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Jayda Coleman, 2020's No. 1 Recruit, Keeping Family First

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(Photo Courtesy of USA Softball/Jade Hewitt)

If there is one motto that Jayda Coleman lives by, it may be: Family first.

Whether it’s on or off the softball field, Softball America's No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2020 puts her family above all else.

The fact that Jayda’s mother, Deana, is her head coach at The Colony High (Texas), her sister, Ashlee, is the assistant coach and her father, Cedric, is her travel team coach, it makes it easier for the family to remain tight.

"Our family, if something's going on, they're going to go support you no matter what,” Jayda said. “Even if it takes some sacrifice. Our family's very, very close.”

It was during Jayda’s freshman year at The Colony that the closeness and fight of the Coleman family was put on display for the entire community to witness.

In late 2016, Deana was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she came to Jayda before school one day and told her, Jayda said it really didn’t hit on just how serious it was.

“When she told me, it didn't really phase me because she seemed so positive,” Jayda said. “She was like, ‘Oh, this isn't going to stop anything that I'm doing.’ I felt like she's going to go through this. She put on such a brave face from her that it made it seem like, oh, this is like the flu. She's just going to get over this."

But it was much more than just the flu.

Deana had to have a hysterectomy, a mastectomy and endure multiple rounds of chemotherapy before it was all said and done. It wasn’t until then that Jayda realized just how serious her mother’s situation had been.

“It didn't make me scared until after the fact,” Jayda said. “After she was done with it, (I thought) I could have lost my mom. It was scary after the fact. After it was over.”

But during it all, the importance of family and softball never changed. Jayda kept performing on the field and her mother kept coaching. Ashlee, who was the head coach at Wakeland High, came to The Colony to be with the family.

“So it's just in our nature that whatever the fight is, we're going to join you,” Deana said. “So I believe she just turned it into we're going to fight for our coach, and then I'm her mom, too. So she's just fighting. And she's told me before, it never entered my mind that you would lose a fight.”

Deana had her mastectomy Feb. 1, 2017. She coached the team’s first game on Feb. 16 and less than four months later, the Colemans were celebrating together after winning the Class 5A Texas State Championship.

“I never would have thought we were going to actually win it,” Jayda said. “We were just going game by game. I didn't really realize that we were at state until it was over. It was such a blur to actually have that last out and to be running to my pitcher. I was just like, ‘Oh, my God. I made it.’"

Jayda said winning a state championship was one of three goals she has set for herself. The other two include winning the Women’s College World Series and an Olympic Gold Medal.

While the future of softball in the Olympics is up in the air, Jayda has put herself in a good position to accomplish the second goal. She committed to the University of Oklahoma in September of 2016.

The Sooners have won four WCWS since 2000. That includes two of the last three championships.

However, growing up, Jayda’s parents thought she would be heading east when she headed off to college.

“She wasn't even an Oklahoma fan growing up. She wanted to go to Florida,” Deana said. “That's what she said from six, seven, eight years old. We'd never even known anybody to go to Florida. Never been to a Florida game. Knew nothing about them. And she just loved the Gators. And we thought when we went on that visit that she was going to commit to Florida.”

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Recruiting Diary: Missouri's Kendal Cook

After a coaching change caused her to reopen her recruiting process, New York native Kendal Cook landed at Missouri.

But when it came down to make the decision to become a Gator, it was Jayda’s family first motto that took over the decision process.

“When I went to Florida, I went to the shortstop position, and I looked around and I was like, "I can't see myself being here and being this far from home. It's pretty far." I absolutely loved it there,” Jayda said. “I loved the coaches, I loved the colors, I loved the Gators. I absolutely loved the football game. I loved everything about Florida, but I just couldn't picture myself being that far and not being able to be that close to my family. I just couldn't see myself wearing a Gator uniform and being on that field.”

Jayda had the opposite reaction when she took her visit to Norman, Okla. Being only a couple of hours from her home all of her family members would be able to come to her games.

“I remember standing at the shortstop position (and thinking), I love this place. I can see myself here. I could see myself going there even if I didn't play softball,” Jayda said. “The campus, the dorms. Even if I were to have the worst injury, knock on wood, and I couldn't play the game that I loved, I could still go to this school and be happy."

Jayda still has a couple of years before her moment with the Sooners arrives. But she knows who will be in the stands that first time she steps onto the field wearing the crimson and cream uniforms.

“I can't wait to have that feeling,” Jayda said. “To be on the field and to see my family there and be like, 'Holy crap, I made it and I'm here, and all I have to do is chill out for my family and make sure that they're proud of me at this stage.' I've got to keep going. I've got to keep pushing.”

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