City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

A Gold Medal Olympian Leads KU Softball

Coach Jennifer McFalls Played on Team USA and Now Teaches Players to Succeed in the Sport

Since Coach Jennifer McFalls took the helm of the KU Softball program, the team's success has continued upward. So far, in 2024 (as of April 8th), the Jayhawks have a record of 25-12-1 overall, with a Big 12 Conference record of 10-5. For a time, they ranked among the top 25 teams in the US. 

Coach McFalls was a member of Team USA's gold-medal-winning softball team at the 2000 Olympics. She came to Lawrence in August 2018 following previous stints as an assistant coach at Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. She was a first-team All-American shortstop as a senior at Texas A&M in 1993 and was inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.

Lawrence City Lifestyle talked with McFalls about her career and thoughts on women's sports.

LCL: What got you into wanting to play softball?

McFalls: I grew up in a family that was just really involved in athletics, so I was around sports a lot. I was in the neighborhood playing with mostly all the boys. I think I was a pretty tough kid, and fortunately, I was blessed with a lot of athleticism. I loved sports, I loved competing, and I loved winning.

I played everything growing up, and softball just happened to be a family thing. Everybody in my family played on our church softball team and played baseball. I was just around it all the time. I was the bat girl for my dad's slow-pitch team. I was the bat girl for the women's team when I was too little to play. So I think it was just something that I was just kind of raised with.

And then you know, as I got older into high school, I had the opportunity to play other sports. But softball just became my true passion. I don't know if my family would have been able to afford to send me off to a really big school without the help of a scholarship. I went to Texas A&M University. I was really, really blessed to have that opportunity, and then just one door kept opening after another.

LCL: And next thing you know, you're getting a gold medal in the Olympics!

McFalls: It's kind of crazy how fast it happened and when I was trying to figure out what my life would look like. Somebody asked me if I would try out for the 96 Olympic team. I was finishing college in 1994 and thought, "Well, I don't know. I'm probably going to have a job." Things fortunately kept falling in my lap.

LCL: What drew you to coaching?

McFalls: I think I always had a little passion for it. I was always a relationship builder. Once I started doing camps and clinics in college and connecting with young kids, seeing them succeed at doing something they're good at was so rewarding to me. When I finished playing college at Texas A&M in 1994, I was still trying to finish my degree, and my coach offered me a position to stay as a student coach. Then coaching just kind of became natural for me. I just started connecting and loved helping other players do things they didn't think they could do.

LCL: Is there a benefit to a women's team having a woman coach?

McFalls: I don't know that there's necessarily a benefit. I think that some players probably feel differently. Maybe they grew up with their dads or a friend's dad coaching them. So that's all they're used to. I really haven't personally run into that issue.

What I love the most about my staff is we are very diverse. It takes a strong personality to be in the head seat, regardless of whether it's a man or a woman. But I think sometimes men probably coach a little differently than women do at times. That's just the nature of the beast. I don't believe that one way is better than the other. A lot of it just depends on what the athlete feels like. I haven't run into players who have ever told me they'd rather play for a man than a female, but I think it's nice having diversity on my staff, specifically having both men and women.

LCL: Have you seen a change in women's sports since you started playing?

McFalls: I have, just even in the last few years. The growth of women's sports has been so fast and exciting. To start seeing people's passion for women's sports and the level of athleticism people get to watch, like what you see in the Caitlin Clarks of women's basketball or the Oklahoma Sooners softball team.

LCL: You sold out all three games against them!

McFalls: It was an exciting opportunity for our team, even though we obviously didn't get the wins. Being in that environment is so rewarding for an athlete because, at the end of the day, I don't think people realize how much time they put in and what a grind it is. The discipline you must have now to be not just an athlete but to be at the top and in the spotlight, and they're great students. That takes a whole other level of discipline to add to being a great athlete.

KU Softball's final season series is at Arrocha Ballpark against BYU on May 2-3. Then they'll play in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Softball Championship in Oklahoma City. For the complete schedule and ticket information, go to

  • Coach Jennifer McFalls (Photo creditcredit to Missy Minear, Director of Photography for Kansas Athletics)