportunity.

“I’ve always thought of softball as a means for me to do bigger things with my life,” Madkins added. “I just saw an opportunity to do good for a lot of people and really empower my community.” 

The 18-year-old said being the only Black player on a softball team is something she had gotten used to and never poured particular thought into. She points to players such as Odicci Alexander as inspiration for her own career.

“Seeing Black girls compete on the biggest stage makes you super excited and want to be a part of that,” Madkins said.

At Columbia, she won’t be the only Black player for long. The team is getting ready to welcome two new commits in its upcoming recruiting class, Kyra Mason and Alicia Marzouca. Coach Teagues said she is excited to bring them onto the team.

“I think it’s really exciting because [Liv] could not wait to be a host of one of them this past fall,” Teagues told the news outlet. “You know she’s told us numerous times she just wants to make sure that they have the best experience and that she can help make our program and athletic department comfortable for them.”

The coach added that ushering in more diversity on the team is a reflection of what it stands for, as well as a reflection of New York City as whole.

“It really started with us evaluating what we wanted our program to stand for,” she said. “Columbia looks a lot like New York City in terms of being a melting pot and our program did not look like that, and that bothered me. Liv is just somebody that exudes positivity and a sense of team. I knew within the first few minutes of meeting her she was always going to be a great teammate. Then I got an opportunity to see her play on the field and it all backed that up. We look to players like Liv to enhance our program.”