LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The NFCA is pleased to announce that University of Indianapolis head coach Missy Frost is the 2017 recipient of the Association’s Donna Newberry “Perseverance” Award and Flower Mound (Texas) High head coach Mark Larriba was selected as this year’s NFCA Humanitarian Award honoree.
Frost, who completed chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer at the end of May, has been embraced by the softball community since her diagnosis last November. On April 8, that support went to another level when Frost was recognized before Bellarmine University’s StrikeOut Cancer doubleheader against the Greyhounds, with a pink bat presentation, honorary first pitch and prayer circle involving both teams. For the twinbill, both teams wore t-shirts and headbands with the Faith.Fight.Frost logo that Jere Kubuske, the husband of Frost’s longtime assistant coach Sara Kubuske, designed for the occasion.
Kubuske, who earlier this week was named this year’s Division II recipient of the Easton/NFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award, and Bellarmine head coach Renee Hicks helped coordinate more than 40 other softball teams around the country — including 14 NCAA Division II conferences across 16 states — wearing Faith.Fight.Frost apparel at their own games to honor Frost and shine a light on the battle many are waging against breast cancer.
Meanwhile, on social media, the hashtag #FaithFightFrost showed that not only softball teams, but numerous baseball teams, golf squads and volleyball programs had joined the effort.
“It’s not been easy, but having an army of people behind me, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Frost said. “I was extremely taken back. It’s amazing all the people that have shown support. You don’t understand what the game gives you until you’re faced with adversity.”
The Donna Newberry “Perseverance” Award recognizes an NFCA member coach who has demonstrated extraordinary strength of will and character in the fight to overcome a physical, mental, or social adversity that presented an additional challenge to the already demanding job of a coach.
Even before Frost was diagnosed herself, Indianapolis had played every Sunday home game in honor of the one in eight women who are fighting or are survivors of breast cancer. Those days have a much more personal meaning now.
Hicks said once she heard about Frost’s diagnosis, she was going to find some way to show her support, even if it meant Frost being a little bit put off by the unwanted attention.
“She’s family,” Hicks explained. “I’d do anything for her. (Sara and my) wheels were rolling at the NFCA Convention. We thought, ‘She can be upset one day. We need to show this support for her.’”
Frost felt their support well before being honored at the doubleheader.
“When you have Renee and Sara at the hospital (for me) at 5:45 in the morning, it speaks volumes. I’m just grateful for everyone’s outpouring of support.”
“We know she’s a difficult person (to try) to help,” Kubuske said. “We wanted to find a way to show support.”
“I figured a lot of our conference would (join us) right away. Both Scott Fleming at NAIA’s Marian University and Les Stuedeman at the University of Alabama at Huntsville got their conferences. It’s great to see.”
Each season, the NFCA StrikeOut Cancer initiative helps raise awareness and money to fight all forms of cancer. Schools that register with the NFCA are entitled to a special package of StrikeOut Cancer items to assist them with organizing whatever activity they choose for their fundraiser.
Numerous member schools join in the battle by hosting a single event or coordinating a season-long campaign. In the last two years, NFCA members have raised nearly $550,000 in support of the joint effort between the Association and the American Cancer Society.
Larriba, meanwhile, has been preaching a servant-heart mindset to his players since becoming Flower Mound’s coach in 2006.
The NFCA Humanitarian Award recognizes a member coach who has selflessly dedicated time toward the long-term betterment of the community and/or engaged in charitable activities in the service of others.
Among the projects Larriba and his team have done in recent years are helping a rival school's softball player receive a liver transplant, assisting area families in putting Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner on their tables, and donating items to help those in need — ranging from toiletries to prom dresses. His program has held many free community softball clinics, hosts a yearly Breast Cancer Awareness fundraiser and regularly coordinates collection of canned food, blankets, stuffed animals and other items.
When there was a deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in the city of West, Texas, Larriba’s softball team collected household items, basic clothing, blankets, toiletries and shoes to assist the victims. And when historic flooding hit Louisiana last year, Larriba and his team arranged to drive supplies and support to Baton Rouge to help wherever possible. In all, the team put in about 25,000 hours of community service, earning an award from their local Chamber of Commerce.
Frost and Larriba will be recognized and receive their awards at this year’s NFCA National Convention on Dec. 6-9 at Bally’s Las Vegas.
Newberry, the all-time winningest coach in the history of NCAA Division III softball when she passed away in November 2010, spent 36 seasons with Muskingum College athletics. During that time, she transitioned the Muskies from a slowpitch team to a perennial national fastpitch contender in Division III.
Over those 36 seasons, Newberry amassed a record of 906-419-1 and helped guide Muskingum to 17 conference championships, 18 NCAA regional appearances, eight national championship appearances and the 2001 NCAA Division III national championship. Newberry was the only Division III coach to be named national coach of the year in two sports – softball and basketball. As Muskingum’s women’s basketball coach, Newberry earned 403 victories and three OAC championships.
She was a 10-time Ohio Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, a seven-time NFCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honoree and in 2001, the Muskingum staff was named as the NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year. In 2008, Newberry was inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame.
Newberry demonstrated her perseverance as she coached what would be her final season in the spring of 2010. While undergoing chemotherapy treatments during her third bout with breast cancer, she led the Lady Muskies to the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament for the 25th consecutive time.
In the months before her death, Muskingum dedicated its softball field in her honor, renaming it the Donna J. Newberry Softball Field. In addition, Newberry finished a book about her coaching career and experiences — "You Must Play to Win: A Coach's Journey from the Pit to the Pinnacle.”