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Ole Miss Softball Star Hits Home Runs on the Field, in the Classroom Kylan Becker pursues path to become orthopedic physician's assistant

University of Mississippi softball player Kylan Becker, along with her teammates, just returned home from the NCAA Super Regionals in Tucson, Arizona, concluding the Rebels' 2019 season with the second-most wins in program history, and is off to play for the Houston Scrap Yard Dawgs for the remainder of the summer.

With only a single error in her entire collegiate softball career, Becker became Ole Miss' single-season record holder in runs scored during Game 7 of the Oxford Regional, where she earned her place on the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-South Region Teams, earning her second career nod and first selection to the First Team.

During her junior year, she became the first player in Ole Miss history to be selected to the U.S. National Team, competing for Team USA at the Japan All-Star Series in Tokyo.

Professional softball players can play well into their 30s, but as a summer sport, the game affords players the opportunity to build a career off the field. For Becker, that career will involve helping athletes.

“Originally, I wanted to be a physical therapist so I could help injured athletes. When I applied to Ole Miss, I learned that exercise science had the courses to lead me to physical therapy school. I’ve always loved learning about the body, which is exactly what exercise science is,” Becker said.

As a May exercise science graduate, Becker will return to campus this fall to complete an exercise science practicum and take the prerequisite classes for physician's assistant school.

During her time in the exercise science program, she shadowed an orthopedic physician's assistant and watched surgeries performed at Oxford Orthopaedics. Now her talent at the bat is matched by her ambition to follow that career path, to assist orthopedic surgeons in the operating room and serve as the point of contact for patients, many of whom are athletes like her.

While in the exercise science program, Becker’s favorite subject matter was the mechanics of body movements because it helped her make more sense of her performance as an athlete.

“I really enjoyed the kinesiology class I took my junior year. It was a really cool class because I would be able to go to practice and incorporate what I learned with what I was actually doing,” Becker said.

The scholar-athlete credits the exercise science faculty for helping her throughout her undergraduate years. She said the faculty members went out of their way to make sure she did not fall behind while traveling with the team, such as emailing her with study tips and remaining flexible with scheduling tests and quizzes.

Tyler Donahue, a former UM health and kinesiology doctoral student, taught Becker while he was a graduate assistant in the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management.

“I had the privilege to have Kylan in a number of courses, ranging from Personal and Community Health her freshman year to Biomechanics of Human Movement during this past spring semester,” said Donahue, who is now an assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Southern Mississippi.

“It has been great to watch her not only grow as a student but as a person during her time at the university. Though at times her schedule was a bit crazy and work was piling up, she always had a positive attitude and worked hard in the classroom.

"She frequently made it known that she valued her education and that she wanted to be successful in the classroom as much as she did on the field. She always made time for her academics regardless of what other commitments she had outside of the classroom.”

Becker plans to go to physician's assistant school in her home state of Florida. Her deep connection to the state is linked to her Miami-based family that has been especially supportive of her throughout her academic and softball career.

“Throughout the years, they have always tried to make as many trips as they can,” Becker said. “This year, my family has been to every single game, whether it’s the whole family or just my mom or my dad.”

Story by Sarah Sapp and Katie Miles Blackmon/School of Applied Sciences

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