There’s a new coach at the helm of LMU softball, and she’s ready to take the team to a new level.
LMU Athletics announced on Monday that Tairia Flowers, Olympic gold medalist and former head coach of CSU Northridge, will take over as head coach of the LMU softball program after Sami Strinz-Ward’s departure to become the head coach at Texas Tech University.
When asked about why she chose to come coach for the Lions, Flowers had nothing but praise for LMU.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Flowers. “[I was drawn to] what the campus has to offer—the education, the location, the softball program in particular—and the qualities of athletes that they’re getting in.”
There’s no doubt that Flowers has the right experience for the job. She was a standout player at UCLA, helping them win a national championship in 2003 and ranking second all-time in home runs, games played, RBIs and total bases for the Bruins. Flowers also played in two Olympic Games for the U.S. national softball team, winning gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and silver at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In her coaching career, she was the second-winningest softball coach in CSUN’s history and named the Big West Conference Coach of the Year in 2015.
Flowers brought CSU Northridge to the NCAA tournament in 2015, and she’s confident that she can accomplish that long-sought goal for the Lions as well. LMU has been stuck behind a dominant BYU team in the West Coast Conference year after year, but Flowers knows that LMU has the talent to overtake them.
“I think obviously we have the tools, it’s just making sure that they believe they can do it. A lot of times in my experience, even the best athletes have a little bit of that doubt, and it’s just about reminding them that they can compete with anybody — they’ve done it their whole lives. It’s about helping them become their best when their best is needed,” Flowers said.
Having played at UCLA, one of the top softball schools in the nation every year, Flowers knows what it takes to have a consistently successful program. She believes it’s possible for LMU to build one of these powerhouse softball programs, and the key is recruiting.
“[Creating a dominant program] is the goal and why I made this transition,” Flowers said. “It’s a beautiful campus, and I think something that you can recruit to. They’ve already done it and had some substantial wins that made it into the news. Now people are hearing the buzz, and that’s going to make better and better recruits come on. We know what the campus has to offer, and as a new recruit coming in how can you not want to be part of that?”
The newsworthy wins Flowers referred to were LMU’s historic upsets against two highly ranked teams this spring before the season was canceled. In back-to-back games in the Judi Garman Classic, LMU beat No. 4 LSU and No. 13 Michigan. This was the first time ever that the Lions had won against two top-15 teams in one season, and Flowers thinks that games like these will entice future recruits to play for LMU.
This year will not be without challenges, though, and Flowers is prepared for that. Making this kind of serious leadership transition during a pandemic is difficult, especially with so many guidelines about training and socializing still in place.
“Right now, [the players] know way more than I do about anything on campus—each other, the program, what works and what doesn’t work—so it’ll be about enlisting them to give me an idea of where we should start, and then just kind of hit the ground running,” said Flowers. “I’m very aware of how hard this is on everyone, and my intention is to make it a smooth transition. Maybe that means not as much hardcore softball, but figuring out what this team needs at this point. That will come from just communicating with them.”
Along with her new journey at LMU, Flowers is looking forward to the return of softball to the Olympics next year. Her experience playing for Team USA was unforgettable, and she wants to encourage the Olympic team to live in the moment.
“In 2004, I was one of the youngest ones on the team, so it was a little different because I was just taking everything in. What I really remember is the Olympic Village, and seeing all the other stars in all the other sports just walking around in the cafeteria. It was surreal, and that team was amazing,” Flowers noted. “In 2008, being a little bit older and kind of having a more solidified role, I was very focused and I wish I would have enjoyed the experience a little bit more. [I want to] remind the current players that they’re coming to win, but to not ever take the blood, sweat and tears and the people that they’re surrounded with for granted.”
If the spring season can start as planned, it will be exciting to see what Flowers can do with the LMU softball program. As a College World Series champion and an Olympic gold medalist, one thing is certain: She knows how to win.