The Secret Behind WCWS Champion Oklahoma

How Oklahoma head softball coach, Patty Gasso, develops courage


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How did Patty Gasso lead her team to back-to-back Women’s College World Series titles?

As most coaches know, there are multiple answers to this question. Everything from preparation, to recruiting, to luck played its part. The contributing factor I want to discuss is based on her talk at the NFCA Convention: The POWER of Empowerment. Coach Gasso began her presentation by defining her team’s culture. She aims to

“Inspire players to give all they have because they love the sport, team and program.”

Sounds fantastic to me! But what does that look like? She first discussed how her players embody that culture. Some highlights included standing together, making others around you better, and being decisive, not looking for approval. All things that sound intuitive and simple, but which need to be taught and reiterated throughout the entire program.

The next part of her talk focused on what coaches can do to help cultivate that culture. Here are a few that I would like to highlight:

  • Trust
    • Trust your staff
    • Believe in the system
    • Be truthful
  • Teach
    • Ignite your players’ curiosity
    • Encourage questions
  • Have Faith
    • In your decisions- even if they’re not popular
    • Take a chance to make a chance

The theme in her message revolves around motivation and fostering a sense of ownership of the program. These principles allow her players to be COURAGEOUS and conquer their fears.

Courage is not a lack of fear- it’s feeling that fear and doing it anyway.

Sports have their way of teaching us these lessons, but it is a coach’s superpower to be able to highlight these lessons and make sure they stick. In her own words, Coach Gasso allows her players the freedom to

make mistakes – hold teammates accountable – be themselves – dig deeper – share

What nobody may even realize she is doing is helping her student-athletes move past their fears. The fears I associate with the aforementioned freedoms are the fear of

failure – upsetting others – what others think of you – disappointment – not being the best

These are all real fears that we have all experienced as coaches, athletes and in day-to-day life. The trouble is when they start to overwhelm us and take over our thoughts. These fears can be physically debilitating and sabotage even the best athlete’s performance. There are ways to deal with these fears, though, if you re-frame them in a productive way.

  • Fear of failure
    • Hate to fail, but never fear it
    • Failure is feedback
    • You NEED feedback to grow
  • Fear of upsetting others
    • You’ll BOTH be more upset when you’re looking back with REGRET
  • Fear of what others may think of you
    • Key word is MAY
    • Either they’re judging you (not worth your time), judging themselves (not even thinking about you at all) or not judgmental (good teammate alert!)
  • Fear of disappointment
    • Only happens if you have a pass/fail mentality
    • If you’re always learning and growing, you can never be disappointed long
  • Fear of not being the best (hey perfectionists!)
    • This is not a zero-sum game: we can ALL work toward success
    • The more progress (even tiny) each team member makes helps the team
    • “The best” is temporary. Even national champions make adjustments for next season! 

To circle back to our initial question: how did Patty Gasso lead her team to back-to-back Women’s College World Series titles?

She cultivated a winning, passionate, fearless culture by INSPIRING COURAGE.

The lesson here is that fear doesn’t HAVE to consume you. There will always be things and situations that stress us out and make those fears bubble up, but there are strategies for dealing with it.

To learn how to embrace your fears, unlock the free infographic below! Then head to Facebook to learn more and leave a comment as I dive deeper in Extra Innings 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this post and got mentally stronger today!

– Mel


For Coach Gasso’s entire presentation, head to the NFCA’s page on CoachTube!


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