Boyd Street May 2021

Page 1

Non-Profit Spotlight

Loveworks Leadership

Jenny Dakil Retires from NPSF after 32 Years

Cultivating Opportunity

Oklahoma Basketball

New Coaches

May 2021 • Issue 5 • Volume 20


Champions Normanites in the Spotlight Lon Kruger and Sherri Coale

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8 | May 2021




Cultivating Opportunity

16 by Chelsey Kraft

Mark Doescher


What’s next for Norman NEXT?

22 by Roxanne Avery

Lindsay Cuomo

Jenny Dakil retires from Norman Public School Foundation after 32 years of service.

Young professionals group supports community and cultivates economic opportunity amidst pandemic challenges.


Mark Doescher Ty Russell - OU Athletics


Roxanne Avery | Callie Collins Lindsay Cuomo | Drake Diacon Kathy Hallren | Joy Hampton Josh Helmer | Shannon Hudzinski Chelsey Kraft | Bill Moakley Rae Lynn Payton| Chris Plank Chat Williams



Tracie Gray - Trevor Laffoon - Perry Spencer -

Normanites in the Spotlight:

28 Lon Kruger & Sherri Coale


Casey Vinyard

by Lindsay Cuomo Champions on the court and in the community.


Loveworks Leadership

Boyd Street Magazine 2020 E. Alameda Norman, Oklahoma 73071 Phone: (405) 321-1400 E-mail: Copyright © Boyd Street Magazine

36 by Callie Collins

Inspiring positive change, one student at a time.

A Legacy of Success

40 by Josh Helmer

Norman North head baseball coach Brian Aylor earns 400th win.


NexGen Fitness

62 May is National Osteoporosis Month Norman Regional Hospital:

Shaping the future of fitness.

2021 Randy Laffoon


by Drake Diacon Charity golf tournament supports young athletes.

68 by Shannon Hudzinski - OUFCU

Preparing Financially for a New Baby

Summer Time Summer Wine

77 Celebrates 10 Years Youth Performance

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by Bill Moakley Norman’s newest dining addition turns fresh ingredients into a variety of dishes.

by Lindsay Cuomo

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56 by Rae Lynn Payton

OU hires a new men’s and women’s basketball coach in the same year for the first time since 1980.

52 by Rae Lynn Payton


New Coaches

46 by Chris Plank

Any articles, artwork or graphics created by Boyd Street Magazine or its contributors are sole property of Boyd Street Magazine and cannot be reproduced for any reason without permission. Any opinions expressed in Boyd Street are not necessarily that of Boyd Street management.




by Chat Williams - Youth Performance

90 Chief Deputy Julie Tipton Service Spotlight:

by Joy Hampton

Cover photo by: Mark Doescher


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16 | May 2021

Jenny Dakil retires from Norman Public School Foundation after 32 years of service


hen her twins were born followed soon after by the adoption of her third child, Jenny Dakil decided to step away from the classroom. But that doesn’t mean she stopped making a difference in education. At the end of May, Dakil will retire from her role with the Norman Public School Foundation (NPSF) after 32 years, where she started as a volunteer before serving as its first executive director beginning in 2005. “It’s certainly been a great job, one with a lot of happiness and a lot of love,” Dakil shared. “It’s been something my heart’s been really committed to.” The foundation was established in 1984 through donations from 78 community members. Its mission is to support learn-

ing and enhance what’s happening within Norman’s classrooms by providing grants to teachers, Dakil explained. Her initial interaction with the NPSF came when she was a firstgrade teacher and received one of these grants to purchase math games. The NPSF supports a range of purchases and projects, from books designed to foster inclusion and equity to musical instruments to outdoor learning spaces to robots. This past year in response to COVID-19, the foundation helped fund some air filtration systems in the cafeterias to keep clean air flowing. Dakil joined NPSF as a board member in 1989 and has been a key part of its consistent growth. This past semester, the

BY: CHELSEY KRAF T foundation awarded about $122,000 worth of grants. Dakil said she is proud of how hard the board has worked to reach that point. She also wanted to thank all the present and past board members as well as the teachers, staff and administrators who are “doing the hard work every day.” “My vision of working with our foundation was for our teachers and our administrators to feel the support of our foundation and the community,” Dakil shared. “I’ve been really proud to work with leaders on our board and leaders in our community and our district that are now all working to strengthen our educational system. Our main goal is helping our students prepare for a lifetime of opportunities, and I felt that for my own children who are now all grown and have benefited from the great education here.”

Dakil and her husband, Edward, have three children: Sam, Will and Caroline. Sam and his wife, Niki, live in California; Will and his wife, Connelly, are in Norman; and Caroline and her husband, Tyler Allen, and son, Carter, live in Edmond. Dakil said her family has always been supportive of the foundation and loved that she was involved with their schools. Although she earned a business degree from the University of Arkansas and initially worked in that field, Dakil felt a draw to teaching when she started tutoring. The second oldest out of six kids, Dakil also recalled helping care for her younger siblings while growing up.


NPS Gra d u a tio ns Once again SportsTalk Media is partnering with Norman Public Schools to broadcast the Class of 2021 graduation ceremonies for Norman High and Norman North. Families and friends can watch to the celebrations planned to take place on Thursday, May 27 and Friday, May 28, respectively, at 7 p.m. at Harve Collins Stadium.

Alesha Leemaster, current executive director of communications and community relations for Norman Public Schools, will fill the executive director role upon Dakil’s retirement, joining the foundation’s associate director, Katie Merrick. According to Dr. Nick Migliorino, superintendent of the Norman Public School District, Dakil is a giving soul who “has a true heart for kids and teachers” and wants “everyone to have the opportunity to be the best they can be.” “The foundation truly is a complement to everything we do in Norman Public Schools,” he explained. “Without the foundation, we would not be as successful as we are, internally and externally. Jenny has created a model of foundations that districts around the United States want to copy and want to be like. To say that her impact has just been on Norman Public Schools in the classrooms with the teacher grants and those things is an understatement. That’s the beginning, and the impact generationally those gifts to the teachers have made on students is not measurable.” Former superintendent Dr. Joe Siano said Dakil brought strength, stability and creativeness to her role. During Siano’s time in Norman, the demographics of the community and the school district began to change, and he said Dakil and the foundation were intentional about providing programs and opportunities that aligned with the district’s needs. “There was never any motivation that Jenny had other than serving students, serving the community and providing opportunities for teachers that maybe weren’t there had it not been for the foundation,” Siano said. Nathan Lockhart, president of the NPSF’s Board of Directors, echoed these thoughts. “Jenny is a servant leader who has poured her heart and soul into building the Norman Public School Foundation into an organization that today is a model across the state and beyond,” Lockhart said. “For more than 30 years, she has dedicated her career to serving Norman students and teachers and as a result, millions of dollars have been invested in classrooms across the community to enrich learning experiences for our youth. I am incredibly grateful for her service to the foundation and for everything she has done to support public education in Oklahoma.” – BSM 18 | May 2021

“Graduations are always such an exciting part of the school year and after a challenging year we cannot wait to celebrate our wonderful seniors with safe, in-person ceremonies,” shared Superintendent Dr. Nick Migliorino. “We are so grateful to SportsTalk for their continued partnership that allows us to stream these events so that friends and family everywhere can take part in these momentous occasions.” Since the ceremonies are being held outdoors, inclement weather backup dates are planned for Saturday, May 29 and Sunday, May 30. Viewers can find the streams on the district website,, and Facebook page, @NormanPublicSchools.


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What’s Next for Norman NEXT? Young professionals group supports community and cultivates economic opportunity amidst pandemic challenges


he young professionals with Norman NEXT haven’t let the pandemic get in the way of accomplishing their goals. A spin-off program of the Norman Chamber of Commerce, Norman NEXT began in 2008 to bring together young professionals, 21 to 40-years-old working or living in the Norman community, seeking involvement in social networking, government relations, community activism and leadership development. With the mission to be the leading influence in making Norman a community where young professionals want to be, NEXT created a mentorship program to connect young professional with prominent members of the community. The goal is to provide an opportunity for mentees to gain insight into career paths, community engagement and/or professional growth. NEXT members also receive a discounted membership to the Norman Chamber of Commerce. Despite being an organization centered on cultivating connections, Shavonne Evans, 2020 Norman NEXT board chair, said the pandemic didn’t affect NEXT in a negative way. “One of our board leaders, Matt Allen, already had us on a social media strategy so we were already well versed,” she shared. “Then we began using Facebook Live to host some music nights.” “We also paired with a local restaurant who offered a special. Our members could log on to our Norman NEXT Facebook and watch the Tiny Concert Series which is similar to NPRs Tiny Desk concerts.” Evans said NEXT hosted local artists once a week and members listened to music from the comfort of their home.

22 | May 2021

“Everyone commented and people requested songs because they knew the local artists,” Evans said. “It was like attending a real concert in the most unlikely way and it was all interactive.” 2021 Board Chair Tyler McManaman said NEXT pivoted during the pandemic by doubling down on social media efforts and focusing on projects within the community that met an immediate need. “We highlighted non-profits a lot last year making sure their name was still out there because they weren’t receiving as many donations,” McManaman said. “Our hope was to share attention with them so they could continue to thrive and come out of the pandemic as intact as possible, just like us.” With the pandemic winding down, McManaman said leadership has noticed that people are zoomed out and were excited to have their first in-person event April 22, an outdoor function to continue to be as safe as possible. “Coming out of the pandemic we continue to build on our foundation and hit the ground running with the many new followers as we have,” McManaman said. Incoming Board Chair Kelly Sitzman said the present and future of NEXT is bright. “NEXT has some big goals – goals that will take time and a village to see through and I’m so excited to help carry those forward and build on that vision,” she said. “The more people we have on our team, the more we can accomplish to better our city.” Sitzman said she is honored to be a leader in Norman NEXT and serve alongside incredible young professionals in the community.

BY: ROXANNE AVERY “I am following some big footsteps and look forward to continuing the momentum we have going as an organization with our virtual presence, innovative events, civic engagement and nonprofit support,” she said. “Coming out of the pandemic, we learned more people want to be outside, so we are actively making progress with the state of Oklahoma on improvements for the eco-tourism at Lake Thunderbird,” McManaman added. This goal includes helping make Lake Thunderbird a regional destination for eco-tourism with more parks and playgrounds, dedicated paddleboard and kayak areas, a restaurant, a floating stage for live performances, more hiking and biking trails and updating the ADA walking trail. “To help promote Lake Thunderbird, our Summerfest event this year will be held there to help promote and rebrand the lake,” McManaman said. “We are accomplishing this through local partners like Cleveland County, Visit Norman, the Norman Chamber of Commerce and the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, along with other local community members.” McManaman said other activities NEXT plans to offer coming out of the pandemic include a Friday night spotlight on a local business that will give them a 90-second commercial on social media. An inaugural brewery competition, NEXT on Tap, is being planned for later this year. There are currently seven breweries in Norman with an eighth opening in a couple of months. With teams meeting regularly and all programs going strong, the leadership of Norman NEXT is looking forward to exciting new programs and opportunities for young professionals

in the coming years. Evans said her personal goal with NEXT is to continue to engage with people her age who want to continue living in Norman. “I have children here. I am making life-long friendships and business partnerships with people who have a common goal which is to make Norman better. And I want us to all grow old together,” she said. “Norman NEXT is actively working to make positive change in our community and take action toward building the best place to live, work and play,” Sitzman said. “I encourage anyone who is ready to make a difference to take that step and join us.” If you are interested in joining or want to learn more about Norman NEXT, visit – BSM


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Sherri Coale


he University of Oklahoma basketball programs are in the midst of a change of leadership. Lon Kruger and Sherri Coale, head coaches for the men’s and women’s teams, respectively, both announced that the 2020-2021 college basketball seasons would be their last at the helm. After lengthy careers, both Coale and Kruger are stepping into retirement. Over the course of 25 years leading women’s basketball at OU, Coale has accumulated more than 500 wins, 20 postseason appearances, including 19 consecutive NCAA tournaments, and is honored as a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Kruger spent the last ten years of his 45-year coaching career at OU, earning the honor to be the first coach to take five different schools to the NCAA tournament, including a Final Four berth with OU in 2016. He was honored with the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2019. Honorees of the prestigious award are selected based on their high standard of coaching success both on and off the court. Even with impressive careers spanning decades and coaching a multitude of players who went on to successful careers in the professional ranks, when reflecting on the end of an era, both coaches pointed to the privilege to influence student-athletes beyond the game of basketball as the aspect they will miss the most.

28 | May 2021

“Athletics is such a great training ground, not just in basketball but across the board,” Kruger said, in an interview with Toby Rowland on SportsTalk 1400. “Our goal was to help them leave the University of Oklahoma ready to be successful and effective, not just as basketball players but as contributors to a community, or as fathers or husbands, and that’s really the fun part of it.” Coale said she recognized the powerful opportunity her role provided as a young head coach at Norman High School. “I love teaching and mentoring young people,” she shared. “I recognized the opportunity I had in a rich community like Norman. I tried to weave our program into the fabric of our community and that turned out to be so rewarding and nourished my players. It is a magical thing when you can engage the heart, there becomes a real investment and connection.” The investment both coaches put in their relationships with their players has had a ripple effect within the Norman community and within OU basketball. That idea that being a Sooner is more than playing basketball begins from the moment they are introduced to the basketball program. “Our recruiting pitch, you’re talking about people,” Kruger explained. “How you want them to do well and enjoy the experience once they get here. It always goes back to people.” As a Healdton native who went on the play basketball at



Lon Kruger

Oklahoma Christian College, Coale’s bonds to the Norman community developed naturally. For Lon Kruger, whose career has taken him places such as Florida, New York and Las Vegas, his connection to Norman came from what it represented to him and his family. “Barb and I grew up in Kansas and Norman reminded us of home… how friendly people are, how they help however they can,” he said. Beyond their roles with University of Oklahoma’s basketball programs, both coaches have been active participants with many community programs. The past 15 years, Sooner head coaches have participated in the annual coaches luncheon benefiting the Mary Abbott Children’s House, a non-profit organization that helps children who have experienced abuse or neglect or who have witnessed a crime or are in a drug endangered situation. The annual event gets fans excited about the upcoming season and brings awareness and support for the programs and services the organization provides. “Mary Abbott Children’s House is immensely grateful for the impact Coach Coale and Coach Kruger have had on our agency,” Andree’ Danley said, Abbott House’s executive director. “Coach Coale has participated in our annual Coaches’ Luncheon since its inception 15 years ago, and quickly

involved Coach Kruger 10 years ago when he arrived at OU. “As highly respected and influential members in our community, they have shared Abbott House’s message far and wide. They have invested in not only the Abbott House and our mission, but the lives of every child who has walked through our doors.” Barb Kruger also served on the board of directors for the Abbott House and Coach Kruger has been actively involved in the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer initiative that promotes cancer awareness and healthy living. He received the 2012 Coaches vs. Cancer Champion Award for his efforts with the Coaches vs. Cancer Las Vegas Golf Classic Coale and her teams have been involved in a variety of community programs from volunteering with Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity, participating in the Sooner Big Sis program with Norman elementary schools as well as helping with Special Olympics and Race for the Cure to name a few. Coach Coale has been an advocate for the Stephenson Cancer Center and the Nicole Jarvis Parkinson’s Research Foundation, two activities she plans to continue into her retirement. “I hope to stay very involved in things like the cancer center, the Parkinson Gala, Mary Abbott house,” she said. She also plans to spend time with her family and take time to enjoy some of her other passions. BOYD STREET MAGAZINE | 29

“I love to read and write, work in my garden, to play tennis,” Coale said. Coale said she is grateful for her time at OU and for the community’s support of women’s basketball. “I have been so blessed that I have been able to spend my career in a community like Norman,” she said. “It’s such a special place to live, raise a family and run a basketball program. I am so grateful. I want this community to know just how much I appreciate everything… to thank everyone who has supported me on every side.” Kruger had similar sentiments about retirement. He explained that a desire to spend more time with children and grandchildren play a part in his decision to retire. “Retirement came a bit earlier than expected,” Kruger shared. “When Lew Hill passed away, that got Barb and I talking and then Kevin got the job at UNLV and that just set things in motion.” Kruger said that he and Barb are honored to be a part of the Sooner family and will continue to support the university and the Norman community. “Barb and I appreciate the warmth and hospitality over the 10 years,” he said. “They have passed quickly but Norman will always feel like home whether we are living here or visiting.” – BSM

30 | May 2021

United Way of Norman

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Loveworks Leadership

Inspiring positive change, one student at a time


ultivating tomorrow’s leadership begins today, with outreach that matters. Loveworks Leadership is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young people and helping them learn to help themselves, no matter what cultural or socioeconomic background they identify with as individuals. “Loveworks started as an afterschool program but it has grown from there,” said Carolyn Le, associate director. “Over the last 10 years, we have also grown as an organization and found out what we do best. We are a leadership organization dedicated to instilling character and a foundation of values.” More than 12,000 students have participated in Loveworks since it began in 2011. Opportunities have expanded to include entrepreneurship and to include a span of child and youth development, from a storytime experience appropriate for all ages to business projects aimed at older teens. Although Loveworks started as a middle school-oriented program, it became apparent that younger children could benefit from its approach. Cost varies depending on the specific program a student decides to participate in. Some, such as Raising Little Leaders, a

36 | May 2021

story-based program appropriate for even the youngest learners, is available without charge. Summer camp and other opportunities range in fees, with some scholarships available. Based in Norman, Loveworks works as a partner with many local entities, like Norman Public Schools but also works with students who are homeschooled and from different school districts, such as Moore and Noble. Program options are open to any student who can be present to participate. Loveworks is values-based but not affiliated with any particular philosophical or religious orientation. Le began volunteering in 2013 as an OU student majoring in botany/plant biology. She made an important life pivot to fill a role as operations manager before being promoted to assistant director. Executive Director Michael Hirsch currently leads the organization. Loveworks is made possible by a variety of sponsors, including private individuals, former families whose children have benefited from its lessons, members of the community and business owners. Sponsors, which include monthly donors, are referred to as “The Village,” based on the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child.”

BY: CALLIE COLLINS “We are here for students with life lessons at a critical time, not just in their development but also where we are right now with the pandemic,” said Le. “Fifth, sixth and seventh grades, for example, are hard years sometimes. Any way you do it, those upper elementary and early middle school grades can be difficult. Especially with conditions being what they are, logging onto YouTube and watching TV may be what kids those ages are doing more and more. Not that those activities are bad, just that we help students see they are intentionally influencing themselves positively or negatively through daily choices. Loveworks is not a daycare but we’ve got every single minute planned from 3 to 6 p.m.”

A community garden project is the latest initiative students are collaborating on, with the opportunity to sell produce through Norman Farm Market. Vegetables the students are growing now exceed their own needs.

Entrepreneurship is one aspect of the program that has garnered recognition. REAL Kitchen is the business for which Loveworks is most known. Through a series of fortunate events, including a chef turned volunteer who gave up his best salsa recipe and the presence of a retired grocery broker, students worked together to produce, perfect and market a product now available at certain Crest and Homeland store locations.

The appeal of a diverse range of programming is also an important part of Loveworks.

During that process, students ages 11 to 14 learned about bottling, labeling and business mechanics, including how to find a co-packer that now produces the actual salsa even as students continue related work. A new shelf-stable salsa is now the next stage of that plan. Even though the first groups of students have now moved to future life stages of early adulthood, REAL Kitchen continues, as do other entrepreneur-themed activities. “It’s never too early to start with your leadership growth and going after your dreams,” said Le. “Dream big but put dreams into action. If a student is interested in the entrepreneurship side, they can really try it out. Participation has resulted in students starting businesses but the hope is really that entrepreneurship mindset: determination, grit and not being afraid to fail. Ultimately, we are creating leaders who continue to do things that better the world around them.” The Business Boot Up Program for ages 8 to 15 has resulted in six separate youth-driven businesses. What starts with a business idea goes through all that is required to get it to marketability, with skills like how to balance a budget, determine feasibility and more.

“In 2019, we had more than 900 pounds that came out of the ground,” said Le. “We were using vegetables for snacks, sending them home for dinner with students. It’s so much and now, we can’t possibly keep track of how many pounds. The Norman Farm Market helped us out when we launched the first bottles of salsa and that entrepreneurial connection has come full circle.”

“There are kids who are not great at sports. They don’t play an instrument. There are kids who do not know what they are particularly outstanding at until they get a chance to find out,” said Le. “Try culinary, try robotics, try something else, for six weeks. Work on a project. Get real hands-on experience and find out if that’s for you. There is no need to wait until middle school. With Loveworks, you are never too young to start. If you can get here, we can help you learn and go after your dreams.” High school students can also participate in community impact projects one day a week with a national high school program sponsored by Chick-Fil-A. They also volunteer with younger students on-site, something those going through the program have to look forward to as older students. Internships for college students are also available. “Leadership happens through hands-on experiential learning,” said Le. “Through servant leadership, you can serve the community. Apply those skills and change the world.” Find out more at – BSM

Loveworks’ Rosser Memorial Golf Tourney

Loveworks is hosting the Rosser Memorial Golf Tourney, formerly the Interurban Golf Classic, on June 14. For the past nine years, the tournament has benefitted Loveworks Leadership, an organization supported by Rusty Loeffler and the late Robert Ross, co-owner of the local restaurant chain who passed away in January. “We have chosen to honor my friend and partner of 50 years, an avid golfer, by renaming our charity golf tournament, the Rosser Memorial Golf Tourney,” Rusty Loeffler said. “Rosser was very proud of Interurban’s partnership with Loveworks.” The annual tournament also features a Helicopter Golf Ball Drop, a fun way golfers and non-golfers can support the event together. The first ball to land in a hole or the ball closest to the hole could win $500 or more! Sign up at loveworksleaderships. org/events.

Monthy non-profit story presented by:

Norman Stamp & Seal 110 S University Blvd •



A Legacy of Success Norman North head baseball coach Brian Aylor earns 400th win


orman North head baseball coach Brian Aylor notched another career milestone when his Timberwolves beat Moore, 9-5, back in March. That win represented Aylor’s 400th as a head coach in Class 6A. “It’s been a long journey. I never in my life thought that I would be coaching high school baseball and be a part of that many baseball games,” Aylor said. “Personally, I’m proud of the consistency that we’ve had over my seventeen years. To be able to average 25-plus wins a year for that many years in a row shows that whatever we’re doing is working.” Norman public schools district athletic director T.D. O’Hara celebrated the achievement. “Any time you get to that number it means that you represent a lot of good things and have a lot of qualities that are required to be a coach at the 6A level,” O’Hara shared. “He takes his profession and his job seriously each day. He takes pride in what he does. He invests time, energy and effort into the kids. He understands the importance of overall development of our student athletes and our baseball players. He takes a lot of satisfaction in the growth that each individual has made under his direction and guidance.” During his tenure at North, 15 players have been selected to the Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State team, 75 have played collegiate baseball and four players have been drafted by Major League Baseball. “I’ve been very fortunate,” Aylor said. “I’ve had a lot of great players come through this program. I’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches… a lot of great parent groups, great administration. There’s so many factors into winning baseball games other than just what I can do.”

40 | May 2021

Aylor said the success has been humbling. He took over the Timberwolves’ program in 2005 after a playing career in which he earned all Big Eight centerfielder honors at Oklahoma State and spent four seasons in the New York Yankees organization. Since he’s guided the Timberwolves to seven regional championships, four district championships, three conference championships and a state runner-up finish in 2013. “When I got into this and got here I thought I’d be here a few years and maybe move onto something else,” he shared. “For whatever reason, I’ve been here and stayed here and have developed something that I am proud of. I hope the people in the community feel the same way.” Successful coaches, in any sport, often trade free time in order to develop players, study film and all the other things it takes to win at the highest level. He notes that those close to him in his life have sacrificed, too. “There’s been a lot of sacrifices in my life, personally and professionally, to be able to attain a goal like this,” he said. “My fiancé, my two little girls, It’s more than just what I’ve done. They’re the ones that have to deal with the losses when I come home. Coaching is twenty-four-seven. There’s no off button. When you’re dealing with everyone’s most prized possession, which is their child, it can be draining mentally and emotionally. “To have done it for over twenty years now as an assistant and a head coach, there’s been a lot of long nights. Even though I achieved the 400, it still feels like a team thing.” When he joined the program, Norman North baseball was still searching for its first winning season. Within a year, Aylor

BY: JOSH HELMER had the Timberwolves playing in the state tournament. “It was a big transition, big turnaround quickly,” he said, reflecting on that first run to state. “I was really fortunate to have a really good group of sophomore players that were becoming juniors we were able to build upon.” On-field successes aside, the overall growth of the program under his leadership might be what Aylor is most proud of. “Everything’s changed. The whole facility has changed,” Aylor said. “You look at where we were and where we are now. From a facility standpoint, you look at the improvements that have been made over the seventeen years, from the practice field to the indoor, to the turf infield, to the storage facility, to the concession stand. It’s a completely different place than it was seventeen years ago. “I’ve always believed it was my job to leave this place better than I found it. When the day comes that it’s time to maybe go a different path in my life, I hope that I can leave here and feel like I’ve done that.”– BSM



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Coaches Photos courtesy: Ty Russell/OU Athletics


or the first time since 1980 and only the third time in school history, the University of Oklahoma found itself in the market for both a men’s and women’s basketball coach. Not since the hiring of Maura McHugh and Billy Tubbs had the Sooners been challenged with hiring both a men’s and women’s coach. It was a unique challenge and one Sooner athletic director Joe Castiglione attacked head-first. “It’s part of my job and I love doing my job,” Castiglione said. “In that sense, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s all part of the true joy of doing my job.” His challenge was large enough, replacing two legends, but the timeline was accelerated with the need to build a roster and recruit. “The importance of trying to get this done in a reasonably short period of time was really high on the list,” Castiglione said. Castiglione tapped Porter Moser to take over for Lon Kruger and a week later chose Jenny Baranczyk to replace the legendary Sherri Coale. Moser made a name for himself by leading underdog Loyola-Chicago to the Final Four in 2018 while Baranczyk built Drake into a powerhouse in the Missouri Valley Conference. As Moser was introduced to the Sooner Nation, his energy and enthusiasm were contagious.

46 | May 2021

“I have so much respect for Coach Kruger,” Moser said in his introductory press conference. “He’s one of the icons of our profession. The fact that he was at Oklahoma shows that OU covets character. He’s everything that young coaches should aspire to. He’s all about winning the right way. I look forward to continuing that blueprint and continuing the blueprint we had at Loyola: winning the right way.” After Kruger announced his retirement, Moser jumped to the top of the prospective candidates. Over the last four seasons at Loyola University Chicago, Moser has claimed three regular-season Missouri Valley Conference titles, won six NCAA Tournament games, secured two Sweet 16 berths, and reached the 2018 Final Four. During that stretch, Moser has totaled a record of 99-36 (.733) – tied for the 10th most wins by a Division I head coach since the start of the 2017-18 season. “I’m thrilled to join a program that is so focused on culture, people and excellence,” Moser said enthusiastically at the first in-person press conference at Oklahoma in over a year. “I’m looking forward to diving in and building relationships with our players, the other coaches and the OU community.” Moser led the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago to a 26-5 record last season. His team eliminated No. 1-seeded Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16. In 10 seasons with the Ramblers, Moser won 188 games and advanced to the postseasons in three of the last four years, only falling short during the COVID shortened 2019-20 season.

But Moser did have a challenging four-year stint as the head coach at Illinois State. After finishing three of his four seasons with a record under .500, Moser was fired. But, instead of making excuses or allowing it to end his career, Moser took an assistant job with St. Louis University under Rick Majerus and it changed his life and career trajectory. “There began another part of God’s plan and what I’ve learned… Majerus was one of the best basketball minds I’ve ever been around,” Moser said. “I sat in a board room and watched his mind turn and twist and pivot and talk about game planning. I saw his attention to detail, how he did skill development, the things he stood for and how he treated my family, how he ran the program. I couldn’t have learned more. When Loyola came, he put his arm around me and said, ‘you have to go – that job is perfect for you. Go and build a program.” Moser ended up spending four seasons with Majerus before eventually taking the job at Loyola-Chicago. In 2012, Majerus passed away after a lengthy battle with heart issues. “We lost him too early,” Moser said. “If he were here the last three weeks, he would have put his arm around me and said, ‘you’ve got to go to Oklahoma. That’s a perfect fit for you Porter.” Moser now knows he can take advantage of the overall reputation of Oklahoma basketball and Sooner athletics. “Everybody knows what OU is,” Moser said. “I mean, it’s a household brand. People are so excited. I can’t wait to learn and be a part of that and definitely use that and sell that excitement of togetherness with our recruits.” Now, much like Jennifer Baranczyk, Moser is challenged to make

48 | May 2021

an impact in one of the best conferences in college basketball against some of the biggest coaching names in the industry. “I look forward to it,” Moser said, “because I’ve been on that stage, too. And I’m not going to take a backseat — and I think there are some of the best coaches in this league, top to bottom.” While embracing the challenge of the Big 12, Moser must also rebuild a roster that has been decimated by transfers. The Sooners have started to rebuild the roster with the addition of Eastern Washington transfers Tanner and Jacob Groves and Duke transfer Jordan Goldwire. The work is exciting, but nowhere near done. “We’re going to have to build it,” Moser said. “We’re going to have to get in here and finish out the roster. We have to continue to develop the players that are coming back… But

no question about the challenge, no question about how good the Big 12 is. Some established programs — as we just saw one win a national championship. But that’s the fun of it. That’s what’s drawn me to be here, to play at the highest level and win the right way.” One week after announcing the hiring of Moser, Castiglione looked again to the Missouri Valley Conference to find the replacement for a legend. Jennifer Baranczyk was hired as the new women’s basketball coach after amassing a 192-96 (.667) record at Drake and leading the Bulldogs to six consecutive 20-win seasons (2014-15 through 2019-20) and to three NCAA tournament berths (2017-19). A two-time Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year, Baranczyk .667 winning percentage ranks fifth in the league’s history. While she did not work with Moser in the Missouri Valley conference, she was familiar with what the former Loyola-Chicago coach had brought to the conference. She couldn’t exactly mask her enthusiasm for getting to work alongside Moser. “He is great,” Baranczyk said. “He’s got great energy, he’s so supportive. He has a daughter that plays basketball and so I think that’s something that’s unique as well. And so, I told him — the five seconds that we’ve talked — there’ll be no bigger cheerleader than me, and I know that will be reciprocated.” “To work with somebody like that is also a dream come true,” she added. “Because when you have a group of coaches that support each other, love each other and care about each other, and you have university and administrative support, then really great things tend to find you. And that’s what’s going to continue to happen here in Oklahoma.”

As a player, Baranczyk, known as Jennie Lillis, was a threetime All-Big Ten selection at Iowa. As a senior, she averaged 16.0 points and 6.2 rebounds and helped the Hawkeyes reach the NCAA Tournament for the third time in her four years. After her playing career, Baranczyk started her coaching career in the Big 12 as an assistant at Kansas State. After stops at Marquette and Colorado as an assistant, she was hired as the head coach at Drake in 2012 and took the program to unprecedented heights. “I love basketball and there’s nothing better than being part of a team,” Baranczyk said at her introductory press conference. “Because when you’re part of a team, you get to work together for something great. We did that when I played at Iowa. We did that at Drake. And we’re going to do that here.” At Oklahoma, Baranczyk inherits a roster that battled through adversity last season to put themselves in a position to potentially make the NCAA Tournament. Taylor Robertson is one of the best shooters in the country and has continued to develop into a complete basketball player. Maddie Williams has continued to provide match-up nightmares in the Big 12 and the return of Ana Llanusa could put Oklahoma in a position to be much improved. “There’s a lot of talent here in Oklahoma,” she said. “We want people that want to come here that are incredibly talented. There’s talent here, right? But they live and die this, and they were born Sooners. Those are the people that we want. “We want to open the doors for little girls to come in here, grow up here, look at these women and want to become them — and then actually take on that step later in life where they do become an Oklahoma Sooner women’s basketball player.” – BSM

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Shaping the future of fitness 52 | May 2021



exGen Fitness’s unique model sets a new standard in the fitness industry. Clients of NexGen Fitness work out in private suites with individual trainers and clients can expect an entirely customized experience, regardless of skill level. “It’s very much a whole-person approach to the plan,” shares Nate Ellis, co-owner of the establishment. Training staff work with clients to develop workouts, a cardio plan and a modified diet as needed. They work to provide whatever support is necessary to help people make fundamental changes to their overall health so they can obtain their desired results. “We have quality people with quality credentials, and on top of that they make you feel so welcome,” shared co-owner Shelly Ellis. “That hooked me as a client. I felt like they were more excited to have me there than I was to be there. There’s never any judgment, and they want to help.” Nate and Shelly Ellis are celebrating one year in business, after they acquired their Norman location a year ago, but their NexGen journey began long before that. Their family’s positive experience with the NexGen Fitness model inspired them to make the move from being devoted clients to owners. Their oldest daughter, Gabi Coleman, has always been passionate about exercise and working with people. While attend-

ing as a client and then interning at NexGen Fitness during college, she encouraged her parents to join to improve their health. Before long, the entire family had become members. “We loved the model and the personal attention and knowing that the trainers were there for us and our health. It felt like a family there,” Shelly explained. Shelly recently faced a battle with breast cancer that started a year ago in January. She had a great support and friend network but was astounded at the support she received as a client from the NexGen family. They made pink NexGen shirts that were purchased by many other clients who wanted to help. “It’s not just about the results that you get but this sense that these people truly cared about me, my family and my health,” shared Shelly. “That piece of the business sets them apart. Everyone, from the trainers to those at the corporate level, has service hearts.” They were so impressed by NexGen that when the owner, Brian Andrews, had the opportunity to expand nationally at the corporate level, the couple decided to take over the Norman and Edmond locations. Despite the challenges of doing business in a pandemic, they even expanded and opened a location in Tulsa.


Gabi is now the regional manager and in charge of business development for the three locations. She has done a lot of the heavy lifting in opening the Tulsa center and getting Norman and Edmond back open. “It’s been exciting to walk through this opportunity with Gabi and see her leadership skills blossom. It’s been really exciting to be involved in that and see how good she is at it,” Nate shared. “It’s a proud parent moment,” Shelly added. Nate said they are looking for quality trainers to join their team. “We’re always looking for quality trainers,” he explained. “That’s the foundation of our business.” Additionally, the couple plans to continue to look at expansion opportunities. “NexGen has put a lot of care and effort into designing their model and put all of the systems and procedures into place to be able to effectively operate on a large scale. It’s an exciting opportunity to be involved in the positive impact… and see that opportunity expand all over Oklahoma and who knows, maybe beyond,” Nate said. Shelly encouraged anyone with interest to give the studio a call to set up a free session. Prospective clients can set up a complimentary tour and a free 45-minute session to determine if NexGen Fitness is the right fit for them.

“At the end of the day, we feel pretty lucky to have this opportunity, especially in communities like Norman, Edmond and Tulsa, where there are other Oklahomans that really pick each other up when they need it,” Shelly shared. “Any time we can do something that betters a community, we feel pretty honored.” Nate and Shelly are the proud parents of four: Gabi and Jake Coleman and Kylie and Will Ellis. Shelly also works at the Oklahoma State Department of Education as the deputy superintendent of student support. She has been a science teacher, middle school counselor, assistant principal and principal. Nate is a bond attorney and a partner with The Public Finance Law Group in Oklahoma City. He worked at the Water Resources Board as staff attorney before joining the firm. To learn more about NexGen Fitness, visit–BSM

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Premier Healthcare

New independent clinic prioritizes patient wellness care with holistic approach


ptimal patient healthcare is at the forefront of Roy Slootheer and Amber N. Redding-Slootheer’s approach as they strive to care for their community. Both are board-certified family nurse practitioners that recently opened a new clinic located near 119th & Western in Southwest Oklahoma City. The couple has practiced for years and decided to take their experience and knowledge to a new level by creating their own practice, putting an emphasis on wellness care. “We treat the whole person: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health combined,” shared Amber. “Every aspect is important for overall health.” The husband-and-wife team blends traditional medicine with a holistic approach focusing on preventative care through diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle. The goal is to use medication as needed but to help patients reduce and perhaps even stop the need for medication through lifestyle changes. They seek to treat the root of the need with a long-term healthy life. The clinic is unique in that they are independent and not attached to any large corporations. An added benefit is that they can refer patients to any hospital or specialist necessary, regardless of their affiliation. Additionally, the clinic offers same-day appointments, treating everything from minor injuries to COVID testing, with evening and weekend hours to accommodate traditional working hours. This allows them to build longer-lasting relationships with patients to continue to treat their needs.

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“When we previously worked in urgent care, we had many patients ask us if we could see them as their primary care provider, but we couldn’t in that setting so we decided to open a primary care clinic where we could offer that for all patients,” Amber explained. Rather than seeing six to eight patients an hour, the duo allots time to see only three to four each to provide individualized quality time. With extended clinic hours, patients can expect to be seen the same day typically and walk-ins are welcome as well, with online booking and a patient portal available. “I think that primary care is unique in the fact that you can care for the whole family. People stay with you for years and you get to know them really well and be with them through life changes and see kids grow up. I really like helping people focus more on their health and disease prevention rather than waiting until something is wrong,” shared Amber. When scheduling appointments, they accommodate patients’ comfort levels by asking their preference of gender in provider. Having both a male and female provider allows them to be sensitive to those needs, something they learned through their years in nursing. “We want to make everyone feel as comfortable as we can,” said Amber. “Stepping out on our own and taking a chance on our own privately-owned clinic has been a big step. We can take care of patients in the way we want to without having a big corporation tell us how we have to do it. It’s been a big challenge and a lot of work.”

BY: RAE LYNN PAYTON The clinic opened in November of 2020 and long-term goals include providing great care for their community. Their modern clinic is full of natural window light, with a bright, clean and inviting atmosphere to make patients feel right at home. The couple enjoys and appreciates their unique opportunity to get to work alongside each other as they do what they love. “We want to use the blessings that we’ve been given to bless the community around us,” they shared. They are involved in the area chambers and donate to St. Jude and March of Dimes, focusing on cancer organizations and those that help children. As a nurse, Amber worked in women’s health, mom and baby postpartum and labor and delivery at OU Medical and as a recovery nurse at Dean McGee Eye Surgery Center. As a nurse practitioner, she practiced in emergency medicine, pediatric surgery and urgent care. Roy has experience as a volunteer firefighter and paramedic specialist, ER nurse and as a nurse practitioner in urgent care, emergency and trauma care and thoracic oncology surgery. The couple met while attending Graceland University where they both graduated with honors with their Master of Science in Nursing. They both enjoy fitness, traveling, watching movies and spending time with their three children, family and friends. To learn more about their services or to book an appointment, visit or call 405-735-3135. –BSM




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May is National Osteoporosis Month

Orthopedic nurse practitioner brings awareness about the importance of bone health


steoporosis is a medical term that defines levels of bone loss. While some bone loss is a natural part of aging, too much bone loss can lead to life-changing injuries, cautioned Kasey DeGuisti, a nurse practitioner with Ortho Central.

not seem like a serious concern, however, DeGuisti said that these injuries can significantly affect quality of life and, for some, can be life-threatening, which was a motivating factor in why Ortho Central established their Bone Health and Osteoporosis treatment program.

“We reach peak bone age at around 25,” DeGuisti explained. “Our bone age is not going to look the same at age 65 as at 25. Bones with osteoporosis look different. They are soft, thin and brittle.”

“Our bone health clinic was started because our surgeons see poor bone health every day and they wanted to take steps to prevent patients from ending up on their operating table,” she explained. “Patients have to deal with pain, surgery, delayed healing, being less active, posture issues and those can become a waterfall progression.”

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), an estimated 54 million Americans have or are at a high risk of developing osteoporosis. “Osteoporosis is a silent disease,” DeGuisti said. “Most people don’t realize how common it is. One in two women and one in four men will have a fracture in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.” The disease is responsible for an estimated two million broken bones each year. On the surface, a bone fracture might 62 | May 2021

The NOF confirms that one-quarter of hip fracture patients end up in nursing homes and half never regain previous function. A quarter of patients age 50 and over with hip fractures due to osteoporosis die in the year following the fracture. DeGuisti works as a bone health clinic provider, managing the clinic’s bone health and osteoporosis treatment program. After spending several years of her 12-year nursing career working with surgeons and seeing firsthand the negative ef-

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fects of poor bone health, she now helps patients with prevention, an area she feels is not getting the attention needed to save lives. Screenings are an important first step and the clinic offers inhouse bone density screenings that take as little as 45 minutes.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis • Over 50

“When a patient comes in for an appointment, we start with a history and a bone density scan that day,” DeGuisti said. “We go over the results with you and discuss treatment options. We can talk about conservation treatments like nutrition and exercise and we can talk about medication.”

• Postmenopausal - surgical or natural

“If you are over 65 and a female, Medicare covers a bone density check, over 70 for men,” she added.

• Endocrine diseases like diabetes

There are things everyone at any age can do to protect their bone health, including making sure you get enough calcium, vitamin D and protein to prevent bone loss and regularly incorporating weight-bearing activities like walking or running. DeGuisti also recommends being proactive with your screenings and getting your vitamin D level checked through your primary care physician.

• Long-term medication use such as steroid, acid reflux or seizure medications

To learn more about the bone health and osteoporosis treatment program at Ortho Central, visit bone-health-clinic or call 405-515-8094. – BSM

• Adults who have had treatment for breast or prostate cancer

• Low testosterone in men • Inactive lifestyle or inability to be active • Vitamin D deficiency or low calcium • Autoimmune disorders

• Family history • Smoking, excessive alcohol use • Low body weight

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Preparing Financially for a New Baby


ongratulations! You’ve just gotten the positive pregnancy test results and you’re breathless with excitement — and nerves. Or maybe you’re a few months along, and the mild panic is growing right along with the baby bump. Regardless, a baby means big changes, and some of those changes bring many new expenses. How will you pay for it all? Whether you’re only thinking about having a baby, or your due date is fast approaching, there’s no need to stress about finances. By taking the necessary measures today, you can learn to cover these new expenses without falling into debt. Here are some steps you can take to prepare financially for a new baby:

PAY DOWN DEBT There’s more than just a nursery to set up before your baby’s arrival. It’s best to get your finances in order to make it easier to manage all new expenses and prepare for your child’s future. If this involves getting rid of a mountain of debt, you can choose between these two debt-kicking plans: The snowball method involves maximizing your payments toward your smallest debt balance first. Once it’s paid off, move on to the next-smallest debt, “snowballing” the payment from your previous debt into this one until it’s paid off, and repeating until you’re completely debt-free. The avalanche method involves maximizing payments toward the debt with the highest interest rate and then moving on to the one with the second-highest interest rate until all debts are paid off.

ADJUST YOUR MONTHLY BUDGET Babies don’t come cheap. When your little one arrives, you’ll need to spring for baby gear and furniture, a new wardrobe, diapers and possibly child care as well. According to the USDA’s most recent report on the cost of raising a child, the average middle-income family will spend approximately $12,350-$13,900 on child-related expenses before their baby’s first birthday. Most of these expenses will be ongoing, and it’s best to make room in your budget for these new items before the baby is born. Spend some time reviewing your monthly budget to look for ways to cut back on spending and give you that wiggle room to cover baby-related expenses.

SET UP A BABY ACCOUNT All those baby expenses can be overwhelming, but if you break them down into bite-sized pieces, they’ll be easier to manage. You can do this by putting away some money for baby costs as soon as you plan on having a baby or find out 68 | May 2021

you’re expecting. Consider setting up a new savings account for all baby expenses to keep this money separate from other savings. You may also want to automate these savings by setting up a monthly transfer from your payroll or checking account to your “baby account.”

ESTIMATE PRENATAL CARE AND DELIVERY COSTS While exact amounts vary by state and by insurance provider, prenatal care and delivery can cost thousands of dollars. This includes out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays and insurance deductibles. Be sure to prepare for these expenses by saving up for them or by allocating a large windfall, such as a tax refund or generous work bonus, to be used for paying for prenatal care and delivery.

START SAVING FOR COLLEGE Hard as it may be to believe, your little one will one day be all grown up and ready to go to college. With college tuition now averaging $41,411 at private colleges, $11,171 for state residents at public colleges and $26,809 for out-of-state students at state schools, according to data reported by U.S. News and World Report, this can mean paying a small fortune to give your child an education. In addition to spreading the costs over nearly two decades, starting to save for your child’s college education now will give those savings the best chance at growth. Consider opening a 529 plan before your child is born where your college savings can grow tax-free.

WRITE A WILL No one wants to think about their own death when preparing for a birth, but writing a will — and purchasing life insurance if you haven’t already done so — can be the best gift for your child in case the unthinkable happens. Welcoming a new baby is a life-altering experience, and can mean big changes for your finances. Follow these tips to ensure you’re financially prepared for your new baby’s arrival.

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Summer Time Summer Wine


with Pampelonne, a Rosè Lime soft wine and Sangria. Stella Rosa offers an aluminum bottle and you can even get Canella Bellini in a pool friendly container. Put a mixture in the cooler and you’re ready to party.

So what is the perfect wine to fill that chilled glass?

Another intriguing wine, although not new, is Blanc de Bleu. This dry blueberry sparkling wine is both pretty and fun. You can add sparkle to summer mornings or evenings with individual servings of Prosecco, Lamarca or Cupcake. Individual servings mean a fresh glass every time with no waste.

t’s time to sit on the patio, or by the pool, and sip some chilled wine. But keeping your glass the perfectly chilled temperature can be a challenge. My pro tip: refreezable plastic cubes won’t water wine down. There are also some neat refreezable icicles that keep an entire bottle cold, very helpful on a hot day.

In summer, even dedicated red wine drinkers will drink white wine. However, if your preference is still red, then you will probably be happiest with a traditional chardonnay, with its heavier structure and full body. Or you can serve your cabernet sauvignon at cellar temperature, 60°F, rather than room temperature to bring a new dimension to your glass on a hot day. Twenty to thirty minutes in the refrigerator should do it. Pool friendly single serve wines in cans now abound. Slightly fizzy Barefoot Refresh offers several wine flavors. Flip Flop, white or red, come in four packs that total a liter of wine. French winemakers have joined the canned wine market

72 | May 2021

Finally, if wine is not really your thing, Stoli has come out with a wine-based Ginger Mixer, perfect for a Moscow Mule. Other great serving suggestions are on the side of the box containing four cans. Enjoy the heat! Kathy


W W W. O KC O O P. O R G






Youth Performance to Celebrate 10 Years


fter training kids for eight years at The Health Club, Randy Laffoon convinced me to open Youth Performance, a strength and conditioning facility specifically for kids 8-18 years of age. Randy’s sons, Trevor and Trent, were part of the first two groups of kids that I started training 18 years ago. Randy simply wanted his boys to be faster and stronger. By the time they graduated high school, both had won state championships in high school soccer and went on to play college soccer at Oral Roberts University. Trevor started every game in high school and college and set the record for most consecutive starts by a player at ORU. I went from training two groups to almost 40 kids at The Health Club before we opened Youth Performance. Since I have worked with thousands of kids from the age of five up to training college athletes that return to Norman to train during their off-season and holidays. It doesn’t matter if the child is trying to improve overall fitness, aspire to become a starter or have the ability to play at the next level, we can help them improve their strength, power, speed, motor skills, flexibility and, most importantly, their confidence.

Our program is based on long-term athletic development. Each kid receives training based on his or her training age and maturity level. New workouts are written each week so there is constant structure and guidance while they are training in our facility. The training is designed to be year-round, focused on in-season and off-season training. We increase the intensity when it is time to go hard and change the modalities and workout routines when they need to back off and focus on the sport in-season. We are in constant communication about the correct types of training, depending on their workload throughout the year. It has been very rewarding to see all of the kids develop, mature and achieve the goals we have set for them. I look forward to influencing even more kids in the future. Please feel free to contact me for more information about our program and find out how we can improve your child’s overall performance and confidence. Chat Williams, MS, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D, CSPS*D, FNSCA • • 7013416

It doesn’t matter what sport they play. We have worked with soccer, volleyball, football, baseball, track, wrestling, motor cross, cheerleading and horseback-riding athletes as well as kids that do not participate in sports but just want to improve their fitness. We have been part of several individual and team championships and helped several kids achieve their goals of playing in college.



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2021 Randy Laffoon

Scholarship Golf Tournament

Randy Laffoon, far left, at a previous year’s tournament.

Charity golf tournament supports young athletes


n Monday, May 10, Norman Youth Soccer Association will host the 2021 Randy Laffoon Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament at the Trails Golf Course in Norman. The event is a N.Y.S.A. fundraiser to provide scholarship opportunities for athletes who would otherwise be unable to compete because of financial obstacles. The longstanding fund was renamed after late Norman businessman, Randy Laffoon, who passed away last September after an extended bout with cancer. N.Y.S.A. Executive Director Don Rother says the name change was the only logical conclusion. “When you think about someone who helped make sure every kid could afford to play soccer in Norman, you think of Randy Laffoon,” Rother said. “Obviously Randy did a whole lot in Norman well beyond soccer, but if there was ever a way to honor him with N.Y.S.A. this is undoubtedly it. “He gave so much time and money to this association over the years, even when his boys weren’t playing. It’s absolutely something he’d want his name on.”

80 | May 2021

Wife of the late Norman businessman and philanthropist, Debbie Laffoon, says this is just the type of cause Randy raised money for many times over and was something near to his heart. “He had a love of Norman, a love of kids and a love of sports,” she said. “He coached youth sports for years long before we ever had kids because he loved what it meant for a child’s growth as well as their self-confidence. Through the years he never wanted a kid not to be able to play simply because their family couldn’t afford it.” The charity golf tournament will feature an entry fee of $500 for a four-person scramble team with add-ons fees such as mulligans and to “spin the wheel” on a par-5 for a chance to automatically score a hole-in-one on the given hole. Participants can also pay per player for closest to the pin, longest drive and longest kick contests for an extra $10 per contest. The event begins with registration opening at 9 a.m. and a shotgun start at 10:30 a.m. If you are interested in competing in the tournament or simply donating to the Randy Laffoon Memorial Scholarship Fund, contact N.Y.S.A. at 405-573-0070. –BSM

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What’s Eating Norman

Gringo Girl

Tamales & Southern Eatery 86 | April May 2021 2021


he may be new to the restaurant business, but Kim Fields has been bringing delicious food to the table for as long as she can remember.

“By the time I was in the third grade, I could put a whole meal on the table,” Kim recalled of her childhood in Wanette. “I grew up always cooking. My mother loves to cook, my grandma loved to cook, my aunts. My brother is one of the best cooks ever.” Fields owns and operates Gringo Girl Tamales and Southern Eatery, located at 924 W. Main Street in Norman. In addition to growing up around the kitchen, she also learned early on the value of quality ingredients. “Having a farm, my mom grew and canned most of what we ate,” Fields recalled. “We were so far out in the country we didn’t just get in the car the way that people eat out now.” Although her restaurant is a fairly new addition to the Norman dining scene, Fields’ tamales are well-known. She has been a regular at central Oklahoma farmers markets for years. “When we started (over eight years ago), we would sell maybe 25 dozen tamales,” Fields said, noting they would be packaged six to a pack. “By the time we ended, we were between 300 to 400 packs. We’d sell out in Norman and Moore within an hour and half of opening.” Fields is also a veteran of the salsa and jam business, operating Monkey Salsa and Jams manufacturing for 10 years now. Those products are sold in her restaurant as well as stores throughout Oklahoma. She has also catered, making a restaurant the next logical step.

The menu at Gringo Girl Tamales and Southern Eatery reads as if your grandmother wrote down the week’s meals on a chalkboard in her kitchen. From nachos and loaded fries for starters to soups and salads and onto tamales, sandwiches, chicken fried steak, meatloaf, smothered hamburger, roast, shepherd’s pie and more, Fields offers a variety. If you can’t find something on her existing menu, she’s been known to try to please customers with requests. “We’ve had customers that come in and bring us a recipe and say, ‘my mother used to make this, but she died,’” Fields explained. “And I’ll say, ‘why don’t you come in on Thursday and I’ll have it ready for you.’” Whatever she cooks in her kitchen, it’s done with fresh ingredients mostly purchased from local growers and suppliers. “We try our best to stay with local produce,” Fields said. “Spring is here, so now we’re starting to get in microgreens and things like that for the menu. We’ll have locally grown stuff as much as we can.” In addition to dine-in, the eatery offers family meals to go, including tamale and casserole options. She also serves homemade pies. Gringo Girl Tamales and Southern Eatery is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Fields regularly posts about their specials on Facebook at GringoGirl Tamales including Taste of Louisiana and Burger Days. – BSM

Photo by: Mark Doescher

“We got to the point where we just couldn’t keep up,” Fields explained. “So, the next step would be

to try and move everything into one building. By buying (the restaurant) I was able to continue the catering out of here, able to do the manufacturing company here and then the restaurant part of it too. We just kind of condensed everything.”




Service Spotlight: Chief Deputy Julie Tipton


hief Deputy Julie Tipton is known for her big smile, perpetually positive attitude and dynamic leadership. To those who work under her at the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, it was no surprise when the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association honored Tipton as the 2020 Jail Administrator of the Year.

“It was very humbling,” Tipton said. “I was very appreciative even though I didn’t feel like I was the one who did the work. It was my team. I accepted that award for my team, not just for me.” Tipton’s life and career experiences came together to make her the perfect fit for the job, Sheriff Chris Amason said. “She spent 12 years working her way up as a member of the Cleveland County Detention staff, starting as a receptionist before joining the ranks of commissioned officers,” Amason said. “She knows that detention center from top to bottom, and she has done a terrific job during some very challenging circumstances.” Tipton understands the value of teamwork. She was a student athlete, playing softball and basketball, and still enjoys playing with the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office softball team when they suit up for First Responder Games. Starting at the sheriff’s office in 2008, Tipton quickly advanced as her supervisors saw she could be trusted with more respon90 | May 2021

sibility. Soon she was supervising others.

“I’ve had several mentors, and I’ve taken things I like from each one of them to build my leadership role,” Tipton said. By 2017, she had advanced to administrative captain where she served as part of the command staff leadership team at the detention center. “My whole career, I just felt like I wanted to keep building and obtain more knowledge,” she said. “That allowed me to pursue more opportunities at the sheriff’s office, but I also remember what it feels like to be at the bottom and how my decisions affect frontline employees. I couldn’t do the things I do without the people here.” In April 2020, Tipton was promoted to chief deputy, taking the reins as jail administrator in the middle of a global pandemic. “I knew my leadership in this new role would create stability for our people,” she said. “I had been their captain, and they needed that consistency.” COVID-19 presented challenges unlike any she had faced during her tenure with the sheriff’s office, but Tipton and her team embraced best practices to keep the jail environment safe. “We were in the middle of the pandemic and walking into the unknown — nobody knew anything about COVID or what precautions we needed to take so we took

extra precautions to protect staff and inmates,” she said. Following November’s election, Chris Amason took the helm of the agency. “Sheriff Amason came out and talked during our briefings, and he talked about our mission, vision and values and how that is the foundation for what we’re doing,” Tipton said. “That determines our direction. We want to be the best in the state and to be innovative in all that we’re doing. We have big plans for this place.” While the pandemic changed many things, those core values continue to give stability and direction, she said. Tipton encourages anyone looking for a career in law enforcement or simply looking for a good job with good pay, great benefits and a chance to advance to consider working for the Cleveland County Detention Center. “We are looking to promote from within and invest in our people here at the detention center,” she said. “We have our basic four weeks of the detention academy, but we are also partnering with Moore Norman Technology Center to provide curriculum for ongoing training opportunities. “I’m really excited to be working under the experienced leadership of Sheriff Amason. I feel like we’ve built a great command staff team,” she added. This is a continuation of our series on public servants in Norman.

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