Members filled their buckets in near-record numbers at this year’s NFCA National Convention from Dec. 2-5 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in the most successful event outside of Las Vegas in Association history.
Over 1,400 attendees flocked to Atlanta to participate in the annual gathering of the best fastpitch coaches and exhibitors in the sport, with the 1,418 this year second only to the 1,433 that visited Bally’s Las Vegas for last year’s convention.
“What a fantastic event!” NFCA interim executive director Carol Bruggeman said. “There was positive energy among all members throughout the entire convention. With a (near) record-setting attendance and a sold-out exhibit show, we sincerely hope all attendees and exhibitors left Atlanta with their ‘buckets full.’ The NFCA Convention is truly the Greatest Softball Show on Earth.”
The 2013 convention in San Antonio was the previous best non-Las Vegas gathering, with 1,234 attendees, while 1,288 traveled to the 2011 convention in Las Vegas.
From jam-packed Assistant Coach University and Mental Toughness pre-convention seminars to featured speaker Jon Gordon’s presentation at the “First Pitch” Opening Welcome Keynote Session, this year’s convention had a buzz right from the start. By the time the travel ball curriculum and last batch of featured speakers wrapped up the formal schedule on late Saturday afternoon, the event had long been declared a huge success.
The traditional highlight moment once again was the NFCA Hall of Fame Banquet on Friday night, with three new faces — Texas A&M University head coach Jo Evans, longtime Montclair State University leader Anita Kubicka and Auburn University’s Clint Myers — inducted into the Association’s elite group of softball achievers and contributors.
Other opportunities to salute the game’s best were plentiful, including Thursday’s Easton Victory Club Luncheon — which paid tribute to those reaching milestone wins during the 2014-15 school year — and Saturday’s Coaching Staff of the Year Brunch — which honored regional and national coaching staffs of the year, as well as the top assistants in the game.
Sponsored events allowed some relaxed moments around caucus and committee meetings and numerous presentations on a wide array of topics. New this year were the USSSA Leadoff Reception and Wilson “Queen of Diamonds” Party on Wednesday and the Headfirst Softball Honor Roll Camps Continental Breakfast on Friday, joining the annual Schutt Sports Continental Breakfast, the Mizuno Happy Hour in the exhibit hall and two dueling Diamond Sports hospitality party options on Thursday.
The always wildly-popular NCSA Mentoring Session outdid itself this year, raising $20,000 to “pay it forward” to the young coaches in the game in addition to pairing mentors and mentees, while the Softball Summit again offered a forum to address the hot button issues facing the sport.
But by far the most emotional moment of the entire convention came at the conclusion of the Summit, when NFCA past president Patrick Murphy presented the Donna Newberry “Perseverance” Award to the wife and daughter of longtime coach John Keyes, who died shortly after being named this year’s recipient.
A quartet of NFCC classes bookended the convention, with courses 406 and 407 starting things off on Nov. 30, and courses 401 and 403 closing things out on the following Monday.