August 26, 2011

Flowers Enjoys All-American Summer

By Geoff Herberg, Northridge Media Relations

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- It's been just over a year since Tairia Flowers was named the softball head coach at Cal State Northridge. In those 12 months, the former All-American and Olympian has experienced a series of transitions, from the increase in responsibilities associated with being a first-year head coach to assuming a new coaching role with Team USA.  What she certainly cannot say is that this past year has been uneventful.

After finishing up a 22-31 season with the Matadors in may that culminated with the program's first road series victory over Cal State Fullerton since 1998, Flowers did not miss a beat in moving into a coaching role with Team USA Softball.

A familiar face in the ranks of international softball thanks in part to her success with Team USA in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Flowers made the transition this summer from player to coach, taking an assistant's position under Team USA head coach Ken Eriksen.

"Working with Team USA this past summer was like sticking a kid in a candy store," Flowers added. "While it was somewhat strange to see a new group of players comprise the squad, it was amazing to watch them succeed at such a high level. It was also great to huddle with the coaching staff and talk strategy and all the nuances of the game."

After an intense training camp and a small barnstorming tour in Florida and Maryland, the highlight of the summer was their successful defense of the championship at the World Cup of Softball VI in Oklahoma City.

Despite a youthful roster full of players making their first appearances in an American uniform, the club was able to score a 6-4 victory over Japan in the event's finale. Flowers spent much of her time in the Oklahoma heat in the first base coaches' box and the new role was refreshing was for the two-time Olympian.

"The win over Japan was very special. We had suffered a tough loss to them in the finals of the Canada Cup and watching the girls make the necessary adjustments is a testament to all the hard work everyone associated with Team USA put in throughout the summer," Flowers said.

Having tasted the success at the coaching level already, Flowers will also join Team USA when they travel to Guadalajara to participate in the 2011 Pan Am Games from October 17 to 23. The United States will look to win its seventh-straight gold medal at the event and will face tough competition from Canada and Venezuela among others.

"I am really looking forward to the Pan Am Games," Flowers said. "The tournament is filled with a lot of very good programs and anyone can beat anyone else on any given day. I am especially looking forward to facing Canada because they got the better of us in Oklahoma City, so there's plenty of motivation there."

Off the field, the whirlwind continued as Flowers was elected to the Pima County (AZ) Athletic Hall of Fame. A standout at Tucson's Salpointe High School, Flowers was one of the most dominant players in the state's history. Flowers also saw her son Jayce, who turned one in April, take his first steps.

"He's walking, running, talking, doing all the things that kids do at that age when they are just starting to discover," Flowers added.

The hectic summer was not just limited to Flowers however. Her husband, Jason Flowers, successfully navigated his first year as head coach of the CSUN women's basketball program. Her staff was also active during the period as volunteer assistant coach Natasha Watley played for the USSSA Pride of the National Pro Fastpitch League (NPF).

Although the Pride fell just short of capturing the Cowles Cup for the second-straight year, Watley led the league with an astronomical .481 batting average, 63 hits and 16 stolen bases. Watley also spent time in Japan, playing for Team Toyota.

Things are not likely to slow down any time soon for Flowers, Watley or the rest of the Matadors. The club has seven newcomers on the roster, a host of fall games and the daily grind of recruiting and other administrative responsibilities. 

"Jason and I talk about how blessed we are to be in this situation together everyday," Flowers said. "To become a head coach, new mom and an assistant for USA softball in such a short period of time has been a whirlwind ride."

It just makes you wonder what the next 12 months have in store.