LOUISVILLE, Ky. —The National Fastpitch Coaches Association is pleased to announce Philadelphia Legacy Softball founder and coach Felix Agosto as the recipient of the 2019 Diversity Grant, while Shepherd University head coach Marissa Leslie, Defiance head coach Megan Warren and Gannon University head coach Michelle Wiley earned the Mary Nutter Scholarship.
The Diversity Grant is awarded to a minority member coach who shows a commitment to working with minorities, growing the game of fastpitch in their communities and has a need for financial assistance to attend the Convention.
The Mary Nutter Scholarship is an educational grant named for the former Pittsburg State (Kan.) head coach and 1997 NFCA Hall of Fame inductee who founded the National Sports Clinics. It seeks to continue Nutter’s effort to provide softball coaches at all levels access to the best minds in the sport to help them become better coaches themselves.
Recipients receive funding to attend the 2019 NFCA National Convention, Dec. 4-7 at Harrah’s Atlantic City, where they can improve their skills at educational seminars and through interaction with their fellow attendees.
Agosto founded Philadelphia Legacy Softball in 2014, a program originally designed as an in-house league for girls from the North Philadelphia area. He expanded the program two years ago to accommodate the number of talented players who could not afford to play elsewhere. Starting as a recreational summer team, the Legacy has transitioned into a tournament/travel team that focuses on college preparation and trains all year long.
“Access and opportunities in sport, in particular, for girls of color from low-income families are still participating at lower rates than those from more affluent backgrounds,” said Agosto. “Our kids are left out and priced out. The sport can save girls of color who are being neglected by the sports world.”
Agosto’s program has made a big difference in access and opportunities. This past summer, 30 girls between the ages of nine and 13 participated with the Legacy, increasing participation by 20 in just one year.
Agosto reached out to the Philadelphia Public and Charter schools to promote the program. In doing so, he received interest from school coaches and athletic directors, with one of those coaches enrolling four of his players. He believes more schools will participate this upcoming year.
“Girls of color are severely underrepresented in the fastpitch softball community. In order to succeed, we need quality female coaches and program objectives. Since there’s a shortage of minority players, there is a shortage of minority coaches.”
Agosto feels that what his program is doing in Philadelphia is special and working. He believes that being able to share the journey will inspire others to do the same, and support from organizations such as the NFCA would go a long way.
Marissa Leslie, Shepherd University
In two short years, Leslie has made an impact on the Shepherd softball program. She steered the Rams to a school-record 42 wins, an Atlantic I Regional title, a Super Regional appearance and a final ranking of 19thin the 2019 NFCA Division II Coaches Poll. Just a year prior, in her first season as a collegiate head coach, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate guided the Rams to 34 victories and an NCAA Regional appearance.
“Marissa is bright, energetic and knowledgeable about the game,” said Ashland head coach Emlyn Knerem. “I believe her attendance at the NFCA Convention will allow her to open up her coaching network and meet new mentors as well as take home an incredible amount of insight that will only help her continue the program’s success. Marissa is a coach and an individual who puts others first ALWAYS, is kind-hearted, and has never-ending belief in her athletes. She embodies the character of a coach that many should strive to imitate.”
Megan Warren, Defiance College
In January, at the age of 23, Warren took over the reigns of the Defiance softball program, after serving as the program’s graduate assistant for five months. Her first head coaching job saw Warren oversee a program of 26 student-athletes, while juggling the first year of graduate school and hitting the road recruiting. She led the Yellow Jackets to a 21-18 mark and a fourth-place finish (9-7) in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“Although it was one of the greatest challenges I have ever faced in my life, I realized that my entire purpose was to serve my student-athletes and to give them the best experience I could after they dealt with great adversity,” said Warren. “As a young professional, I have a strong desire to learn and grow so I can provide the best opportunities for the student-athletes at Defiance College. I learned so much at the Convention last year and want to continue to take advantage of this great opportunity, to develop myself and improve the well-being of our young athletes playing softball at Defiance College.”
Michelle Wiley, Gannon University
Wiley is entering her second hear as Gannon’s head coach, after serving as the program’s volunteer assistant for eight years. In her first season at the helm, Wiley guided the Knights to a 30-16 mark, a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division title and a trip to NCAA Division II Regionals.
“Now that I am in my second year as head coach, I am eager to learn how to improve myself and my team to continue to do well and get better,” said Wiley. “I would love the opportunity to meet other coaches and learn from the best to improve all areas of our program. We have had success in the past and I want to keep the tradition going and take our program to the next level.”
Nutter, who passed away in July 2012, compiled a 204-125 record over eight years at Pittsburg State University. She got her start in coaching with three years as a graduate assistant at Michigan State, after seven years as a teacher in nearby Elsie, Mich.
In 1981, Nutter won the first of three NAIA District 10 titles and the first of her three District 10 Coach of the Year honors (1981, 1982, 1985). That 1981 squad finished fourth at the NAIA national championship and she served as an assistant coach for the 1983 Pan American Tri-Nationals team and was a member of the 1984 U.S. Pan American selection committee. Nutter was a 1988 inductee into the NAIA Hall of Fame.
As a player, Nutter was a two-time first-team All-American (1974-75) for the Lansing Laurels, an ASA Women’s Major fastpitch team and spent 1976 as player-coach for the Michigan Travelers of the Women’s Professional Softball League.