By Todd Newville
The Newcastle Pacer
As a former paramedic, Nikki McCann was certainly familiar with taking the pulse and observing the vital signs of her patients. Her expertise helped save many lives, no doubt.
Now, as the new athletic director at Newcastle High School, that prior training from a different field of work could serve her well as she takes over the helm of Racer sports. She takes over for Dale Berglan, who left last spring after eight years at Newcastle to become head football coach at Lexington.
No, the state of Newcastle athletics is not in disarray or on life support – far from it. In fact, the entire athletic program is very healthy and in pretty good shape as McCann sees it.
But, in McCann’s eyes, every sport on the school-year slate has the potential to be a force to reckoned with – both in the classroom and in the competitive arena. She intends to improve upon Newcastle’s championship hopes and dreams by adding an emphasis on the student-athlete.
“From the first interview and after meeting all the people here, I could feel a difference,” McCann said. “It’s wonderful here. The students I’ve met are wonderful and the coaches are amazing. There are some things we can add to the mix to help us build more success. But, there is a great foundation here that we are going to build upon even further.”
McCann (a former basketball star at Westmoore) earned her Master’s degree in education and graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in 2005. She was the girls’ basketball head coach at Putnam City North for six years. In 2011, she moved on to become the girls’ head basketball coach and assistant athletic director at Mustang.
Now, she is at Newcastle – a job she never intended to find. Rather, it found her.
“I have been in education since 2005,” McCann said. “I worked for Mercy EMS where I met my husband and that was the field I thought I was going to move into at one time. But, it felt like something was missing so ultimately I turned back to education.
“Any job I’ve received has never been a case of me actively looking for or wanting it. It’s always been a call asking if I would be interested. That’s how this job with Newcastle happened. It was just the right move for me.”
One of the advantages of taking the Newcastle job for McCann is the commute. She lives in south Oklahoma City and is only 10 minutes from work now.
“This is certainly closer to home for me,” said McCann, who has been married to her husband, Andrew, for 15 years. They have two daughters; Addison (10) is in fifth grade while Maci (8) is in third grade. “I live in south Oklahoma City. I’m closer to home and I like the small-school aspect of Newcastle. I only live 10 minutes away – almost right around the corner. It would take me 45 minutes to an hour to get to North.
“Mustang was 25 minutes but I took the back roads so I didn’t have to go around the (Will Rogers) airport. I’m bringing my kids to Newcastle. They’ve been in the Moore school system for a long time and it’s a great system. It’s been home to them. But, by bringing my kids to Newcastle, that says a lot about what I think of the school system here.”
Success has followed Racer sports in recent years. The Newcastle girls’ basketball team, under the guidance of Brett Sanders, won the Class 4A state championship in 2016. The Newcastle fast-pitch softball team, under the tutelage of head coach Mike Crossley, earned the 2014 Class 4A state title.
This year, Newcastle is welcoming new head football coach Jeff Brickman, volleyball coach Karin Moore, cross-country and track coach Ron Love, and girls’ soccer coach Kelsey Visor. All have impressive credentials on their resumes and should continue the Racers’ quest for excellence.
“We have absolutely great coaches here,” McCann said. “They’re going to help our athletic program move in the direction it needs to go. The knowledge that they have in knowing the culture here is invaluable to me. Our motto within the athletic department is ‘Inspiring champions today to prepare leaders for tomorrow.’ When leading our student-athletes, we want to do what is best for them.”
McCann reiterated her belief that Newcastle will continue to be a formidable presence in Class 4A athletics. Whether it’s on the court or the field of play, she sees a bright future for any sport. In the pool, on the course, out on the track, or on the mat, McCann wants to encourage excellence.
“When I first came here, one of the first comments made to me was that we have great facilities,” McCann said. “That includes providing the training and the equipment for our coaches and student-athletes to be successful. I don’t want this to be just a football school or a basketball school. I want it to be academically and athletically strong in every sport we have – cross country, volleyball, wrestling, softball, baseball, soccer, swimming – all of them. I want us to be strong in all of them.”
It’s no secret that Oklahoma’s state budget woes are creating havoc with school districts all around. Lack of funding has made administrators like McCann, “think outside the box.”
“Community members feel as if they’re being hit by every organization around, from little-league to high school – ‘I need money here’ or ‘I need money there.’ We have to have funds to support the athletic department so we have to be smart,” McCann stated. “Sponsorships are one way for us to do that. Any sponsorship that we have has to beneficial to both parties.
“We want to promote them as much as they help us. I think there’s a misconception on how funds are spent. We understand the majority of our general fund goes to pay the salaries for teachers. I believe in the educational system and the academics in Newcastle. We want to have quality teachers in the classrooms as well as having quality coaches. I believe in our educational system and the academic standards that Newcastle is setting. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be bringing my own kids here.”
There are many sponsorship opportunities available for those that wish to support Newcastle athletes. Bronze, silver, gold, and platinum “Racer Packages” are available now. All packages require a three-year commitment. Newcastle All-Sports passes are on sale now, too. Passes permit entrance to all home Newcastle athletic events. Passes are $85 for adults and $70 for students. A family package for $250 includes two adults and two students. The passes are good for the entire 2017-18 school year. To lend your support to the Newcastle athletic department, call (405) 387-6434.