July 21, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. -
Jill Larson was a three sport star during her career at Kansas (1978-81), as she shined on the softball diamond as well as the volleyball and basketball courts. Softball was where she made a name for herself as she was the first Jayhawk to be selected as a First Team All-American by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, in 1981. A three-time All-Big Eight performer over her career and first team all-region selection as a senior, Larson (now Larson-Bradney), was inducted to the KU Hall of Fame in 1981. The Wichita, Kan. Native was a third baseman and pitcher for the Jayhawks, and led Kansas in hitting from 1979-81. She also ranks fourth in program history in batting with a .341 average. Larson-Bradney can still be found on the softball diamond these days, but at Perry-Lecompton High School where she has been the softball coach for the past 17 seasons.
What made you decided you wanted to go to Kansas?
“My brother had gone to KU and he is 11-years older than I am, so I had been a Jayhawk fan ever since then. I actually had offers to go to K-State, but I just could not commit because I knew all along Kansas was the place I wanted to be.”
How did you become a three-sport athlete?
“I played all three sports in high school (volleyball, basketball and softball) and I really like basketball, so I played my first year at KU. Then I decided it probably was not my best sport, so I played volleyball and softball the next two years because at that time, softball was only in the spring. When softball went fall and spring, I stuck with softball because I was on scholarship for it.”
Which sport was your favorite?
“Definitely softball because I really enjoy playing it. I played it for many years before coming to college and I have even continued to play after my collegiate years were through.”
What was the most difficult part about playing three different sports at the collegiate level?
“I know it is not really done anymore but at the time, I just had to deal with my studies and keeping my grades up. It was challenging because I had to balance life, sports, school and practice.”
Why don’t more student-athletes play multiple sports today at the collegiate level? What has changed?
“I know from coaching in high school (at Perry-Lecompton high), that we have a lot of kids who just focus on one sport. I have read a lot of articles about it, and I think the more sports your involved in, the better off you are. They all have carry-over. I think multiple-sport athletes have a tendency to transfer skills from one sport to another and carry a better skill set and knowledge of athletics in general. I think playing multiple sports is great and should be encouraged.”
What was your favorite part about your experience as a student-athlete?
“I loved being part of the KU family. The friends and teammates I had and the experiences we had together were great. I got to travel and meet new people and it was so rewarding. There are times I wish I could go back in time to experience it all again.”
What was your reaction to being KU's first AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) First Team All-American.
“I had no idea that it was coming; I was floored. I really just wanted to do the best that I could and strive to do better each day. I was really honored, but also very shocked. I was with a very elite group of girls like Dot Richardson, who played for the Olympic team, and Sheila Cornel. It was a truly wonderful honor.”
What did you do after you graduated?
“I went to Springfield, Mo., for a job as an assistant coach, but unfortunately it had fallen through. So, I came back to get my master’s degree. I coached at Baker University for two years, then taught pre-school for another two years before I was lucky enough to have a friend looking for a volleyball coach at Perry-Lecompton High School. I became the assistant coach there for a year and then eventually the head coach. I also coached track and basketball for awhile there. Since the softball program began at Perry-Lecompton 17 years ago, I am honored to say I have been its only head coach. All in all I have been teaching at the same school for 25 years and coaching for 27. Now I am just the softball coach, as I retired from coaching volleyball following last year.”
What advice do you give your athletes that hope to play collegiate softball?
“I tell them to work hard, keep a good attitude and strive to get better every day. As far as skills go, I think fundamentals are so important because so many kids these days forget that. They want to jump to the top of the ladder, but they don’t go through the steps very well."
What do you miss most about KU Athletics?
“I miss being around the Fieldhouse and the other athletes in the program. I loved being involved with KU Athletics because we would really support one and other. The softball team would go to all the men’s and women’s basketball games to root them on. We all just encouraged each other and I really miss being around that atmosphere.”
Do you ever come back to KU to catch a softball game?
“My husband and I live in Lawrence, but unfortunately when I was coaching both volleyball and softball; it made it really hard to get to a lot of games because I was always at school for games. We do try to get to as many softball games as we can when we are in town on a weekend. We have been to a few volleyball matches as well. It was hard with my schedule, but hopefully it will open up a lot now that I am only coaching softball and I will be able to see some KU games.”