Unplugged with Madison Ward '16
For Madison Ward, time is always on her mind. A redshirt junior and on the OU volleyball team, she lives in increments. Practice time. Match time. Class time. Time for interviews and appearances. Study time. And precious little down time.
But for Ward, the time that matters most is more profound. It’s the time we cannot measure. The time we know not when it ends. It’s that time that drives her. On the court and off.
“Everyone has a number. Our time is so short and so limited,” she explains thoughtfully. “I want to get the most out of what I have and I want to encourage other people to get the most out of what they have and do things that matter and do things they love.”
For the 24 hours she gets to experience each day, Ward is managing to tend to an All-Big 12 volleyball career with the Sooners, a budding music career, a start-up company and an apparel line aimed at aiding young kids who depend on aid for the essentials most of us take for granted.
This past summer a video of Ward’s singing in a campus cafeteria caught internet fire and she found herself in a viral state of being. It seemed everyone caught a glimpse of Ward’s soulful performance, including music and sports figures from around the country. It’s a talent, much like volleyball, that has been honed from a young age.
“It started actually when I was really young. My mom played the piano in a church we all went to,” Ward recalls. “A lot of the time, she’d be practicing at home and I’d just be around her. I’d be around the piano and she’d go and do something and I’d try to pick up what she played. That started when I was very young; I could barely reach the keys type thing.”
Like her love of sports, music grew into a passion. With no formal training, she took on cords and harmony just as she did with kills, blocks and digs. Tenaciously.
“I’m really a super-perfectionist with lots of things I do,” she admits.” It’s something I’ve had to work on, being so hard on myself. I want to be the best. That goes hand-in-hand with music too. If I can’t figure something out on the guitar, I’m going to work and work at it until I know how to do it. Same with piano and drums right now and definitely the same with volleyball right now.”
Oh yes, the same with volleyball. Last season, Ward was a unanimous All-Big 12 selection as a redshirt sophomore. A two-time All-Big 12 Player of the week, she finished the year with a team second total of 296 kills, including 177 during her last 13 starts of the year. Add to that 234 digs, third highest for the Sooners, and eight double-doubles in 96 sets on the year and that perfectionist attitude is believable.
And while hours of practice in McCasland Field House have aided those numbers, Ward says time with her guitar has also helped.
“If I am having a hard time trying to figure out something on the volleyball court and just can’t quite get it and just need a break, I can get into the music zone,” she says. “It’s a big relaxation for me and I can take my mind off things and occupy my mind a different way.
“It’s been really helpful. After a bad game, if I haven’t performed like I think I should have, instead of beating myself up about it, I can go home and work on a few different instruments that I love or keep writing.”
Those different instruments still include the keys she first caressed while following mom around the house, as well as the drums. Ward also writes original music.
Her latest adventure has taken her into the world of fashion, where she developing an apparel line, that will benefit a parent company she owns that she will use following here OU career to benefit children from low-income households.
“Really it’s about the concept of time on earth being limited and wanting to get the most out of it; doing things that have eternal value,” is how Ward frames the company’s vision. “That’s really the driving force behind it.”
And using that force to provide for those for whom provisions are precious few.
“It comes down to me wanting to provide “necessity bundles” for those children,” she quietly declares. Simple things such as T-shirts, socks and shoe laces.
Necessity. Ward would say that’s where music falls in her life, in that blur between what one wants to do, has time to accomplish and can’t live without.
“It’s my heart,” she says. “I don’t really know how else to put that. Without it I don’t know where I’d be. With tough times, things that have happened in my own life, it’s helped me. Music helps a lot of people.
“Whatever you’re going through you can find a song or a genre you like and snap out of it.”
Beginning her fourth year on the Norman campus, Ward says what she has experienced has an overwhelming positive feel, volleyball being the catalyst.
“It’s surpassed everything I thought it would be,” Ward says on being a Sooner. “I have such a great team to be around, such good friends. I have such good people on the support staff around me at all times. I have mentors I speak too regularly. It’s been unreal being here. It’s changed my life.”
Asked if there was one greatest moment wrapped within many of the great ones, Ward believes it would be hard to pick just a moment in, you know, time.
“There have been a lot of great things,” she reflects with a satisfied tone. “I don’t know if there’s been a single best thing. I think if there is, it’s been my own growth as an individual. Learning from the people I’ve been around and all the great things we have here at OU. That’s been the best thing that’s happened to me.”
Pretty good time it sounds like.