Carol Bruggeman was named Executive Director on Feb. 1, 2016 after serving on an interim basis since Sept. 1, 2015. Under her leadership, Bruggeman, who signed a five-year contract in January, 2023, has presided over the five highest-attended National Conventions in the NFCA’s 40-year history, while the NFCA has shown significant growth in all areas.
On Dec. 9, 2022, Bruggeman was announced as part of the 2023 NFCA Hall of Fame induction class. The induction ceremony and banquet will take place on Dec. 8, 2023 at the NFCA Convention in Louisville, Ky.
Membership, sponsorship revenue, educational programming, and events have increased exponentially in both the number offered and overall attendees during Bruggeman’s tenure. In October 2023, the Association eclipsed 7,000 members, setting a new overall record.
In April 2017, she spearheaded the Association’s acquisition of the seven National Softball Coaches Clinics founded by NFCA Hall of Famer Mary Nutter and Traci Mayberry that had been a staple of softball instruction for 30 years — to accompany the NFCA’s own highly-successful Louisville clinic, which Bruggeman started in 2016. The 2023-24 schedule will feature the eight clinics in seven cities across the country.
On-site attendance at NFCA events across the country continues to soar. Attendance at the Coaches Clinics surpassed 2,500 in the three years prior to COVID with a clinic-record 522 attendees in Chicago (Dec. 13-14, 2019). The December 2017 National Convention at Bally’s Las Vegas had a record 1,687 attendees and the 2018 National Convention in Chicago was just shy of the previous year's record with 1679 attendees. Post-COVID, attendance at both Las Vegas (2021) and San Antonio (2022) Conventions surpassed 1,600.
Bruggeman's leadership was critical during COVID. While shepherding the Association through a challenging pandemic, she maintained a full-time staff and continued business relationships with all sponsors and partners. Following the cancellation of the 2020 softball season, the NFCA quickly shifted to weekly virtual educational offerings (coaches clinics, webinars and mentoring sessions), while also giving back to the membership with "Building Champions: A Week of Giveaways" - an initiative during what would have been the 2020 WCWS that saw member coaches win prizes such as membership extensions, Convention registration and NFCC course registration, along with the grand prize of two 2021 WCWS Championship Series tickets.
Other initiatives introduced during Bruggeman’s tenure are a legal services benefit for members, Coaching Tools practice packages for Grass Roots members, membership milestone awards, a weekly educational podcast, quarterly webinars, annual recruiting seminar, a weekly tip/drill video, a year-round coach mentoring program, an NFCA digital calendar, an online softball scoring seminar, a job posting service, collegiate and high school Leadoff tournaments, an expanded coach and student-athlete awards program, increased scholarship opportunities, plus a grassroots pilot member program and joint membership initiatives with the NJCAA, California Community College Fastpitch Coaches Association, and various state High School Associations.
In November, 2022 Bruggeman was selected as a recipient of the Louisville Business First ‘Most Admired CEO’ Award. She also serves on various Selection Committees for USA Softball.
Bruggeman was recognized by her alma mater, University of Iowa, when she was named the 2020 recipient of the Dr. Michael Teague All-Star Award. Established in 2018 by Iowa's Sport and Recreation Management Graduate Program, Bruggeman was honored for her significant contributions to the program and achievements in the sport and recreation industry.
The NFCA also campaigned on behalf of its coaches to eliminate early recruiting practices in Division I college softball, which the NCAA adopted in April 2018, and that same year the Association did the first major revamp of its bylaws since they were initially adopted in 1983. In 2019, the NFCA unveiled its Diamond of Ethics, which stresses four key principles — Commitment, Integrity, Respect, and Professionalism — which serve as the foundational ethical bases of the NFCA.
In 2020, Bruggeman was the featured softball clinician at the Italian Baseball Softball Federation (FIBS) National Coaching Convention in Rimini, Italy. Bruggeman spoke to the leadership track and also led sessions on practices, defending the short game, middle infield defense, outfield defense, slapping, and hitting.
Bruggeman also took steps to protect the Association’s brand, by trademarking the NFCA name and logo, as well as the NFCC abbreviation for its series of National Fastpitch Coaches College classes.
Significant improvements have also been made to the NFCA’s Louisville headquarters, ranging from upgraded technology, to new carpeting, furniture and windows, to new graphics throughout the building. Bruggeman has grown the Association staff to 11 full-time team members, one part-time team member, one full-time intern, and several outside contracted employees.
Bruggeman is certainly no stranger to the Association, having been an active member for 30 years while unselfishly serving the NFCA in numerous capacities. She had a four-year term as Board President and stints as both the Past-President and Fourth Vice President, in addition to time spent as Division I Representative.
She joined the NFCA full-time as Associate Executive Director in September 2014, after a long career as an NCAA Division I coach at Michigan, Purdue and Louisville, and is a well-respected national speaker, clinician, educator, television analyst and author. Bruggeman continues to speak and teach, and remains a fixture on the ESPN, SEC, ACC, and Big Ten (BTN) television networks during the college softball season.
Bruggeman joined the NFCA full-time as Associate Executive Director in September 2014, after a long career and over 700 victories as an NCAA Division I coach at Michigan, Purdue and Louisville. During her coaching career, Bruggeman has had a hand in many conference titles and coached numerous NFCA All-Americans. In July 2011, she traveled to Australia as head coach of the college team that won a gold medal with USA-Athletes International, and traveled to the Czech Republic in 2009 in the same role.
On the Louisville staff, Bruggeman helped guide the Cardinals to nine NCAA regionals and set school records for wins twice — in 2009 (48) and 2012 (55). Louisville averaged 42 wins per year and won the Big East regular-season crown in 2006 and 2012, captured the Big East tournament in 2007, was the Big East tournament runner-up in 2010 and 2011, and won the American Athletic Conference tournament in 2014. Seven of those years, the team ranked in the top 25, once each ranked in the top 20 and top 15, and was ranked in the top 10 in 2012 and 2013. Sixty-seven players on her watch earned Big East All-Conference honors, 20 collected NFCA All-Region recognition and eight were named NFCA All-Americans. Two Cardinals were named Big East Player of the Year, one was chosen Big East Pitcher of the Year and one was the Big East Scholar-Athlete Award honoree. Two players were selected as Lowe's Senior Class Award finalists, one was chosen for the USA Softball national team camp and six went on to play professionally. Bruggeman earned her 400, 500, 600 and 700-win milestones at Louisville.
At Purdue, Bruggeman won 21 games in 1994, the team's inaugural season, and she collected her 100, 200 and 300-win milestones while the Boilermakers' head coach and averaged 32 wins per season. Twenty-three players earned All-Big Ten selection, 24 were named NFCA All-Region and one was a first team NFCA All-American. She mentored 71 Academic All-Big Ten players, seven Academic All-District selections and four Academic All-Americans. One was chosen for an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and every player who competed all four years earned her degree. Three players went on to play professionally, three were chosen for the USA Softball national team camp, two attended the NCAA Leadership Conference. Purdue was ranked in the top 10 of the NCAA Mideast Regional rankings from 1996-2005.
During her time on the Wolverines' staff, Michigan averaged 38 wins per year and went to the 1992 and 1993 NCAA Regionals after capturing the Big Ten title both those seasons. Twenty-three players were named to the All-Big Ten team, 12 earned NFCA All-Region and two were NFCA All-Americans. Twelve garnered Academic All-Big Ten honors, while three were Academic All-District and one was an Academic All-American. Three each were selected Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and two earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Year during her tenure.
As an infielder at the University of Iowa, Bruggeman was an All-Big Ten and All-Mideast Region selection, as well as an Academic All-American and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, who received Iowa’s Athletic Academic Medal of Honor. In 1997, she was inducted into the Iowa Softball Association Hall of Fame.
A native of Charter Oak, Iowa, she received her bachelor’s degree in accounting and business from Iowa in 1987 and continued her education at Iowa, earning a master’s in athletic administration and coaching in 1990.
What they are saying about Carol Bruggeman …
“I speak for the entire NFCA Board in saying I am delighted that Carol Bruggeman will continue to serve as our Executive Director. Carol’s impact on our organization in just three years of service is nothing short of remarkable. Under her leadership, we have experienced tremendous growth and improvement throughout every aspect of the NFCA. Memberships and sponsorships have increased, new services and educational initiatives have been developed, and relationships with our constituents are stronger than ever. The culture within the NFCA office staff is outstanding and a direct reflection of Carol’s energy, passion and drive. We are extremely fortunate to have Carol at the helm to lead the NFCA and our sport to even greater heights in the future.” - NFCA Past- President and University of Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Carol has agreed to continue as our Executive Director well into the future. Carol is a dynamic leader, a genuine person, and a superb relationship builder. She is also an innovative, energetic and forward thinking CEO. The NFCA, under Carol’s leadership has completely elevated and grown the NFCA brand and its reach and impact in the softball community. As a servant leader, Carol and her excellent team of co-workers at the NFCA home office have made it their mission to serve any and all persons that have a passion for our great game of fastpitch softball. This is a great day for all of us in the NFCA family as we hear of the announcement of her contract extension. … Day won!” - NFCA Past President and University of Nebraska head coach Rhonda Revelle.
"Brugg has been an exceptional leader from the minute she walked in the door. She has a great vision and knows how to implement and execute her vision for the NFCA to serve all coaches. She's a great servant and ambassador of our game, and we're lucky to have her as long as we can have her." — Carol Hutchins, head coach, University of Michigan (retired).
“Carol has taken a top-notch coaches association and raised its level of service to another level. She has hired and retained valuable staff members who are excellent at their jobs. I’m excited to see how much more the NFCA grows under Carol’s leadership.” — Patrick Murphy, head coach, University of Alabama
“I have had the honor of knowing Coach B since her days at Purdue. Her passion, commitment and dedication to the game of softball is an inspiration. She is an incredible speaker, role model and a true professional. I am a better coach because of her!” — Ed Marcum, head coach, New Palestine High School
“Carol has a unique ability to make everyone feel welcomed, regardless of status, level or ability. Her vision is incredible, as she continues to grow the NFCA and the sport of softball in a positive direction. All the members of the NFCA, and women of softball are so lucky to have you as our leader for five more years!” — Darin Monroe, head coach, eight-time NJCAA Division III titlist Rock Valley College
“Carol has been and will continue to be great for the NFCA and the sport of softball. Carol cares deeply about the game and the organization, and has done a great job of demonstrating the importance of all levels of our organization, whether it is Division I or high school. Very happy for her and our organization.” — George Wares, head coach, Central College (NCAA Division III wins leader)
"Carol is the quintessential leader — passionate, inspiring, empathetic, humble, strong and courageous. Her vision for the NFCA balances the tradition of the past, the unique sharing culture of the softball community and exciting growth opportunities for the future. I am thrilled that her tenure as Executive Director will continue, which means great things for all of those involved with the NFCA!" — Samantha Ekstrand, NFCA legal counsel
"Carol has worked hard to give the travel ball community an authentic and inclusive voice in the NFCA body. She has always treated me just like she would a member of the Board. I am so happy she has agreed to continue to lead our Association." — Patrick Moyer, Fury Fastpitch Executive Director
"Carol is an outstanding leader and a true asset to this organization. She is passionate, knowledgeable, professional, and sets out every day to advance the NFCA and serve its members. The NFCA staff and myself are extremely fortunate to serve with and learn from her." — Jamie Hazel, NFCA Director of Finance
“This is an exciting day for the fastpitch community. Under Carol Bruggeman’s leadership, the vision and execution of the NFCA mission has been nothing short of spectacular. New Balance is a proud sponsor of the NFCA and we are looking forward to working with Carol and her team for the foreseeable future, knowing she will continue to challenge us and make things better for the entire fastpitch community.” — Dave O’Connor, Fastpitch Sales Manager, New Balance