Gasso's Core 5: Jayda Coleman's Impact Will Resonate for the Next Generation of Oklahoma Softball

The OU star won a lot throughout her career, but the lessons Patty Gasso took from coaching Jayda Coleman and her classmates will last for years.
Oklahoma outfielder Jayda Coleman (24) poses for a photo with the trophy after winning Game 2 of the NCAA softball Women's College World Series Championship Series game between the Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and Texas Longhorns at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 6, 2024. Oklahoma won 8-4.
Oklahoma outfielder Jayda Coleman (24) poses for a photo with the trophy after winning Game 2 of the NCAA softball Women's College World Series Championship Series game between the Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and Texas Longhorns at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 6, 2024. Oklahoma won 8-4. / BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

OKLAHOMA CITY — A leadoff walk energizes any lineup. 

But Jayda Coleman’s leadoff exploits hit a little different for Oklahoma. 

OU’s star outfielder was must-see for all four of her years in Norman, as she was always a threat to rob a home run in the field or hit one at the plate. 

Her walks, however, would ring out over any game. Before heading down to first, she’d turn to her dugout and unleash a roar, firing up her teammates to try and will a rally. 

Coleman, like many of her teammates, played with an edge and passion at every turn, something that even legendary coach Patty Gasso had to adjust to. 

“When I first saw these guys throw the bat down, after a walk, I'm like, ‘What are you doing? Don't do that,’” Gasso said after the Sooners captured the program’s eighth national title last week. “You're showing up the umpire or you're going to hit somebody. But we do it. They do it at practice. I've learned to allow them to be who they are. The old coach of me would not allow any of this.”

Coleman helped Gasso learn to embrace her team, to play unapologetic, as the veteran head coach has said numerous times over the past few years.


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The results spoke for themselves. 

In her final year as a Sooner, Coleman hit .385, blasting 13 home runs and driving in 44 runs while crossing the plate 72 times herself and drawing 54 walks. 

Unbridled joy seeped into everything Coleman did, whether she was backing up her pitcher with a diving catch or getting on base. It helped fuel the Sooners, but also served to relieve the pressure Oklahoma felt all year as the team hunted down an unprecedented four-peat. 

“The whole season was tough,” Coleman said. “For me personally, I know I had very high expectations. Even right off the bat playing our first game, I felt the pressure. I felt the expectations.

“As we went on, if we lost one game, two games, lost to Texas, everyone had an opinion about us. It was frustrating just to see everyone on Twitter, TikTok hoping anybody else but us.

“Well... That didn't happen, so... We're blessed.”

Still, even a veteran player can have a turning point.

Coleman’s came in Oklahoma City after OU’s first loss at the Women’s College World Series, a 9-3 beatdown at the hands of the Florida Gators.

Gasso brought former Sooner Shay Knighten, the hero of Oklahoma’s 17-inning marathon victory over Florida in the 2017 WCWS Championship Series. 

Coleman grew up idolizing Knighten, and she played inspired to walk off the Gators the next day and set up a date with OU and Texas to decide the national title. 

“I will never forget that meeting for the rest of my life,” Coleman said. “… for her to be in the same room as me was, like, surreal. For her to just open up her heart and just talk about the Lord, pretty much just telling us that we are not alone. She has been through this before. Anytime we are on the field, if we want to look up to her, she can give us 30 seconds of encouragement.

“I use that very, very often, ever since she told me that. It was just a surreal moment. I remember just I started bawling, crying.”

To follow in Knighten’s footsteps and even win one title at Oklahoma was a dream for Coleman. 

To finish her career with a title in every season was unimaginable, even for someone who is as confident as Coleman.

“On Twitter there was an interview, Jayda Coleman at 13 years old.,” Gasso said. “… She's like, I won in junior high. I'm expecting I'm going to win in high school. Now that I'm going to OU, we're going to win it all there. I'm going to win it every year.

“She's speaking it into existence as a 13-year-old. I just watched these athletes grow into women. They come in as girls, they really do. They'll admit that. But each one of them has something about them that is unique.”

Coleman may have manifested greatness, and her career will forever be remembered in Norman. 

The impact Coleman, and the rest of OU’s senior class, had on Gasso, however, will resonate and seep through to the next generation of Oklahoma softball.

“This generation, they've taught me a lot about coaching,” Gasso said. “They taught me how to accept who they are and how it looks. I mean, I think that has a lot to do with a lot of things, that I just allowed them to be them.

“It's hard sometimes because some of it I'm like, ‘Oh, no.’ But it's important to them. They've taught me how to coach better.”


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Ryan Chapman

RYAN CHAPMAN

Ryan is deputy editor at AllSooners and covers a number of sports in and around Norman and Oklahoma City. Working both as a journalist and a sports talk radio host, Ryan has covered the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team, the Oklahoma City Energy and more. Since 2019, Ryan has simultaneously pursued a career as both a writer and a sports talk radio host, working for the Flagship for Oklahoma sports, 107.7 The Franchise, as well as AllSooners.com. Ryan serves as a contributor to The Franchise’s website, TheFranchiseOK.com, which was recognized as having the “Best Website” in 2022 by the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters. Ryan holds an associate’s degree in Journalism from Oklahoma City Community College in Oklahoma City, OK.