Throwback Thursday: Kris Sell McGrath

Oct. 28, 2010

Kris Sell McGrath (Tennis, 1996-99)

Sell teamed up with Christie Sim to claim the 1997 Big 12 Doubles title. Her name is all over the Kansas Tennis record books as she ranks in the top five in six different categories. Sell, who played under Chuck Merzbacher, Roland Thornqvist and Jenny Garrity, earned All Big-12 honors in 1997 and 1998. Sell went on to marry former KU men’s basketball player C.B. McGrath. The couple currently resides in Chapel Hill, N.C., with their three children.

What made you decide to go to KU?

“The coach first of all. I met him at a tournament when I was a junior in high school. I just really, really liked him a lot and I came on a visit. At the time, I actually had five visits set up and KU was my first one. I visited KU and I just knew right away that was where I wanted to go to school. My parents made me go on one more visit and then I just canceled the rest. Once I got on campus, I kind of knew that was where I wanted to be. I loved the coach and I loved the campus and all of the people. It seemed like the perfect fit for me.”

What is your favorite memory from being on the tennis team?

“My junior year, we were playing in the regionals to go to the Sweet 16 of the NCAAs. We hadn’t been there yet since I was there at KU. We were playing Arizona and it was a super close match and we ended up winning. Just winning that match and then going to the Sweet 16, that was probably my favorite memory.”

What do you miss most about KU?

“I guess I would say I miss Lawrence. We were just back there in August, I hadn’t been back in about three years. Just the town, the people, the community, I really miss that stuff. Being removed from it for awhile, it has made me appreciate more what a cool place it is. I miss my teammates, I had such good friends on the team. I miss being able to be around them all the time. I also miss the competitiveness, I haven’t played since I graduated. I miss the competition. The friends, I really miss that a lot. Being able to see them all the time is tough now that we are spread out all over the place.”

Can you talk a little bit about your job/life right now?

“Basically, I just stay at home. I have three kids. I have twin girls who are four and a son who is two. Pretty much I am just busy with them all the time, shuttling them back and forth to different places. When I graduated, I worked at the marketing office at KU and did that for a year and a half until we moved to Chapel Hill. When I got here, I ran their Midnight Madness program. Coach (Roy) Williams wanted it to be like KU, and then I got hired by the Sports Marketing office at UNC. I did that for three years. When I had the twins, I quit my job and I have been home ever since. I also taught tennis at the country club in Chapel Hill.”

What were the pros and cons of being a student-athlete and how do you think it prepared you for life after college?

“There were definitely a lot more pros than cons. Time management; having to deal with practice, having to deal with studies, and then managing a social life really taught me a lot of discipline. I guess one of the cons would be being an athlete, you can’t go out every Friday or Saturday night if you have a match the next day or something. Not being able to do all of the things you want to do was a con. But really, that was probably the only con, just the time away from social things. I was certainly able to do just about everything that I wanted to though. The pros obviously are all the people you get to meet and being on a team. All those close relationships and friendships that you make are great.”

Now that your husband is a coach for UNC, do you feel like you have to root for UNC and KU equally?

“It’s tough! The first year we were here I had a really hard time. I went to KU and I was an athlete and I was such a fan. Going to another school and then cheering for them was tough, so that made the first year hard. It’s definitely gotten easier over the years though. We love it here and we definitely feel like we are Tar Heels too. But when we played KU in the Final Four, that was brutal. It was bizarre walking and seeing KU fans and then seeing Carolina fans and it was all just a little bit weird. I wanted Carolina to win though because that’s where C.B. works, but then when KU won, and that was OK too, so it was kind of a win-win situation. Then we came home and watched the championship game on TV and we were obviously happy that KU won. So it’s weird. We’re definitely Tar Heels now, but we will also always be Jayhawks.”

What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?

“That is tough to say. I don’t think we will be living in Chapel Hill anymore. Hopefully C.B. will be a head coach somewhere. I see myself still being a mom, just doing what the kids need me to do and having me take them to whatever sports they want to play, and I’m hoping that sport is tennis. I don’t see myself necessarily going back to work, there’s nothing that I’m really dying to pursue.”

If you could give one piece of advice for somebody trying to make it as a successful student-athlete, what would you tell them?

“I definitely know one piece of advice I would give: just enjoy it. When you’re in it, it’s common to be ready to leave school and just kind of wish away the years that you are there. That’s definitely something I would tell them, is to appreciate the time that they have there. I would also tell them to take advantage of all the resources that are available. There’s just so much help available with all of the tutors and the numerous other ways to get support for your path to graduation and your path afterwards.”