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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 9, 2020) – Day one of the highly-anticipated inaugural NFCA Virtual Convention opened with 1,450 attendees eagerly absorbing softball education from their homes and offices. 

Over the course of three days (Dec. 9-11), attendees from around the world have access to over 100 speakers, 70-plus sessions (25 of which will be live) and an Exhibit Show featuring 73 companies. One benefit of the virtual experience is attendees can watch content on their own schedule. Once an on-demand session has begun, it will be available to an attendee at any time. Additionally, select live sessions will be made available on-demand after the Convention has concluded.


Following an opening welcome from NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman and NFCA President Kate Drohan (Northwestern), day one of the Convention kicked into high gear with its first of five live sessions. Work/Life Balance, which featured six panelists leading discussion topics on transparency and communication (spouse, team, staff, administration), guilt, non-traditional families, separating work from family, and many more.

Also featured live was a second Coaching Connection (Equality Coaches Alliance: LGBTQ+, Diversity and Inclusion) Gathering, the first of two Mentoring Sessions presented by Republic Bank and three Fireside Chats presented by The Alliance Fastpitch. 

In a 90-minute mentoring session, approximately 300 coaches shared their knowledge and experiences across several topics. Brenda Volk from Wisconsin-Whitewater feels that having different personalities on staff challenges a head coach, especially when they have the same team philosophy. Augustana’s Gretta Melsted core values is to empower young women on and off the field, while Memphis’ top priority is to create opportunities for her student-athletes to reach their full potential. 

Additionally, through the NFCA’s pay it forward program, six attendees – Brooke Bittorf (Sevastopol High School [Wis.]), Terry Burdette (Hood College), Sarah Jamo (Southern Maine), Kristi Paulson (Parkland College), Tori Stafford (Arkansas), and Kelsey Thompson (Augustana) - won prizes ranging from a Coaches Clinic registration to a 2021 NFCA Convention Registration, while over $1,000 was raised during the one-hour session. 

A new and exciting addition to the Convention schedule is the Down the Hallway series, featuring softball coaches interviewing fellow coaches at their respective institutions. Batting leadoff was Illinois’ Tyra Perry sitting down with the Illini’s first-ever Black head football coach, Lovie Smith, followed by North Carolina’s Donna J. Papa picking the brain of 21-time national champion Anson Dorrance of UNC Women’s Soccer.

Another speaker from outside the softball coaching ranks was Theresa Beeckman from Growing Leaders, who focused on the topic Generation Z Unfiltered: Understanding and Leading Your Team. Her presentation was followed by a live Q&A.

Internationally-recognized life coach, speaker and best-selling author Chad Hymas put forth a keynote presentation titled “Peak Performance During a Pandemic.” He encouraged coaches to become influencers using their past challenges to become that kind of coach. Hymas emphasized that when he looked at his situation from a different perspective and stopped complaining things changed for the better. He has had several coaches over the past 27 years that were key influencers. Hymas became reliant on their principles to turn something like the current pandemic into something amazing.

The day was also highlighted by four Building Blocks sessions on hitting, pitching and practice, along with three Drills, Drills, Drills covering outfield (Jillian Van Wagnen/Pitt), hitting (Sahvanna Jaquish/Dixie State) and pitching (Ashley Chastain/Charlotte). 

Three of the Building Blocks featured father/daughter duos – Mike (Texas) and Nyree White (Brick Wall Softball), Marty (Corona Angels) and Tori Tyson (Howard) and Alicia (Loyola Chicago) and Jim Abbott (New Lennox Lightning). Jo Evans, Craig Snyder, Katie Repole and Kara Dill of Texas A&M offered tips and philosophies for planning an effective practice.

Following those respective segments, attendees joined a live Q&A session with select presenters.

Rounding out the education for day one was LSU’s Lindsay Leftwich with Technology Hacks for Your Program and Oregon’s Melyssa Lombardi’s Solving the Roster Puzzle.

While attendees were soaking up all the education, they could also take advantage of the Exhibit Show that ran throughout the first day of programming and will continue through the final session on Friday. There is the ability for live one-on-one conversations with exhibitors through video conferencing, 24-hour booth access for attendees Dec. 9-11 and a three-day Virtual Auction. 

Additionally, exhibitors were afforded the opportunity to pitch their companies, whether it was showing off a new product or educating attendees on their brand.

Return tomorrow for more exciting news from the NFCA Virtual Convention.

*All Virtual Convention attendees will have 30-day access to video content expiring on Jan. 11, 2021. NFCA members who purchased lifetime video access will receive more information the week of December 14th.

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