By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Though she grew up in Hugo, McAlester senior Madison Drake said her family moved to McAlester because it’d present more opportunities for her and her younger brother Matthew.
Drake transferred to McAlester High School in February of her junior year, and a new opportunity quickly presented itself when football coach Austin Maddux and junior classmate Brooklyn Williams suggested Drake join the student trainer program.
“It was in spring ball, and I just came to practice one day,” Drake said Thursday. “I gave water. It wasn’t hard to learn what I had to do — it was hard to learn all the boys and everything that they needed. All of the other girls had it down, but I kind of had to start from nowhere.
“I like it, I think it’s cool. It’s cool to feel like we’re needed, like if we weren’t here, it wouldn’t get done.”
McAlester’s student trainers take care of much of the behind-the-scenes work that makes the team function. The five trainers, which includes both Drake and Williams, wash uniforms, pack bags, bake snacks, fill and distribute water bottles, film practices and clean up afterwards, among other tasks.
Drake said the job has often required her and her fellow trainers to work late into the evenings or come to Hook Eales Stadium early in the morning.
“Doing laundry Saturday mornings, the team’s here, but they’re not really around us,” Drake said. “They’re with all the coaches, and then the five of us are doing other things.”
Despite the demands, Drake and the other four trainers have stuck with it all the way through football season, which will end within two weeks. Drake said even if the Buffs win State, she’ll be sad to see the season end.
“It’s my senior year, and I don’t get to do it again,” Drake said.
“My favorite memory, I’m going to say trainer dinners. Whenever all the trainers get together, just us, or whenever we bake for the boys.”
As a trainer, Drake has spent numerous hours around McAlester’s football players. She said that definitely helped her get chosen as the 2013 Homecoming Queen on Oct. 4, continuing a recent trend of McAlester’s football team selecting trainers for the honor.
“I haven’t even been here a full year yet,” Drake said.
“The past years, the trainers have won because they spend the most time with the guys. But it was really surprising that I won because they’ve been friends with all those (other candidates) for all these years, and I just got here. I guess it kind of says something, as being a trainer, that the guys like you.”
When she’s not doing football-related activities, Drake sings second soprano in McAlester’s choir. She made all-district earlier this year and tried out for the all-state choir.
“Hugo didn’t have choir, so I didn’t really have the chance to do it,” Drake said. “I’ve sang in church, I’ve sang at the casino one time before someone else played. But I didn’t ever have an opportunity like this.”
Drake auditioned for All-State with Robert Schumann’s “Zigeunerleben” and Ralph Williams’ “Hodie Christus Natus Est,” singing in German and Latin, respectively. Drake said singing in foreign languages can be challenging, but learning a language’s cadence makes it possible to sing without knowing what every word means.
“I got it pretty quick,” Drake said. “My family’s pretty musical, so I think I kind of just got that trait.”
Understanding enunciation may come in handy in the future, as Drake said she wants to someday be a speech pathologist. Already accepted at Oklahoma State University, Drake said she’s enjoyed her visits to Stillwater, a city not all that different from McAlester.
“It’s kind of one of those things that’s been drilled into my head since I was little,” Drake said. “My dad played football at Tulsa (University), so Tulsa and OSU are our favorite teams, and I like the color orange.”
Of her future profession, Drake said, “I like to work with children. I really like children, and I want to do something where it doesn’t feel like a job.”
Drake said her class size tripled from 65 to 200 when she transferred here from Hugo.
Such a change no doubt required an adjustment, but Drake has found a way to make McAlester her new home.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.