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Three Things to Know About the Making of “ESPN Cover Story: Oklahoma Softball”

"I hope that readers get a sense for how much work and talent are a part of Oklahoma's winning formula -- but that joy and balance are, too."

Oklahoma softball’s 52-2 record is only the start to the Sooners’ seemingly incomprehensible stats this season.

They are not just breaking the mold on dominance; they’re breaking the mold on being dominant with a purpose beyond winning.

For feature writer Hallie Grossman, this – the first ESPN Cover Story to feature an entire program – was a chance to showcase the Sooners in a way not many have had a chance to see.

ESPN Cover Story (Deanne Fitzmaurice for ESPN)

Her conversations with iconic head coach Patty Gasso, top home run hitter in NCAA softball history Jocelyn Alo and others explore how the Sooners manage the great expectations surrounding them.

Grossman talks about her week with the most dominant team in America:

On spending a week with the team:
What I probably enjoyed most was getting to see Coach Gasso and players outside of their softball bubble. That’s where I learned not just how enormous OU softball is, but how ubiquitous. Even when Coach Gasso was trying to enjoy her lunch anonymously, she got approached by several fans.

When star shortstop Grace Lyons was waiting outside a church after Sunday services, fans approached her to talk about the latest games. While they don’t bring softball with them everywhere, everyone else absolutely does.

Sooners On ESPN

NCAA Softball Super Regionals: Oklahoma takes on Central Florida Friday-Sunday (if necessary) on ESPN2 (Fri..,4:30 p.m. ET) and ESPN (Sat., 2 p.m.). For more on ESPN Cover Story: Oklahoma Softball, visit ESPN Press Room.

On favorite moments that didn’t make the piece:
Before the second game of their Bedlam series [versus rival Oklahoma State], the Sooners’ new head football coach, Brent Venables, delivered quite the spirited pregame speech. The softball team ate it up, but what was cooler to see was the way Venables ate the team up.

He threw the first pitch, then watched the rest of the game from just outside the dugout. He spent a not-insignificant amount of time recording the game on his iPhone and kept showing off the softball he had the entire team sign.

On takeaways for Cover Story’s audience:
I hope that readers get a sense for how much work and talent are a part of Oklahoma’s winning formula — but that joy and balance are, too. For a team that has won as much as it has, they really do not seem jaded or underwhelmed by what they are doing and what is shaping up to be a historic season.

SUSIE ARTH, COVER STORY SENIOR EDITOR, ON FEATURING AN ENTIRE TEAM

“Faith is this team’s drumbeat.” The Sooners participate in a post-game team prayer. (Deanne Fitzmaurice for ESPN)
“The difference was in Hallie’s reporting approach. First, we fully immersed ourselves in the Oklahoma softball experience. That meant being in the locker room, sitting in the stands, attending a church service, and exclusive one-on-one interviews. In addition, Hallie wound up talking to administrators, coaches, parents, fans, players, and a stadium usher. The diversity of voice that Hallie brings to this piece is what really helps bring a vivid understanding of what it’s like to be part of the most dominant team in America.”
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