Lu Harris-Champer and her Georgia Bulldogs softball team play Thursday against defending champion Washington in the Women’s College World Series.
Harris-Champer’s impressive statistics include a 48-11 record, 709 career wins and -- maybe most surprising of all -- raising three kids under age 6.
Before the team’s departure for Oklahoma City, she spoke with the AJC by phone about her team’s success, balancing work and home life, and who she looks up to.
Q: How is this team different than your first World Series team that finished in the top four last year?
A: They are just as special. They can’t wait to get out and play ball. I’m excited that they’ll get to experience the atmosphere and large crowds in Oklahoma City, to continue their season and compete for the national championship. ... I want them to experience every bit of it, take it all in.
Q: How are things on the home front?
A: I do miss the kids. I don’t see them as much as I’d like, but I spend as much time as I can with them. Coming to our games is just not enjoyable for them because they are just too young. The twins, Jenna and Emma, are 5 and Mya is just 4. At our games, they go to the bouncy house and the fun stuff that’s there for families, and they like to run on the field after the game and then we go to dinner.
Q: Are they competitive?
A: With three girls, you know no matter what it is, each of them want it first. I saw Mya running down a hall the other day, her arm in front of a boy because she didn’t want him ahead of her.
Q: How do you manage?
A: My husband [Jerry Champer, assistant Bulldogs swim coach] is fabulous. Without him, we couldn’t do what we do. My mom, Mary Younie, lives about 45 minutes away. She will watch the kids this week while I am out of town and my husband is working a camp for swimmers.
Q: So it’s all in the family?
A: That’s how it feels. I have support on and off the field. The twins are in kindergarten, and for my youngest, I have a caregiver, Vickie Glasco, who is my assistant coach’s wife. She’s awesome. She is married to Gerry Glasco, my coach, who is just phenomenal. They both work so hard.
Q: Do your kids wish you wouldn’t leave?
A: They are used to this pace because that’s all they know. Obviously there are times they want me to stay, but you do what you have to do. I tell them I love them and will snuggle with them tonight. We do snuggle a ton to make up for not being there.
Q: Do you have a role model?
A: Patty Gasso, the coach at Oklahoma ..., is a very successful coach who has children [two boys, in high school and college]. When her team won the national championship in 2000, they were little. I’ve asked her at different times how you do this or that.
Here in Athens, Suzanne Yoculan is a phenomenal, phenomenal coach. It’s unbelievable what’s she’s been able to do and raise her children.
Q: Did they give you any secrets?
A: Family, family, family. The more family you have around, the better. Get some good help. The staff I have is fantastic.
Q: Does your mind ever wander away from the field to your kids?
A: Not when we are playing, but when we are away, a minute that a game is over it does. The kids don’t travel with me because they will have more fun at home. You realize you are there and they aren’t. I love being with my team, but as soon as the game ends, that’s the time it hits me. Ten minutes afterwards, I really wish I was with my kids right then. So I use the road time to really prepare for when I am home so I can be with them as much as possible.
Q: Do you have a motto?
A: Last year, I listened to “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle probably seven or eight times. One of the principles is, “Work harder. Be nice.” I hear that a lot in my mind.
Q: How do you take care of yourself?
A: I got into playing tennis this past year. That is a hobby that helps clear my head. Then I broke my foot helping my mom move. Just getting exercise in is important to me.