The 'Head Coaches' of the NFCA

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Welcome to "Beyond the Fence," our blog offering a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the NFCA. I got the nod to be a pinch hitter, well pinch blogger, this month. And in the words of one of my favorite songs from the musical Hamilton, I am not throwing away my shot!

As you know, the NFCA is a membership organization made up of … well … members! Our members (coaches) are the lifeline of our organization. But who makes decisions? How do things get done? Bottom line; who LEADS the organization?

The NFCA Board of Directors! They are the 'head coaches' of the organization and guide the decisions of our NFCA team and NFCA Committees. We hear all the time 'it starts at the top' and that is no different with the NFCA.

What is the Board anyway?

The Board is the leadership group of the Association. It is made up of 19 positions chosen by their peers to represent the NFCA, the membership, and the sport. Its main priority is making decisions on behalf of the membership and to keep our 'NFCA Purpose' and the 'Diamond of Ethics' at the forefront of every decision. The Board is our compass if you will. Its service to the Association is integral to our success. Every Board position is chosen by you, our members.

So next time you receive your Board ballot, pay close attention and vote!

What is the NFCA Purpose?

To support fastpitch softball coaches in their quest for excellence while uniting together to advance the sport we love. 'Nuf said.

What is the NFCA Diamond of Ethics?

Commitment, Integrity, Respect & Professionalism: these serve as the foundational ethical bases of the NFCA. These principles govern how NFCA members are expected to speak, write, and act at all times, on and off the field.

What are the requirements to serve on the Board?

Selflessness, respect for others, ability to see beyond your own program, to think big, and to make decisions for the good of the sport at all levels.Visionary. Passion for the coaching profession and the sport. And, of course, you must nominate yourself and/or be nominated by a peer and be an current member of the NFCA.

Is this you?

You are an overachiever. You think critically and always outside the box. You are a good listener. You are what is described as a 'mover and shaker.' You love a good challenge. You believe the best is yet to come. Most important, you feel there is 'something more' to coaching; something bigger than yourself or your team. If this is you, I'd like to invite you to consider serving on the NFCA Board of Directors. Put your name on that ballot! And even if your career path does not include a role on the Board, push someone you know to take the plunge.

Who makes up the Board?

Board members include the President, Past President, five Vice Presidents (Awards, Membership, Education, Publications, Playing Rules), representatives from each Division (I, II, III, NAIA, NJCAA, NWAC, Cal JC, High School, Travel Ball), two assistant coach representatives (one Division I, one non-Division I) and one Emeriti representative. The Board also receives guidance from special advisors and our NFCA legal consultant. Bottom line; the Board is made up of people just like you. Coaches!

How do you know so much about the Board anyway?

I have had, and continue to have, the pleasure of wearing many hats within the softball profession, however, before I was Carol Bruggeman, NFCA Executive Director, I was Carol Bruggeman, NFCA Board member, throughout my career as a Division I coach. Early in my coaching career while sitting at a Convention, NFCA Hall of Fame member Margo Jonker invited me to consider running for a Board position (Division I Representative). After she answered a few, well okay numerous, questions regarding the role, I made one of the best professional decisions I have ever made, as I said "yes" to putting my name on the ballot.After serving in that role, a few years later I was elected President and also served as Past President. Now, I have the pleasure of working with the Board as Executive Director.

I've had a front-row ticket to watch the Association and the sport grow tremendously over the years and it all started because Coach Jonker encouraged me as a young professional to get involved with the Association. Everyone serving on the Board has a mentor who gave them the confidence and the gentle nudge to serve. Who are you mentoring to serve? Sure mentoring is sharing drills and giving a job reference, but it can be so much more. Don't we tell our athletes every day for real growth to occur they must get out of their comfort zone? (hint, hint)

Why serve on the Board? 

To keep mentorship alive!

So, what's it like at a Board meeting? What exactly does the Board do?

When you hear the word Board meeting you probably envision a stuffy meeting room with people sitting around a table; half-listening, on their phones, rolling their eyes, and giving formal votes of 'aye or nay' on policies. B.O.R.I.N.G. This picture could not be further from the truth when it comes to Board meetings with our NFCA 'head coaches!'

Let me create the real picture for you. Engaged, passionate people. Leaning in and listening to all points of view. Lots of laughter and rapidly flowing ideas and excitement all around the room. Strategy on how to enhance everything we do and the experience for our coaches. And … maybe a few snacks and treats, along with a special commemorative gift each meeting.

Doesn't it take too much time?

Formally, the Board meets once per month via Zoom call. In a non-COVID year, members also meet in-person at NFCA headquarters in Louisville (summer) and at the NFCA Convention (December). Informally, the Board communicates via text, email, and GroupMe on issues between formal Board meetings. What's that I hear? You don't have enough time?

Yes, coaches are all busy people. No one says 'sure I have time for that' when first asked to serve on the Board. Yet once they DO serve, they say it's the best time they have ever spent. Funny how that happens. Make sure to say 'thank you' next time you cross paths with a Board member as they MAKE time to keep the NFCA and our overall sport a priority.

Why serve on the Board? 

To make a difference and make connections!

Of course, we also have fun! Our Board of Directors has visited the Louisville Slugger Museum, bourbon distilleries, Churchill Downs, and had team activities such as figuring out the 'Escape Room' to name a few. Haven't you heard that productivity increases with a good mix of business AND pleasure?

What else?

Besides the obvious leadership and decision-making, an unbelievable 'extra bonus' comes with serving on the Board. The ability to build life-long relationships and connections with people from all facets of the sport. Most Board members will say they learned more about the sport from formal and informal discussions at a Board meeting than they ever learned on a softball field. They receive an 'up close and personal' look into all levels of softball. They open their minds to other points of view. They get to network on a different level. Haven't you had some of your best conversations and 'learning labs' while meeting someone new in the bleachers while recruiting? It's the same thing with the Board — only not sitting on a hard bleacher in the hot sun. 😁

Ask any current or past Board member if they would do it again. Close to 100% would say yes!

They would say 'it changed them' and was essential in their overall professional growth.

Our current Board is fantastic.You have elected these amazing people and for that I say 'thank you' as it's fun to work with driven, passionate people.

I can't wait to see who the next 'head coaches' of the NFCA will be 5, 10, 15 years from now. Where will the sport be? How will we keep softball exciting for players, coaches, and fans alike? How can we help coaches on their quest for excellence?

Are you still wondering why you should serve on the Board? To keep softball on top! After all, 'head coaches' love to win! 

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