Wilson’s legacy lives on through tournament, scholarship

By Regina Villiers. Originally published May 19, 1999 in The Suburban Life, added May 15, 2019.


     Nadine Wilson has lived to become a legend in her own time, not just in Madeira but also across the country and in many aspects of athletics.

     When she retired from coaching girl’s sports at Madeira High School in 1982, she didn’t just ride off into the sunset.  She rode on to other challenges.

     Nadine coached at Madeira for 15 years.  Before that, she had coached 23 years at Northeast High School in Oklahoma City.

     When she retired, her combined coaching record was 1,385 wins to 57 losses.  Her volleyball record was 457 wins, 14 losses.  Her Madeira team won a state tournament.  Her basketball record was 468 wins, 31 losses.  She also coached softball, track and field, field hockey, golf and badminton.

     When she retired from Madeira, she was touted in the media from Sports Illustrated on down.  She was given a roast at Kenwood Country Club attended by local sports celebrities. Johnny Bench, who couldn’t attend that night, came to visit at her school office.

     She went back to her native Oklahoma to be near her family and coached in the Special Olympics program for several years.  

     Her teams kept on winning.  Honors and trophies kept coming in.

     Nadine Wilson was born to be a competitor.  She grew up in a sports-minded family of three older brothers and a sister in Elmer, Okla., a town of 250 people.

     A 1924 photo shows her a 5 and her brother at 7 with their tennis rackets, already competing.  Her older brothers taught her to shoot baskets in a hoop on the side of their house.  They taught her well.  By the time she was in fifth grade, she was playing scrimmages with the high school boys’ team.

     She brought that competitive spirit to the girls she coached. She taught them to never even think of losing.

     “This country was built by winners,” she has said over and over.

     From coaching in Special Olympics, she went to Senior Olympics, where for years she has been coaching and competing.  And, of course, winning.  Medals have been piling up, especially in tennis, which has been her game all her life.

     But her latest thing is a Senior Olympics basketball team she organized.  The “Sooner Gals” are all 70 or older.  Nadine is the oldest.

     The Sooner Gals are a feisty bunch.  They can shoot.  They can bump and run.  They talk and play a mean game.  They took home a gold medal at the National Senior Olympics in Tucson, Ariz., in May 1997.

     The Sooner Gals are now celebrities, appearing on ESPN, ABC, CNN, and NBC television.  They are a halftime act for various college games.  Nadine has been voted into Halls of Fame across the country.  She has received the Distinguished Service Award and the National Recognition Award.  

     But last December, she received an honor that she says caps all the others-an honor from her school and her Amazons.

     A few of her former athletes and Hank Ohmneis, the athletic director of Madeira High School, organized a holiday tournament in her honor. The Nadine Wilson Classic was played between Christmas and New Year’s.

     In addition to Ohmneis, the committee is composed of Cathy Gallenstein Frye, Debbie Stimac Foley, Elaine McKenzie Goetz and Danielle Lydon.

     Nadine came back for the tournament, the ceremonies and to receive a plaque from Ohmneis.  Some 35 or 40 of her former players came back – some from as far away as California – to see and honor her.

     The tournament will be an annual tradition.  Next season’s Nadine Wilson Classic will be Dec. 28 and 29 with her former player Kathy Wilson, now a coach at New Richmond, bringing her team to compete.

     Ohmneis and his committee of former Amazons did not stop with the tournament.  

     They have established a Nadine Wilson Scholarship to be awarded each year to a senior female athlete at Madeira.  The scholarship will be based on leadership, hard work, good sportsmanship, dedication, citizenship and teamwork – the qualities Wilson taught her athletes.

     The first Nadine Wilson Scholarship will be awarded at the Spring Sports Awards at the high school on May 25.

     The scholarship and tournament cap a lifetime of achievements.

     As she approaches her 80thbirthday on July 13, Nadine Wilson has lived to see herself become a legend.