(Sports Spectrum) – Jayda Coleman, a junior center fielder on the Oklahoma softball team, has yet to experience what it’s like to not win the national championship in her college career. And this year, she’s doing her best to keep it that way.
She’s leading the team with an astounding .507 batting average — currently fifth in the nation — and she’s tied for the team lead with seven home runs, all while driving in 20 runs. She also leads the Sooners in walks (23) and stolen bases (perfect in nine attempts). Her performance has helped Oklahoma become the odds-on favorite to win the national championship once again, as the Sooners own a 27-1 record and the No. 1 ranking.
Coleman earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors on Tuesday after helping her team go 7-0 and win the Omni Hall of Fame Classic. In the five games at the Classic, Coleman batted .600 with two home runs, two doubles, a triple and nine RBIs, further cementing her status as a strong contender for National Player of the Year.
If the Sooners are able to finish the deal and win another championship, it would be the program’s third straight national title and sixth in the last 10 events held. Yet even despite the incredible on-field success under legendary head coach Patty Gasso, Oklahoma softball may be even more well known for the program’s rich culture of faith in Christ.
Coleman is the latest Sooner to be impacted by what God is doing within Oklahoma’s softball program, as she professed faith in Jesus on Easter Sunday a year ago. Recently, she was baptized by team leaders Rylie Boone and Grace Lyons. Other proud teammates and family members looked on.
Coleman shared a post on Instagram on Tuesday with photos from her baptism.
“Baptized into His death, buried with Him, and raised to walk in newness of life,” her caption read, referencing the Bible passage Romans 6:3-4. “I am a witness to others what Christ has done for me & I am so joyful to share my testimony.”
She did just that on a recent episode of “From The Players,” hosted by Northwestern softball player Sydney Supple.
“I always knew of God growing up,” Coleman said. “My parents prayed. We would go to church. But because of softball, which is a horrible excuse, I didn’t really have a whole lot of time. But when I got [to Norman], I was surrounded by it.”
She explained that she would often ask questions about Jesus and the Bible to teammates like Lyons and Lynnsie Elam.
“I was very intrigued,” she said. “My freshman year I was like, ‘I like it. I know of Him but I’m not a follower of Him.’ At the time, I feel like that’s a good label to put on it. But I just continued like, ‘Oh, this makes my heart feel joyful. When I read it, I’m happy that I did. I’m glad that I did.’”
Coleman went on to describe the emptiness she felt despite winning her first national championship. That emptiness was magnified after last year’s title, resulting in mental health challenges.
“I was not OK,” she said. “I was like, ‘Why do I not feel joy from winning my second national championship?’ … These worldly customs that we think that will bring us joy, as soon as you get it, you’re like, ‘Yay! Now what?’
“I think that’s when I really found Jesus truly. I think I was learning about Him and I felt Him in my heart, but after we won the second one, I realized I need Jesus in my life. I need Him in my heart all the time. I want to get baptized because obviously these ‘world things’ that we have — these ‘treasures’ that we get — are not life-fulfilling. But Jesus is fulfilling for me, and that is something that brings me joy every single day. When I read my Bible, it makes me happy.”
Coleman is already a two-time champion. Already a two-time first-team All-American. Perhaps the best player on the best team in the nation. But through it all, God has revealed to her that she can rest in His steadfast love for her.
“This year, I have no anxiety,” said Coleman, who shared that she has a history of mental health struggles. “I’m like, ‘It’s all in His hands.’ Obviously I still struggle. There are times when I’m going to bed at night and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God. I need to do this, or I need to be watching film, or what do I need to do tomorrow?’ I’m like, ‘Stop, Jayda. Just give it to Him. Stop. Jesus loves you.’ I say these things over and over in my head until I fall asleep. …
“That is what has helped me, and I think it shows on the field because I’m free.”
Coleman and the Sooners next suit up on Friday at 5 p.m. ET at Iowa State as they continue their pursuit of a third straight national championship.
This article originally appeared on Sports Spectrum as is republished with permission.