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Mrs. Connie "Sensei" Lavergne , née Hunter

225 Cajundome Blvd
Lafayette, LA 70605


Home Phone: --
Work Phone: 337-482-6560
Fax: 337-482-6278
Email: chl4034@louisiana.edu

Mrs. Connie Hunter Lavergne

In 1983, Connie Lavergne created the USL Judo Team. It was a small club consisting of only 10 members. In fact, it was so small that the entire team had to pool resources just to travel to New Orleans for their first competition. However, Connie and the USL Team quickly opened the eyes of the “Good Ole Boy” network, when her team came home with most of the first place trophies, in their respective divisions. This tough young Physical Education teacher, from Albany,KY in the foothills of south central Kentucky, had strolled boldly into the coaching realm of a largely male dominated sport. She was the first Female Head Collegiate Judo Coach in the USA and by the time she retired from coaching twenty two years later, she had indelibly left her mark on the United States Judo world.

Connie describes her love of Judo, as coming about by accident, but definitely a love at first sight, or rather “First Throw” encounter. Connie attended her first Judo class as part of a compromise. In the process of convincing a college friend to attend an art class with her, Connie had to agree to attend Judo class in return. As a Health and Physical Education Major, Connie had a love for athletic endeavors, but never dreamed of the years of excitement and pleasure she would find when she agreed to go to that, “Martial Arts stuff” class. She was informed that Judo means, “the Gentle Way” in Japanese. However, to anyone watching the throws, pins, arm bars and choke holds, employed in this sport, gentle would be probably be the last adjective that would come to mind. To Connie, however, this was the way to have fun. The hard work, conditioning and discipline required to succeed in this sport, were everything that Connie looked for in a competitive sport. The techniques and strategies involved were icing on the cake, in her new found favorite sport. Connie frequently describes competitive Judo, as a “chess match played at 100 mph”.

Connie’s strong Christian and “country folk” upbringing taught her, that “if you were going to do something, you just a soon do it right.” Well, when it came to Judo, Connie definitely did it right. As a competitor, Connie was an elite athlete. She competed and won against international competition, and was ranked as one of the top American women Judo players in her weight division. Upon obtaining her Master’s Degree from Eastern Kentucky University in Physical Education: Sports Administration, she moved to Florida, where she taught at the University of South Florida. She continued her Judo training and competition at The Florida School of Judo in Tampa.

Finally, in 1983, fate or good fortune brought her to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, (then known as USL). Connie’s ability to teach such a variety of lifetime sports was a big factor in her getting the job. In fact, in Connie’s 26 years at UL, she has taught Judo, Self-defense, swimming, weight training, aerobic dance, volleyball, bowling, roller skating, fitness exercise, badminton and archery. She also taught at the Offshore Survival Program, and started the Continuing Education programs of gymnastics, judo and self-defense. Connie continued to compete for a while after moving to Louisiana. However, she soon found that the relatively small pool of female competitors resulted in her competing against her own students at tournaments. Connie soon retired from elite competition, and concentrated on what was to become her next love in the world of judo – coaching.


Connie learned quickly that there was something she was better at than “playing judo” and that was teaching Judo. While competitive Judo was Connie’s true love, she was able to demonstrate how Judo is truly a life sport with something for all age groups. Connie also, quickly found that Judo attracts all types of personalities. Nonetheless, those people who explored Judo with the hopes of instantly becoming the “terror of their local tavern” soon found that they had come shopping at the wrong store.

Connie’s program, and her method of Judo, was grounded in discipline and hard work. Those who chose to practice the tenets that she espoused found that they would succeed at Judo. Whether, the student’s goal was to become a competitive judo student, or wanted to concentrate on Kata, or simply wanted to improve their physical condition, Connie would help them achieve their goals.

One of Connie’s greatest teaching challenges, she describes as one of her greatest blessings. This challenge came in the form of visually impaired students. Teaching people who could not see the demonstration of a throw, was a test to her teaching abilities. Connie simply says, “it made me a better teacher. I could not just grab a volunteer, throw them to the mat and say this is how you do this throw. Rather, I had to be able to describe each movement, hand and body position, so that the unsighted student could understand what I was doing. Many times I used the student as my “volunteer” in order that they could feel what I was doing. This too was a challenge, as I had to gain the trust of the students who many times were reluctant to be grabbed and moved, and more importantly trust that I would not hurt them.” Connie was successful, to the extent that visually impaired students, enrolled in UL in order to take Connie’s judo class. Her success as a coach and teacher was proven out as her visually impaired students succeeded on the mat. One student in particular, Scott Moore was nationally ranked among both sighted and unsighted students. He went on to win the Gold medal in the 1998 World Championships in Spain where his longest match lasted 34 seconds. One of his teammates, Nicole Deville, took the Junior Bronze medal at these same World Championships. In 1999, Scott was the USABA Athlete of the year, and in 2000 Scott won the Gold medal in the Paralympics in Sidney, Australia.


In order for UL-LAFAYETTE Judo students to compete against people other than their own classmates, it was necessary to attend tournaments. Travel, food and lodging are expensive. As most college students can attest, they generally did not have a lot of extra money. Therefore, Connie and the UL-LAFAYETTE team began hosting tournaments. Connie worked with other clubs in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi to create tournaments that would be accessible and not overly expensive. Connie was the founder of the Mid-South Collegiate Conference which included: UL-Lafayette, Texas A&M, University of Texas, University of Florida, Florida State University, Hendrix College in Arkansas, Louisiana State University, Tulane University, Stephen F. Austin, Florida International University, Mississippi State University, UL- Monroe, Texas A&M International, University of Alabama and Oklahoma State University. While UL-LAFAYETTE hosted several tournaments a year, the close proximity of these other schools allowed UL-LAFAYETTE members to travel and compete without having huge financial investments. Connie was the Director of 90% of the Louisiana Clinics, Camps and tournaments including: Little Southern Ladder, Deep South Senior Invitational, Louisiana State Championship, Louisiana State Collegiate Championship, 1995 USJA National Camp and 1995 and 1997 USABA National Training Camp.

The popularity of the UL-Lafayette hosted tournaments, and facilities at UL-Lafayette resulted in an ever increasing attendance. Soon, the Swamp Classic came into being. This tournament became one of the largest in the country. It attracted competitors from twelve different countries, becoming an internationally recognized tournament. By becoming an “E” level tournament, it provided athletes with the opportunity to earn points toward being ranked on the National Roster of Judo athletes. In 2004, the Swamp Classic was the 2nd Largest “E” Level tournament in the United States. It had divisions for Masters, Collegiate, Seniors, Novice and Juniors. The 2004 tournament had 297 athletes representing ten different countries. It required six competition mats, and was held in the Cajun Dome Convention Center.

In addition to being a National point tournament, the Swamp Classic also became a national test site for National Level Officials. International Level officials from all over the USA attended this tournament in order to test candidates for the various levels of National Officials.

The Swamp Classic, initiated in its infancy in 1984 ran until 2005. Worthy of note, is that the UL-LAFAYETTE team was the “Swamp Classic Judo Open Team Champion” all 22 years. This was accomplished while the serving as the host team, and having to “work the tournament” in addition to competing. Connie served as the tournament director each year. When she retired from coaching in 2005, the tournament had become so large that it required approximately 400 hours of volunteer time just on Connie’s part, in addition to the hundreds of hours by team members, just to make it happen.


Connie’s research interests centered around, Judo Elite Athletes, Collegiate and Youth Programs, Blind Athletes, Methods of Self Defense and Methods of Coaching. Connie’s hard work and success soon proved to expand the influence of UL-Lafayette in the Judo world. As a University Faculty member, Connie had access to a great facility, in addition to research expertise and subjects. In 2000 the UL-Lafayette was named the USA Judo National Training Facility.

Connie, in conjunction with other faculty members conducted research on “The Effects of Chronic Training on the Physiological Profiles of Female Judo Players”; “The Physiological Profiles of 21 Active, Female Judo Athletes Ranging in Age 32 to 82”; “Developing a Practice Plan”; “Physiological Profiles of Elite Visually Impaired Judo Players”; “A Profile of Elite Male Visually Impaired Athlete”; “A Physiological Profile of Elite, Male Visually Impaired Judo Player”.

These research projects also required presentations to AAPHERD, Greensboro, North Carolina; International Research Symposium, United States Judo, Inc. National Coaches Conference, at United States Olympic Training Center; National Coaches Conference, US Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs; LA AHPERD Convention, Lafayette Louisiana, to name a few.

Giving Back

Finally, Connie had discovered a sport that she loved. While she had vaguely heard of Judo as a martial art, she had no idea the world she would discover when she entered the Dojo for the first time. She had no idea that Judo was the second largest competitive sport in the world, second only to Soccer. She had no idea that she would have a direct effect on so many lives in this crazy world of Judo. In 2005, Connie decided to retire from coaching Judo. Her accomplishments were many, and she now needed to concentrate on the needs of her family. Further, she felt that she had nothing left to accomplish in this sport she loved so much. Here is a small list of her accomplishments:

* Coach of the largest USA Judo Team – 10+ years
* First Female Head Collegiate Coach in USA – Men’s and Women’s Teams
* 2004 National Collegiate Judo Team Champions – Head Coach
* 2004 Women’s National Collegiate Judo – Coach of the Year
* Director of the first USA Judo National Training Facility
* Tournament Director “The Swamp Classic Championship” – internationally known tournament
* Men’s Team won 6 of 7 Collegiate Conference titles
* Women’s Team won 6 of 7 Collegiate Conference titles
* One of only 12 National- Level 1 Female Referees;
* Coach of Scott Moore – 1st US Gold Medalist in World Championships and Paralympic Games
* 1996 USA Paralympic Assistant Coach
* UL, Lafayette athletes placed nationally twenty-two times
* UL, Lafayette athletes placed internationally four times
* First USA international research in “Visually Impaired Judo Athletes”
* USA JUDO Junior International Open Referee
* USA JUDO -Coach Certification & Education Committee (National Camp Instructor & Standards Committee member) USA JUDO – Budget and Finance member,
* Founder/Director of Southern Youth Judo Programs, Camps, Clinics & Tournaments
* Founder of Mid-South Collegiate Conference (Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma)
* Co-founder of Louisiana Judo Inc. – State Governing Body
* United States Judo Federation National Coaching & Coaching Education Member
* 5th Degree Black Belt Judo – April 11, 2002
* 3rd Degree Black Belt Ju-Jitsu – August 12,1995
* Louisiana State Representative to USA JUDO – 8+ years
* Founder/Faculty Advisor/Head Coach of UL, Lafayette Judo Club
* Fundraiser, Team Manager, Webmaster, Referee, Tournament Director and Technical Trainer
* Technical Official Trainer – USA Open, USA Senior Nationals 8+ years
* Sensei to 8,000+ students

She accomplished these things, while teaching a UL-Lafayette load in Kinesiology at UL-LAFAYETTE, and raising two children, and published two books. Connie continues to teach classes in Self Defense, Methods of Coaching and Technology courses. She is the director of the KNES S.T.E.P. Lab, which is the Kinesiology Student Computer Lab. Connie strives to instill in aspiring teachers and coaches the importance of their role in their chosen profession. If the future is any reflection of her past, the school systems can look forward to an excellent group of leaders entering their athletic programs.

For more information Connie’s publications, presentations and a more detailed listing of her Judo accomplishments, see her profile on the Kinesiology Department Web Page at http://kinesiology.louisiana.edu/Faculty-staff/details.shtml#connie and on Passport Resume at http://ull.pass-port.org/main/facultyDetails.asp?ID=19261

Updated 9/11/2009