By Chad Bonham
2012-13 Women’s Basketball Season: University of Oklahoma
When Sherri Coale took over the University of Oklahoma women’s basketball program, she had made the unusual leap from the high school ranks directly to an NCAA Division I head coaching position. After two losing seasons, she turned the Sooners into a perennial winner with nineteen consecutive winning seasons and 18 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances through 2017.
But during the 2012-13 campaign, Coale faced some of the greatest adversity in her storied career. Early in the season, senior guard Whitney Hand suffered a season-ending ACL tear during a home victory against North Texas. By the time Oklahoma was preparing for the Big 12 Tournament, four Sooners were injured and only eight healthy players remained available.
Somehow, Coale managed to lead her team to a 21-9 regular season record. As the Sooners prepared for its trip to Dallas, Texas, she gathered the players in the film room and passed out one tiny mustard seed to each of them. Coale then read the words of Jesus from one of the New Testament’s well-known passages.
“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in the field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
That motivational message was just what the group needed to hear as it headed into the postseason.
“It’s a very spiritual group,” Coale later told NewsOK. “They study scripture all the time, so I knew immediately they would know the implications. It’s one thing to read about that in the Bible, and one thing to hear your preacher talk about it, and another thing entirely to see how little that thing is. As coaches, we always try to find ways to make things real. When people feel, incredible things can happen.”
After losing in the semi-finals of the Big 12 Tournament, Oklahoma received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament where they reached the Sweet Sixteen and eventually finished the season with a 24-11 record. While outsiders might have been surprised to see the team succeed despite so many obstacles, Coale’s players believed in themselves when all hope seemed lost.
“It all just takes a little faith,” senior Jasmine Hartman said ahead of the team’s final game against Tennessee. “If each and every person has a little faith, we can go a million miles.”
This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.
(Photos: The University of Oklahoma)