LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A highly-successful and well-received NFCA Virtual Convention wrapped up on Friday with another full day of education, live sessions and Exhibit Show traffic. Highlighting day three was the live Softball Summit, a second live mentoring session, live Hall of Fame panel and the announcement of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.
Over the course of three days, over 1,470 attendees from around the world enjoyed over 100 speakers, 70-plus sessions, 26 of which were live, and an Exhibit Show featuring 73 companies. One benefit of the virtual experience was attendees could and can still watch content on their own schedules, as it is available for the next 30 days. Additionally, select live sessions will be made available on-demand after the Convention has concluded.
Capping off the Convention were two live sessions – Hall of Fame panel and Mentoring Session. Panelists included in the discussion were Cindy Bristow (2001), Mike Candrea (1996), Donna Fields (2020), Kris Herman (2020), Les Stuedeman (2014), George Wares (2007), and Linda Wells (1991). At the conclusion of the panel, NFCA Vice President for Awards Pat Conlan announced former Creighton head coach Mary Higgins and current University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire head coach Leslie Huntington as the Association’s 2021 Hall of Fame class. The duo will be inducted, along with the 2020 class, next year in Las Vegas.
The Convention wrapped up with a mentoring session where six more attendees – Colleen Powers (St. Catherine University), Lesley Shepardson, (South Milwaukee High School [Wis.]), Marty Lackner (Austrian Youth National Team), Jennifer Hunt (Indiana Fusion Elite), Sarah Parten (University of Redlands), and Ashley Weingartz (South Carolina) - through the NFCA’s pay it forward program won prizes ranging from a Coaches Clinic registration to a 2021 NFCA Convention Registration.
During the live Softball Summit, attendees heard from USA Softball Executive Director Craig Cress and the NFCA Board of Directors, while also participating in discussions about roster management, eligibility extensions, recruiting & technology during the pandemic, and student-athlete surveys.
Cress shared the finished product of USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium’s upgrades and revealed the creation of the High-Performance Program, that is a pipeline to the USA Softball National Team Program. He also added that Tokyo is working very hard to put together a safe and exciting Olympics in 2021.
The NFCA Divisional Board representatives shared their hot topics from their respective groups and caucuses. Topics ranged from COVID-19 adjustments to Cal JC playoff selections to NCAA and NAIA Championship updates to the NJCAA/NFCA membership partnership that increased the NJCAA’s Association membership numbers from 45 percent to 87 percent.
Attendees were treated to a session on defensive shifts with Arkansas’ Matt Meuchel and Northern Illinois’ Christina Sutcliffe as well as three more Drills, Drills, Drills presentations from Duke’s Marissa Young (pitching), South Carolina’s Kaela Jackson (hitting) and Georgia Gwinnett’s Kat Ihlenburg (team competition).
A fun and informational panel followed with five U.S. Olympians. Current Team USA head coach Ken Eriksen introduced the panel of Monica Abbott, Stacey Nuveman, Cat Osterman, Michelle Venturella, and Natasha Watley before they shared their stories with NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman.
Missouri’s Larissa Anderson discussed how long-standing baseball instruction is easily transferable and beneficial to softball. Diamond Solutions’ Nate Walker, a former MLB advanced scout, presented on sabermetrics and how to use this information for player development and evaluation. Lastly, Mind Gearz Performance’s Dr. Michael Gerson, Michigan State’s Jacquie Joseph and Ryzer’s Dr. Robert Troutwine explained how Major League Baseball, Michigan State and Ryzer approach recruiting from a “moneyball” perspective.
The day also featured several more off-the-field educational sessions. Michigan’s Lew Porchiazzo disclosed how he implements Wolverine strength and conditioning philosophies in the Michigan softball program. First-time head coaches and new hires - Longwood’s Megan Brown and Ball State’s Lacy Wood - shared their tips and stories on interviews. And tying into the interview process, Kathleen Mannheimer from Princeton explained how your resume’ helps set you apart in a competitive job market.
The NFCA’s Emeriti coaches gathered in the afternoon for a 3 p.m. coffee hour during which retired head coaches shared their stories from years past.
Additionally, Busy Coach founder Mandy Green offered advice to increase efficiency and help you find more hours in the day, while NFCA Legal Counsel Samantha Ekstrand, Oregon Senior Associate AD - Chief Compliance Officer Jody Sykes and Stefanie Smith (Ekstrand & Ekstrand) shared their knowledge on the evolving topic of Name Image and Likeness (NIL).
The Down the Hallway series wrapped up with two more conversations. Florida’s Tim Walton sat down with head volleyball coach Mary Wise, the architect of one of the most storied NCAA Division I programs, while LSU’s Beth Torina returns and was joined by recently-retired head gymnastics head coach and two-time national coach of the year D-D Breaux.
*All Virtual Convention attendees will have 30-day access to video content expiring on Jan. 11, 2021. NFCA members who purchased lifetime video acce