When Oklahoma Fast Pitch Association Hall Fame coach Mark Dicus decided to take on the re-tooling of the Muskogee softball program, he did his due diligence and made a pleasant discovery.
“When I was looking at taking this job. I did a of detective work to find out about the players and the program and everyone raved about this girl named Jaliyah Simmons and now I understand why. She’s just a sophomore and she’s already a five-tool player. She’s our number one pitcher and can also play in the outfield or infield. She’s an extremely talented player,” said the veteran coach.
Simmons got her start in softball playing in her sister’s footsteps but hit a bump in the road at Muskogee High. Like all schools, Muskogee didn’t play in the spring of 2019 due to Covid. There was a fast pitch season in 2020 but again a pause as there weren’t enough qualified players to field a team last spring.
“I had to work out at home a lot over the last year, but I was on a summer ball team where I got a lot of help from the coach, Hayleigh Galvan (former Sequoyah High, Oklahoma State and Fresno State standout). I kind of followed her at Fresno and I just like her heart and fight and the way she works hard.”
Getting started this year under a new coach has taken some adjusting Simmons admits.
“It was a rough start in getting used to a new coach, but I think we’re starting to get better,” said Jaliyah who is also on the dance team for football games. “Coach Dicus is a lot more structured in his approach. He can tolerate mistakes to a degree but he’s a lot tougher about us listening and doing what he asks.”
For Simmons, the mental side of playing the game is more challenging than being a great athlete.
“Softball is a hard game mentally maybe even more than physical. It takes a lot of mental strength to put aside a bad play or game or practice and focus on what’s next. That’s one reason I like fast pitch better than slow pitch because the pace is faster, and you don’t have time to drift away mentally.”
Simmons credits her mother for always pushing her on and helping her make smart decisions about life and softball.