Student-athlete of the Month: Kaylin VanDomelen

UND softballer, teaching major simply ‘VanDominant’ on the mound and from the batter’s box

Kaylin VanDomelen

When she first arrived on campus in 2013, UND softball player and reigning Big Sky Conference Pitcher of the Year Kaylin VanDomelen didn’t know anyone else on the softball team. The Bend, Ore., native had never imagined ever living in North Dakota either. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

If you asked her, UND softball player Kaylin VanDomelen would tell you she lacks patience.

“When I’m in the batter’s box, I’m like yep, close enough,” she said. “I’ll just swing because I don’t like to wait for anything else.”

But when it comes to teaching, the elementary education major has all the patience in the world. Her dream to work with kids goes back to when she would go to school with her mother.

“Who pays for daycare when your kids can just clean your classroom?” VanDomelen joked. Her mother and grandmother were both career teachers. “When I was six I wanted to be a teacher and I’ve never really turned back.”

She expresses a similar level of determination regardless of topic, which translates to an outstanding career at UND on the softball diamond and in the classroom.

Kaylin VanDomelen

In 2017, VanDomelen was selected Big Sky Conference’s Pitcher of the Year. This year, she’s already collected a league-best four Pitcher of the Week awards, including three consecutive honors (10 in her college career). She also has two no-hitters this season, and leads the Big Sky in strikeouts with 157. Image courtesy of North Dakota Athletics.

Just like home

At first, VanDomelen knew she could be content with staying in her native Banks, Ore. A three-sport athlete throughout high school, she was already being recruited to smaller schools in the region.

“I was a homebody growing up,” she said. “I knew if I didn’t leave, I was going to stay in Oregon for the rest of my life and be happy about it because Oregon is a great place.”

When she came to UND on a visit, the charm of campus proved the ultimate tipping point.

“It sounds stupid, but I loved the buildings,” she said. “The brick and that atmosphere… it reminded me of home. UND is big but it’s not huge. I just fell in love with it right away; I could see myself here.”

She arrived on campus in 2013 not knowing anyone else on the softball team. She had never imagined ever living in North Dakota.

Winning culture

In ways she didn’t expect, moving into collegiate competition was a culture shock.

“It was weird to come here and not win,” she said, noting the team’s 6-39 record her freshman year. “I didn’t realize that winning was something I took for granted. We won two state championships in my high school career. We were always top-eight in every sport.”

Since then, VanDomelen and the UND Women’s softball team have had a remarkable turnaround. Their overall record is hovering around .500 in 2018, and the redshirt senior pitcher feels like her culture shock turned to culture change.

In 2017, VanDomelen was selected Big Sky Conference’s Pitcher of the Year. This year, she’s already collected a league-best four Pitcher of the Week awards, including three consecutive honors (10 in her college career). She also has two no-hitters this season, and leads the Big Sky in strikeouts with 157.

Van Domelen also can be lethal with the bat. She’s amassed a career batting average over 300, with 156 hits, including 12 home runs.

“There are ups and downs to the sport, because it’s such a big game of failure,” she reflected. “If you succeed three times out of ten, that’s exciting! You have to fail seven times out of ten and you’re still successful.”

She says she’s learned to use that resiliency in her life and career as a student-athlete.

Kaylin VanDomelen

Off the softball field, VanDomelen is in her fifth academic year in elementary education, with minors in special education and early childhood education. She’s constantly giving credit to the UND College of Education & Human Development’s supportive instructors for her success in the classroom. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Keeping up

VanDomelen is in her fifth academic year in elementary education, with minors in special education and early childhood education. She’s constantly giving credit to the College of Education and Human Development’s supportive instructors for her success in the classroom.

Spring semester is a hectic time for the softball team. The Big Sky Conference matchups require an immense amount of travel, and long winters put home games on hold.

“We were in school four days during March,” she explained. “You have to have people willing to be in your corner and want you to be successful. I think UND has a lot of those kinds of professors.”

VanDomelen experience with juggling academics with softball ball extends back to her stand-out high school days in Oregon. It’s that kind of experience that’s helped her offer advice to incoming teammates.

“If professors see you’re trying to making the extra effort to plan ahead, get work done early and ask for extensions ahead of time, they’ll be so much more understanding,” she said. “It’s a matter of respect.”

Learning to teach

This coming fall, VanDomelen will be participating in the UND Department of Teaching & Learning’s “Teaching and Education through Applied Methods” (TEAM) program. It serves as preparation for student teaching the following semester. She’ll be able to work with teachers on activities in all subjects and refine strategies before being in the classroom.

“It’s important because teaching is one of those professions where you can’t just be good at it,” VanDomelen said. “You need a lot of practice to reach that level.”

She says growing up with a teacher as a mom taught her a lot about working with youngsters, and her high school had a teacher’s assistant program with the elementary school across the street.

“I got to watch one of my favorite teachers at the time work with her first-grade class,” she said. “I think UND’s professors have had so much time in the classroom that they aren’t just feeding you information. What they’re telling you is important for a reason, and it’s going to help you.

“A lot of the girls on the team will call me ‘grandma’ because I’m still here and I’m the oldest, but I also like to take care of everyone. I feel like that’s a big strength that teachers need. You have to genuinely care about their success, and I think I have that strength.”