LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 15, 2020) – The NFCA Virtual Convention (Dec. 9-11) hit a home run as attendees from all over the world eagerly tuned into the “Greatest Softball Show on Earth” from the comfort of their homes and offices. Over the course of three days, approximately 1,470 attendees enjoyed 120-plus speakers, 70-plus sessions – over 20 of which were live - and an Exhibit Show featuring 73 companies.
One benefit of the virtual experience is attendees can continue watch content on their own schedules, as it is available for the next 30 days. Access to the complimentary on-demand content can be accessed through the platform through Jan. 11, 2021.
Highlighted throughout was all the live interaction that was afforded to attendees, which included two Mentoring Sessions presented by Republic Bank, three Fireside Chats presented by The Alliance Fastpitch (COVID-19, hitting, and pitching), panels (administrators, diversity and inclusion, Hall of Fame, LGTBQ+, Name, Image & Likeness, travel ball/high school education, and work/life balance), Q&A sessions, divisional caucuses, Softball Summit presented by USA Softball and a Thursday Night Trivia presented by PGF.
"Our first-ever Virtual Convention was a huge success!," said NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman. "There is no doubt we have all missed the excitement of on-field competition and in-person connections with colleagues. The Convention offered coaches a real sense of community by providing innovative speaker sessions, panels on relevant topics, and over 20 opportunities to connect 'live' through our mentoring sessions, fireside chats, a trivia night, and numerous question/answer sessions with our speakers. Additionally, attendees had the opportunity to visit the Virtual Exhibit Hall. Ultimately, it's the people in our fastpitch community that make our events special. Thank you to all our presenters, exhibitors, and especially to the NFCA team for working tirelessly to create a special experience for our coaches."
While attendees soaked up all the education, they also took advantage of the Exhibit Show that ran throughout the three days of programming. Attendees had the ability for live one-on-one conversations with exhibitors through video conferencing. There was 24-hour booth access for attendees and a three-day Digital Auction. Additionally, companies were afforded the opportunity to pitch themselves, whether it was showing off a new product or educating attendees on their brand, through on-demand content specifically tailored to exhibitors.
Following the lively Hall of Fame 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.
Over the course of two mentoring sessions, the NFCA surprised 12 lucky attendees with prizes ranging from a Coaches Clinic registration to a 2021 NFCA Convention registration. As part of the NFCA’s pay it forward program these 12 took home a prize - Brooke Bittorf (Sevastopol High School [Wis.]), Terry Burdette (Hood College), Jennifer Hunt (Indiana Fusion Elite), Marty Lackner (Austrian Youth National Team), Sarah Jamo (Southern Maine), Sarah Parten (University of Redlands), Kristi Paulson (Parkland College), Colleen Powers (St. Catherine University), Lesley Shepardson, (South Milwaukee High School [Wis.]), Tori Stafford (Arkansas), Kelsey Thompson (Augustana), and Ashley Weingartz (South Carolina).
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 High-Performance Program, created for use as a pipeline to the USA Softball National Team Program.
Along with the live sessions, attendees had access to a lot of on-demand content. One advantage of the virtual platform is some of this year’s featured presenters were from outside the world of softball, including the well-received Down the Hallway series, featuring softball coaches interviewing fellow coaches at their respective institutions. Special guests included D-D Breaux (LSU Gymnastics / ret.), Anson Dorrance (North Carolina Women’s Soccer), Paul Mainieri (LSU Baseball), Lovie Smith (Illinois Football), Dawn Staley (South Carolina Women’s Basketball), and Mary Wise (Florida Volleyball).
Also, 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.
From the softball side, the on-demand content ranged from usual staples - Drills, Drills, Drills and Chalk Talks – to a Building Blocks series that featured three father/daughter duos to candid conversations with legends (Mike Candrea & Carol Hutchins), U.S. Olympians (Monica Abbott, Stacey Nuveman Deniz, Cat Osterman, Michelle Venturella, and Natasha Watley) and Washington head coach Heather Tarr and her former Huskies (Ali Aguilar, Victoria Hayward, Danielle Lawrie, and Jennifer Salling), who have gone onto successful national-team careers.
For a complete recap of each day, please visit NFCA.org or click on the links below.
What attendees are saying:
“The Convention has been great. It may be over, but it’s going to take a week to watch all these incredible sessions.” - Ed Marcum, New Palestine High School
“Props to the NFCA for a great Convention this week. They made it happen through a challenging situation. Even though it was a little different this year, there’s a lot of great content and I still got to visit with great people." – Chris Malveaux, University of Missouri
“The NFCA staff hit it out of the park. They continue to make us better coaches for our athletes. Joanna Lane is amazing at moderating important conversations.” - Diana Pepin, Eastern Connecticut State University
“Thank you to the NFCA for the first Virtual Convention. While I wish we were down in Dallas, it was an amazing way to stay connected and continue to grow our amazing sport.” - Beth Krysiak, Columbia University
“Thank you NFCA on another amazing Convention. Y’all hit it big with it being virtual. So thankful to be a part of this great organization!" – DJ Johnson, Rock Valley College
“The NFCA Convention looks different this year, but a huge thank you to his organization for making sure we DO NOT SKIP A BEAT!" – Jodie Cox, Fresno State
“Thank you to the NFCA team for the big pivot to a Virtual Convention this year – well done. We softball coaches are fortunate to have an organization with dedicated staff and dedicated coaches to serve our profession. We appreciate all of you!” - Ray Noelte, UC San Diego