British Baseball & Softball Coaching Award Winners Announced

Mon 27 Jan 2020

Six prestigious awards for coaching and one award for volunteer services were presented at a ceremony following the 2020 BaseballSoftballUK Coach Summit on Saturday 25 January in Milton Keynes.

The winners were decided by a panel consisting of key staff from BaseballSoftballUK following a large number of nominations from the baseball and softball playing community in the UK. 

The winners in each of the categories, receiving commemorative plaques and £25 vouchers from key partner Baseball Outlet, were as follows:

BASEBALL YOUTH COACH OF THE YEAR

Given to an outstanding contributor to coaching young people in baseball in Great Britain in 2019.

The shortlisted candidates were: Josh Mills-Knutsen, for his work across multiple programmes with the London Mets Baseball & Softball Club; Jess Vernon, for her work in Bracknell and the GB U13 Fastpitch team’s youth programmes; and Brian Kendall, for his work with Guildford Mavericks Baseball & Softball Club’s U11 team.

The winner was Josh Mills-Knutsen.

Josh is a tireless ambassador for the sport of youth baseball in the UK.  He runs the London Mets Youth Baseball programme and directs the Mets Youth Winter Training Programme, as well as their annual summer camp.  He also oversees the London Mets On Deck Programme working with five local schools. Josh has tremendous drive to be inclusive of players at all levels of baseball experience and skill. His main focus has been growing the baseball community in England by getting young boys and girls to get into the game. His coaching philosophy is centered on developing players both as athletes and as people. Josh is a respected member and prominent voice of the Mets Board of Directors, guiding the club daily for the betterment of the sport.

SOFTBALL YOUTH COACH OF THE YEAR

Given to an outstanding contributor to coaching young people in softball in Great Britain in 2019.

This year’s shortlisted nominees were: Paul Archer for his work in Newham across a number of initiatives, including the launch of the Baseball5 programme at New City Primary School; Jodie Rushin for her work with the U13 GB Women’s Fastpitch Team, which led to a 2nd place finish at the European Massimo Romeo Youth Trophy tournament this year; and Linni Mitchell, BaseballSoftballUK North West coach who runs a number of softball programmes in the Manchester area, particularly with girls, refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants.

The winner was Paul Archer.

For the past 18 years, Paul has been coaching children and young people, adults, girls, community groups and disability multi-sports sessions in the London Borough on Newham. Having attended a BaseballSoftballUK Activator Workshop, in the past year Paul has been involved with setting up and delivering softball sessions in the area, including as part of Newham Ability Camp, which provides sporting activities to disabled young people. Paul has also  delivered sessions at the Newham Show to young people and adults on behalf of BSUK;  delivered baseball/softball sessions as part of the Access to Sport Holiday programme for disabled young people in Hackney; and been an instrumental part in getting New City Primary school, where he works full time, involved in the Fun At Bat and Baseball5 programmes.

BASEBALL ADULT COACH OF THE YEAR

Given to an outstanding contributor to adult baseball coaching in Great Britain in 2019.

This year’s shortlisted candidates were: Gerrod Taylor, Single-A coach for the London Mets Baseball Club; Stu Taylor, one of the founders and Single-A coaches for the Newcastle Nighthawks Baseball Club; and Luc Chignell, former player-turned-volunteer coach for the University of Nottingham Baseball & Softball Club.

The winner was Luc Chignell

Luc is a former player for the University of Nottingham Thieves Baseball Club and has been Head Coach on a volunteer basis since graduating from the University. He helps organise sessions to bring in new players who have never played before, and ran a development program to introduce people to the game introducing the rules and key skills. Additionally, Luc continues to volunteer his time with experienced players on the team and helps to run the team at league matches and tournaments.

On receiving the award, Luc commented “Every coach does this as it’s such a run and rewarding role. To be recognized externally is more of a tribute to the development and enthusiasm of everyone involved in running baseball at the University of Nottingham. The award comes at a particularly exciting time with the likelihood of baseball/softball being incorporated into BUCS Inter University Competition Program later this year. 

SOFTBALL ADULT COACH OF THE YEAR

Given to an outstanding contributor to adult softball coaching in Great Britain in 2019.

The shortlisted candidates for this award were: Jodie Bull, MK Diamonds Club Head Coach and a major part of MK Softball League’s success; Claire Read, London Softball League coach and a key part of the Regent’s Park 101 programme; and Rachael Watkeys, Head Coach of the GB Women’s National Fastpitch Team who helped lead the squad to their best ever Olympic qualifier performance.

This year’s honours were shared by Jodie Bull and Rachael Watkeys

Jodie has been supporting the development of the MK Diamonds Club & MK Softball League teams as both Head Coach and as a valuable member of the Executive Committee for many years. She has given countless hours both on the pitch and on the road, commuting sizeable distances to get back to sessions. Her considerable experience and knowledge have helped many players develop their softball skills, while her welcoming and supportive attitude has contributed to the growth in player numbers in the area. She goes above and beyond in a whole host of areas, giving up weekends to run sessions for the league coaches so that they can develop their skills further, advising both players and the committee on equipment, mentoring umpires, leading the organisation of this year's Codebreakers Cup tournament and answering the many questions that get fired at her by coaches, captains and committee members on a weekly basis.

Rachael co-led the GB Women’s team through the Euros 2019 (Olympic Pre-Qualifier) to the Olympic Qualifiers, including a Finals showdown against Italy that determined Europe and Africa’s representative at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This was an outstanding achievement and surpassed nearly all of European Softball's expectations – with the exception the staff and players of the Women’s team who believed they could do it. There has been no greater achievement by a British softball team in British softball history to date. 

Rachael has led the GB programme at a consistently high level over the last few years. Despite falling heartbreakingly short of the desired Olympic outcome, the GB team now poses a serious threat alongside the other European powerhouses for years to come.

SERVICES TO COACHING

This award is for the individual who best personifies what it means to be a baseball or softball coach over a long period of time: someone who understands their sport and can use the lessons learned on the pitch to motivate and engage others.  He or she has probably played a great number of roles, and without their services to coaching, your club, your league or perhaps even your national team wouldn’t be the same.

This year’s shortlisted nominees were: Liam Carroll, GB Baseball Senior Team Head Coach and BaseballSoftballUK High Performance Academy coach who helped the GB squad move up seven spots in international rankings; Will Lintern, Former U18 GB Baseball coach and current BaseballSoftballUK Academy and High Performance Academy coach who recently took up the position of GB Baseball Pitching & Catching Coordinator; and Robbie Robison, BaseballSoftballUK Academy and High Performance Academy Softball coach who has helped develop the programme through the years.

The winner was Liam Carroll

In addition to his duties running the adult GB baseball team, multiple midweek and weekend BaseballSoftballUK Academy and High Performance Academy programmes, Liam still takes the time to help other coaches with their development and is always keen to talk about baseball, constantly pushing to improve his own skills and the skills of those around him. In May of 2019, Liam was asked to help deliver MLB’s inaugural Coach Development Programme at Farnham Park for both baseball and softball coaches. He has had a major influence on many clubs around the country and a large influence on the way baseball is coached in the UK, from the youth level right up to the National senior teams.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR

This award is for a volunteer in a non-coaching role who has given up a substantial amount of time to support their local club, team or league and who has made a significant impact on the development of our sports.

This year’s nominees for Volunteer of the Year were: Kellie Whitaker, Manchester Thunder player and volunteer Team Manager for both the GB Men’s and Co-Ed Slowpitch Teams; Claire Read, a key organiser in the London Softball League; and Richard Evans, Chairman and Buccaneers Head Coach for Bristol Baseball Club.

The winner was Richard Evans.  

Rich serves as the Chairman of the Bristol Baseball Club but does so much more. He is the manager of the development team, the Buccaneers, aimed at giving much needed leadership and experience to rookie players that are still learning the game. He helps the club coaches run training efficiently and provides support via social media and radio interviews, ensuring the club’s brand is relevant and in the minds of the community. Rich goes above and beyond providing his time sorting out everything behind the scenes and Bristol baseball club and keeps his passion for the sport with him along the way.

Reacting to the award, Richard said “I’m delighted to have won the award on behalf of Bristol Baseball Club. It’s not an individual award, it’s one for all members of the Club who put in a lot of hours to make it one of the best clubs in the country.”

All photos by F.J. West Films - Felicity West Photo

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