Lauren Haeger Talks Florida Career, Coronavirus Impact
Softball America caught up with two-time NCAA champion and 2015 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Lauren Haeger.
See SA's full conversation with Haeger below.
Softball America: What has life been like the past five years since your graduation from Florida?
Lauren Haeger: I have gained everything I could’ve imagined from softball. I’ve traveled the world playing softball, I’ve traveled the country playing softball, coaching softball. I've done all these insane things because of softball.
Just the experiences I’ve had the last five years and the people I’ve gotten to meet from this sport is the best part. I hit my sixth continent in 2018 and that would’ve never been possible without softball. It’s been really fun the last five years, living in my 20s the way I want to live. I don’t regret a single thing.
SA: After stints with the Texas Charge and Scrap Yard Fastpitch, you now live in North Carolina. What brought you there?
LH: Playing professional softball for four years was challenging because you have to find a career or career path that lets you play in the summer. A lot of people go to teaching lessons, doing camps, doing anything they can to still play. I fell in love with the younger generation doing lessons and camps everywhere. I needed a change. Kelsey Bruder, who also played at Florida, has a facility in Charlotte, N.C. She had previously asked me if I had plans and what I was doing. Finally, the time was right, and I reached back out to her and I got hired by her as a full-time pitching and hitting instructor. It’s been so amazing. I coach travel softball back here. I love coaching travel ball. I think it’s so much fun. I’m able to get on the field, give lessons and travel as much as I want.
SA: What are you feeling for athletes whose lives have been put on hold because of the coronavirus?
LH: I just feel extremely sad for everyone going through it at all levels. Sports are a huge part of people’s lives, and especially as a kid in high school, it’s harder to understand the big picture and that’s something that would’ve been hard for me. You’re so hyper-focused on where you are now and those types of things, you wouldn’t have seen the big picture and quite understand what’s happening. I would be extremely sad and disappointed if I were in high school or college while going through this.
SA: There are a lot of athletes who have played their last softball game without going out the way they wanted to. What is your advice for those who will need to fill the void left by softball?
LH: I would really lean on my people because at the end of the day when you do play your last softball game, even though you were 100 percent not prepared for it to end, those people you have gone through it with don’t change. All of your people are your people. Everyone is kind of going through the same exact thing. My biggest advice would just be to lean on those people, and that at the end of the day, softball was going to end anyway, but the people you made memories with will be with you forever.
SA: What types of life lessons from Tim Walton have stuck with you over the years?
LH: A huge part of what he instilled in me was honesty, just being accountable. Those types of things go so much further than the game. They have helped me in life. No matter what, telling the truth is always better, no matter how hard it can be. Telling people exactly how you feel is a good thing and nothing to be ashamed of. Being accountable for your actions, being able to say, "I messed up," and apologize for those things. Those are huge parts of Coach Walton that he values in his players, his staff and his team. That’s one of the biggest takeaways I ever had from him, and that hard work pays off at the end of the day.
SA: What parts of your Florida career, aside from the national championships, would you want to relive if you could?
LH: Anything leading up to the last national championship. Postseason in general is some of the most exciting times, any rivalry game, any SEC win was a huge deal. I’ve had so many thrillers, so many comebacks. I’ve lost, and those matter as well. I was swept one time in my career and that was by Tennessee my junior year, and we ended up winning a national championship because of it. Any game at the Women’s College World Series is absolutely a dream come true, whether you come out winning or losing. It’s exactly what you dream about as a kid. It’s everything and more.
Bruder’s The Softball Project is based out of Matthews, N.C. Haeger is also part of the team at The Packaged Deal.