Shay Knighten is a professional softball player for the USSSA Pride, a coach at the University of San Diego, and a former star at the University of Oklahoma. She helped lead the Sooners to national championships in 2016 and 2017, and she was named the Most Outstanding Player for the 2017 Women’s College World Series. She was also the 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year. Below, Knighten shares her story about making her faith her own, being an example for others and how Christ has increased in her life.
Your sport is what you do, it’s never going to be who you are. You have to find a way to let people know who you are on the inside.
My dad played professional baseball, and it was ingrained in his kids that we were going to play sports. For me and my sister, softball stuck and we’ve been competing with each other ever since. When I went into college at the University of Oklahoma as a young 18-year-old who didn’t know anything about collegiate softball, my coach, Patty Gasso, allowed me to come just as I was. I’m very loud, I’m an extreme extrovert, and I love God.
But I was really unsure how I was going to continue my faith in college. I wondered who would judge me for it and who would choose not to be friends with me because of it. All of my insecurities came out. Was I going to have any friends outside of softball? My coach gave me the strength to be myself in the softball arena, as well as outside of it. As I watched her express her faith, it allowed us to be ourselves too.
Our coach invited all of us to Bible study every week, but no one had to go. I didn’t go for a long time because I was afraid. Then I learned that a lot of my teammates were going, so I took a leap of faith to go too. I didn’t know the Bible front to back, and I wasn’t sure what the Bible study was going to be about. That’s what made me the most uncomfortable. But when I did finally go, it was sincerely life-changing. My coach gave me the opportunity to come in when I needed to, and I can’t thank her enough. After my first time there, I didn’t miss one meeting for the rest of my collegiate softball career.
“I didn’t know the Bible front to back, and I wasn’t sure what the Bible study was going to be about. That’s what made me the most uncomfortable. But when I did finally go, it was sincerely life-changing.” — Shay Knighten
I began my walk with God at a very young age, but the older we got the harder it became to go to church because of our softball schedules. I always knew I believed in God, those seeds were planted way before I can even remember, but once I got to college I decided to take hold of my own faith.
Now as both a player and a coach myself, I want to be that same role model that my college coach was for me. I love the family aspect of our team at the University of San Diego. I let the girls know that I’m there for them and they know they can come to me for anything. Yes, I’m their coach, but I’m a person too. I’m only recently removed from college myself.
I trust my faith and I trust myself. I’m no longer afraid to be myself — the coach, the player, the person. I’m not ashamed to show my morals and values. We can’t be afraid to make mistakes because at the end of the day, we learn from them.
— Shay Knighten, University of San Diego softball coach & USSSA Pride infielder
Created and led by pro athletes, The Increase is a ministry on mission to see all athletes, coaches, fans and people everywhere have an Increase experience with Christ as found in John 3:30. For more stories, videos and resources to help you discover that the best life is found as we die to self and live for Jesus, visit TheIncrease.com.
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