Coach Summit draws community praise
Mon 30 Jan 2017
By Bob Fromer
Some events just leave everyone who took part in them with a great feeling. BSUK’s second annual Coach Summit, held at Birmingham City University on Saturday 28 January, was one of those -- a truly memorable day of learning and inspiration around baseball and fastpitch and slowpitch softball.
That’s not just us – BSUK – blowing our own trumpet, but the verdict of more than 80 people who attended the day of talks and seminars on Saturday with some of the world’s top coaches, plus the baseball and fastpitch HPA athletes and slowpitch players who got to work with those coaches in both gym and classroom sessions on Sunday.
Our email and social media feeds have been overflowing with thanks from those who attended, while the guest coaches were full of praise, not just for the event itself but – more importantly – for the coaches and athletes they worked with.
All the guest coaches – Dave Turgeon and Pat Doyle for baseball, Cindy Bristow and Jessica Moore for fastpitch and Steve Shortland for slowpitch – are based in the United States, where athletes, and especially young athletes, are not always that open to learning and direction. So these high-level coaches were blown away by the openness and the thirst for knowledge they found in the British coaches and players, and it made the event special for them.
Finally, the BSUK Awards on Saturday evening, presented to coaches, volunteers and umpires, was a perfect recognition of the work these people contribute, and the importance of what they do.
Details on who was nominated for these awards, and who won them, are below.
The overall theme of the Coach Summit was “An Athlete-Centred Approach”, and this was reflected in the three keynote speeches delivered on Saturday to the full audience of baseball, fastpitch and slowpitch attendees.
First, Dave Turgeon from the Pittsburgh Pirates and former MLB Consultant and college coach Pat Doyle opened proceedings with a wonderful double act, addressing the twin questions of “Why do you coach?” and “How can you build culture around the athlete?”.
Around the middle of the day, Cindy Bristow, one of the top fastpitch coaches and authorities in the world, spoke on “Coaching the Modern-Day Athlete”, looking at the differences between how coaches and players may view the world, and the different modes of communication they use.
Later, Team USA Slowpitch Coach Steve Shortland looked at “Maintaining an Athlete-Centred Approach in Competition”, particularly when dealing with adult players.
All of this produced a series of thought-provoking sessions that were more about the psychology of athletes and coaches than the technical aspects of the game. Discussions touched on:
How coaches can move from a fixed mind-set to a growth mind-set, because coaches need self-awareness to impact their players.
How a positive culture can be created within a team that can “fill the emotional tank” of the players.
Why effort is often more important than talent – and why it needs to be recognised as such.
How athlete-centred coaching puts the coach at the centre.
How players can teach themselves using modern communications technology, through media they understand and use all the time.
Why you can’t coach someone until you know them.
Recurring concepts throughout these discussions were patience, kindness, encouragement and praise, along with “putting yourself just a little bit past comfortable” and “getting one-tenth of one percent better every day”.
“Nobody wakes up in the morning wanting to suck on the field,” Cindy Bristow said. “Our job as coaches is to help them un-suck!”
The goal of the approach used by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dave Turgeon said, is to “change the world through baseball” – using the sport to make better people.
BSUK National Development Manager Will Lintern, the architect of the Coach Summit, said after the event: “We set out to deliver the best possible coaching event baseball and softball have ever had, not just in the UK but in Europe. And we did just that. The speakers were world class, as was the level of discussion and engagement from our coaching community, and this now sets up British baseball and softball to have successful 2017”.
Sara Vertigan, former GB Slowpitch Team coach and Team Manager, who assisted Steve Shortland with the various slowpitch sessions, said: "It was an excellent experience. I learned a lot and I got to contribute more than I expected or thought I might be capable of. I not only gained in knowledge but also confidence. It was great to meet so many other coaches from different disciplines and levels of experience, and the speakers were really inspiring."
Questions and answers
Towards the end of Saturday afternoon, there were break-out sessions on pitching for the baseball and fastpitch coaches in attendance, and a session on game strategy for slowpitch coaches.
Then, in a final plenary session, all the guest coaches formed a panel and gave their answers to a series of questions posed by Will Lintern. The answers revealed that the core philosophy of all these top coaches is built on a deeply humane approach to what they’re doing and to the players they work with.
Asking what they loved most about coaching led to answers such as:
- Giving back.
- Empowerment of athletes.
Going through everything – all the ups and downs – as a team.
Asked what the word “success” brings to mind, replies included:
- People who live up to their responsibilities on the things that matter.
- Coaches who make players successful.
People who can go through adversity and still achieve on the other side of it.
Asked what they have seen in coaching that they think other coaches should emulate, the panellists pointed to:
- Relentless positivity that finds and amplifies the good.
- Caring for players so they believe in you and in themselves.
Being true to yourself and bringing this to your relationship with players.
Asked what they know now that they wish they had known 10 years ago, the coaches said:
- That there’s so much more to coaching than the fundamentals on the field.
- That coaches need to be continual learners.
- That coaches don’t have to be the smartest person in the room.
- That it’s ok to take the game as less than life and death.
That being a coach goes beyond the game, because any coach has the opportunity to impact a very large number of people.
Finally, the coaches were posed a hypothetical question: if you could put up a billboard campaign all around the world, what would your billboard say? Some of the answers were:
- People aren’t cattle.
- Character and effort count.
- Be kind.
- Make a difference today.
On Sunday morning, 10 players from the fastpitch High Performance Academy and 29 players from the baseball HPA had the chance to spend time in a gym with the guest coaches and local coaches from their format.
This was followed by lunch back at Birmingham City University and then two more classroom sessions to follow up on things that had been covered in the gym.
Meanwhile, 13 slowpitch players who had signed up from across the country spent three hours in a gym-based practical session with Steve Shortland on Sunday afternoon.
The baseball players devoted their time in the gym to catch play and defensive work. Particular emphasis was placed on heel-to-heel footwork, while pitching and balance work incorporated the weaker side to aide symmetry. Dave Turgeon and Pat Doyle introduced some creative drills, including the use of squash balls to develop footwork and practice fielding the ‘good’ hop.
Infielders and pitchers then worked on double plays. Dave Turgeon emphasised that this drill work was “not just about pitchers’ fielding practice (PFP)”, but was also pure skill development for pitchers, enabling them to get to first base in more athletic or challenging routes.
The fastpitch gym session focused on pitching, and all of the players and coaches in attendance, even though most of them aren’t pitchers, spent a fascinating three hours learning the fundamentals of pitching from Cindy Bristow and Jessica Moore and getting an insight into what pitching is all about.
In the middle of the session, Jessica, who is a top pitcher for Team USA and throws around 65-68 mph with a lot of movement and pinpoint control, gave a pitching demonstration, caught by GB Women’s Team catcher Nicole Ratel and – later in the session – by GB Under-19 catcher Theo Longboy. The HPA players got a chance to stand in the batter’s box and see that standard of pitching at first hand. Later, during the classroom sessions, they were able to hear how Jessica approaches different kinds of batters, counts and game situations, and were able to think about this from a hitter’s perspective.
The slowpitch players who spent time with Steve Shortland represented a broad range of ability, and focused mainly on hitting. Players explored what having an approach means to a slowpitch softball hitter as opposed to baseball or fastpitch, before moving on to live batting practice.
Players benefitted from both group and individual instruction, with everyone leaving with one or two actions to take forward to improve their swing.
While the final classroom sessions for baseball and fastpitch players were taking place on Sunday afternoon, 15 potential coach-tutors went through a comprehensive tutor-training session with Will Lintern.
All in all, a busy and momentous weekend that will live long in the memory of all those who took part.
The second annual BSUK Coach Summit reached a climax on Saturday evening with the presentation of the second annual BSUK awards.
Last year, awards were given in a number of coaching categories, but this year the awards were expanded to include Volunteer of the Year and Umpire of the Year, in order to extend recognition to more of the unsung heroes on whom our sports depend.
The award winners and nominees were as follows:
YOUNG COACH OF THE YEAR
This award was for the coach under the age of 18 deemed to have made the biggest contribution to coaching, managing and supporting baseball and/or softball in the UK in 2016.
WINNER: Callum Vinall
Callum has excelled in coaching at the BSUK Academy, Northants Baseball Club and newly-formed Northampton University Baseball, and has also umpired this past year at the National University Baseball Championships.
YOUTH COACH OF THE YEAR
This award was given for outstanding contributions to coaching young people in baseball and/or softball in the UK.
JOINT WINNERS: Jared Hendrickson & Robin Banerjee
Jared and Robin have put a huge amount of energy, dedication and determination into building a new youth team from the ground up at Brighton Baseball Club. Many of the boys and girls they worked with had never played baseball before, but under their coaching and leadership the Brighton U11s were national runners-up and the U13s did exceptionally well in challenging established teams.
PARTICIPATION COACH OF THE YEAR
This award was for the coach who has engaged new participants, not in a traditional club setting but within BSUK national programmes and/or participation projects.
WINNER: Linni Mitchell
Linni has worked in the North West and beyond since April 2013 to increase participation in baseball and softball, and has not only helped to deliver a wide range of projects, ensuring that new athletes continue to engage in our sports over the long term, but has also been involved with their planning and funding.
COMMUNITY COACH OF THE YEAR
This award was for the coach who has done the most during the past year to develop softball within a club environment.
WINNER: Mike Lott
Mike is a founding member of the Crosby Vikings Softball Club and is an enthusiastic and patient coach. The Vikings were formed in 2014 as the fifth team in the Sefton Softball League, with predominantly new players, and Mike's hard work paid off in 2015 when the team won the league title, then went on to compete in National Championships in 2016 and were bronze medal winners in their grade of play.
COACH OF THE YEAR
This award was made to the individual who best personifies what it means to be a baseball or softball coach: someone who understands their sport and can use the lessons learned on the field to motivate and engage others.
WINNER: Liam Carroll
Liam has transformed the Great Britain Baseball National Team programme and taken it to a place it has never been before. In 2016 he steered the team to the final of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Brooklyn, where one more win would have earned the team its first-ever berth in the Classic itself.
VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR
This award was 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.
WINNER: David Jones
David Jones is a true Renaissance Man of volunteering. On the Guildford Mavericks Board, he serves as the Child Protection Officer, Umpire Coordinator and Kit Manager. But his service doesn't stop there: David has extended his passion into umpiring and coaching for the club, and in 2016 took on the responsibility of successfully steering the Guildford through Clubmark accreditation.
UMPIRE OF THE YEAR
This award was made for contributions to baseball and/or softball umpiring during the past year by an umpire who has not only upheld the laws correctly, but contributed to the positive atmosphere we have in our baseball and softball leagues.
WINNER: Bridget Cameron
Bridget has shown outstanding commitment to the development of fastpitch softball umpiring, both locally and internationally. During the Great Britain Fastpitch League season, she flew from Edinburgh to London for four of the five GBFL competition weekends where she umpired or examined every game, and she also serves as BASU’s Fastpitch Officer.
It takes a huge amount of work to organise an event like the Coach Summit, and there are a lot of people to thank -- especially the inspirational coaches who flew over from the United States to give the Summit life and depth.
Every BSUK staff member was involved in one way or another, either beforehand or on the day, but the two people who really made the event happen were Will Lintern, who created the concept and drove the Summit forward, and Midlands Development Manager Leah Holmes, who ran the organisational side of a very complex event and did a tremendous job -- both shown below with the guest coaches.