LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Olivia Watkins, assistant coach at Boston College, is the 2021 recipient of the NFCA’s Natasha Watley Scholarship for Social Change, presented in partnership with Sue Enquist.
The scholarship is presented to is awarded to a Black coach who has created educational or athletic opportunities for their community, has removed and overcome obstacles through social change, or has opened doors for growing the game of fastpitch for Black girls or women. The scholarship is presented to an individual who embodies courage and commitment to break down barriers, create change within our sport, and has a need for financial assistance to attend the NFCA National Convention. Watkins will receive a 2021 NFCA Convention registration, travel reimbursement up to $700 and up to four nights paid at the Convention host hotel in Las Vegas.
Watkins joined the Eagles’ coaching staff as the top assistant in July 2019. Prior to arrival in Chestnut Hill, Mass., she spent two-year stints as an assistant at Dartmouth College, and volunteer assistant at Illinois, under her collegiate coach Tyra Perry, who mentored her as a student-athlete at Western Kentucky University.
In addition to her many coaching duties, Watkins is passionate about social change and is making an impact at Boston College, in the softball community and in her hometown of Florence, Ala. She is always seeking ways for the BC softball program to be educated about social change as well as setting up initiatives for the team to give back. Her most recent endeavor has the Eagles collaborating with the Boston Police Department to work with a local softball league for girls in lower socio-economic communities, which will provide an opportunity for the student-athletes to teach and mentor young girls in all areas of life.
“Her strong communication skills, dependability and ability to get the job done has taken her far and has made her a major player in the softball arena,” said Perry. “I know these same attributes will continue to guide her as she mentors athletes and coaches of color through her involvement with the DEI Committee at BC. Her heart for the sport of softball and her passion for creating opportunities for women that look to play this sport is unmatched. I truly believe she is a true representation of this award.”
Watkins is a member of the newly-formed Boston College Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, which provides inclusive programming and equitable resources that meet the university's diverse student-athlete population and to engage in civic responsibility in service and outreach to the Boston area marginalized communities and beyond. She leads educational discussions with the Eagle softball team and served as a panelist on the NFCA’s inaugural Educate to Elevate webinar, both touching on social injustice, racial inequality and the BLM movement.
“Liv is a big supporter of the NFCA and is a valuable member of influence in our community,” said Boston College head coach Amy Kvilhaug. “She sees the opportunity to attend the NFCA Convention as an avenue to help continue the momentum and education of the movement towards racial equality and social justice.”
Watkins gives back to her hometown by holding a free softball clinic for young girls each summer. Growing up in a low socio-economic community, Watkins felt softball played an important role in her young life and paved the way for the path she is on. Watkins’ goal was to help grow the game and give the young girls an opportunity to be exposed to what is out there. She provided equipment and made sure to reserve fields close to their homes, so attendees could easily walk to the clinic. During her time at Illinois, Watkins volunteered at a local lost boys and girls organization on the south side of Chicago.
“Olivia has been creating opportunities for underprivileged communities since she emerged into the coaching profession,” said Illinois assistant coach Laura Trout. “Our sport has become a place where most opportunities come at a cost, and usually a steep cost. Barriers are broken down when women like Olivia immediately think to give back. As a young coach, the income from camps and clinics can be our life blood for survival, and yet, she still gives back.”
Reviewed and voted on by the NFCA Awards Committee and Natasha Watley the recipient must be a coach who seeks and desires educational opportunity by attending the NFCA Convention and requires financial assistance to cover the NFCA Convention costs.