"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." Hebrews 10: 35-36
The referee's snide behavior struck a nerve while she was coaching a junior varsity women's basketball game.
The incident occurred well before Patty Gasso became the legendary head coach of the University of Oklahoma softball team, but the encounter stuck with her over the years and led her to share the anecdote with a crowd of more than 200 women attending a recent women's Oklahoma City ministry event.
"His demeanor towards us was really ugly ― he just kind of dismissed us," Gasso said. "That moment changed something for me. ... It's not about me, it's about women. If a lot of them go into coaching, I want it to be better for them than it was for me," she said.
Gasso helped kick off the 2023-24 season of Polished-Oklahoma City, a ministry for Christian women in the marketplace. Part of a growing Texas-based network with chapters in multiple states, the Polished-OKC chapter hosts luncheon gatherings on the second Tuesday of each month at the restaurant Vast in Devon Tower, 333 W Sheridan.
The championship-winning coach told attendees that the snarky, dismissive manner of the referee fueled her determination to embody confidence and to encourage her players to walk with confidence. She said it was her Christian faith that ultimately gave her the bold confidence to talk about her relationship with the Lord via her current high-profile platform.
Jana Gridley, Polished-OKC co-director, said that faith-filled assurance was one of the reasons Gasso was asked to speak on the topic of confidence at the group's September luncheon.
"I just knew she'd be an awesome speaker for our group, and especially on that topic, because we knew she'd have a lot to say about leading with confidence based on her example as a winning coach," Gridley said.
She said Gasso's demeanor in the wake of her team's loss in the 2012 NCAA championship series also led leaders to request the coach's presence.
But how did a loss turn into a pivotal moment?
'I can share who I am'
Gasso, a California native, said she grew up in the Catholic faith tradition but felt she didn't truly develop a relationship with the Lord until she was an adult. She said her husband, Jim, played a key role in helping her understand the importance of having a relationship with Christ.
By the time the 2012 Women's College World Series rolled around, Gasso had been the Sooners' head softball coach since 1995. Her team won the series in 2000, and the team in 2012 hoped to claim another OU championship victory, this time over Alabama's Crimson Tide. Gasso said she remembered praying about the series in her hotel room and feeling confident that the Sooners would win out in the final matchup to determine the championship.
"I go to the game and I'm excited thinking we're going to win," she said. "I'm fired up and thinking this is going to be easy, and then the rain came."
Alabama won the finals, beating Gasso and the Sooners, 8-6. Gasso said she spoke from the heart at the news conference held after the game, and her faith came pouring out.
"I said whether we win or lose, we will always give the glory to God," she told the Polished crowd.
The coach said in that moment, she experienced a sense of freedom that changed her life.
"Once I did it one time, now I am free," Gasso said. "I enjoy speaking to groups like this. I can share who I am and my faith. That moment changed my entire life. And it changed my players' lives because they see me now going out on the road and speaking in churches, and they're coming with me, and they're listening, and now they don't need me anymore. They're doing it on their own. So, that's really life-changing, as well."
Gasso and her Sooners went on to win more national titles in 2013, 2016, 2017, 2021 and 2022. In May 2023, the team made it a "three-peat," winning their third national title in a row.
Gasso said her focus has become clear to those around her as the team hits the ballfield.
"I never say 'You guys, we got a win,'" she said. "You shouldn't be saying, 'Hey, we got to get this deal done.' It's like, 'Let's get on this journey and let's the Lord lead us.' And that's why it's become much easier for me — I know who I am, I know where my feet are and I know why I'm doing it."
Gridley said Gasso's decision to speak openly about her faith and the way she talked about her God-given purpose fits in with Polished and was a perfect way to start a new ministry season.
"That was another beautiful application of what Polished is all about," she said. "Every month, we gather as women who are in the workplace, and we're talking about the the value and the dignity that our work has given from God."
More: Polished-OKC is new ministry Polished ministry focuses on young professional women
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., second Tuesday of the month.
Where: Vast in Devon Tower, 333 W Sheridan.
Upcoming speakers: Tracy Zserdin, Oct. 10; Mautra Staley-Jones, Nov. 14; Tabitha Danley, Dec. 12.
Relive the Sooners' road to 'three-peat'
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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU softball coach Patty Gasso speaks on her faith at OKC ministry